West Virginia University will receive a $1.45 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative to establish the highly regarded UTeach program, a unique teacher-training program for secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers.

The UTeach program attracts high-performing undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines to the teaching field and prepares them for careers as teachers in secondary education. The program is rigorous, but supportive and allows students interested in math and science to earn both a degree in their major as well as a secondary teaching certification without adding time or cost to their four-year degree program.

WVU’s program, WVUteach, will be supported by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Services, and the Office of the Provost. It will be co-directed by Gay Stewart, director of the WVU Center for STEM Education, and Jeffrey Carver, director of STEM education initiatives in the College of Education and Human Services. WVU will officially launch its program with a kick-off event in spring 2015.

“This is truly a comprehensive effort across many disciplines,” Provost Joyce McConnell said. “It will require tremendous focus to recruit, prepare, develop and support the most highly qualified teachers, but that effort will yield not only more science and math teachers, but more teachers who will remain in those fields and contribute to the success of school-aged students.”

Stewart, who has been interested in STEM teacher preparation for 15 years, said that UTeach is the most exciting program she has encountered. “I came to WVU this year because of the potential I saw in a research university deeply committed to fulfilling its role as a land-grant institution,” she said. “WVU and the governor have placed a focus on STEM education. WVUteach will be at the heart of the University’s efforts to improve STEM education across the state.”Carver photo

Carver began his career nearly 20 years ago as a high-school chemistry and physics teacher. “I have seen a variety of teacher preparation programs,” he said. “The ones that work have developed a truly symbiotic relationship between the strong content development and the rigorous certification process. The UTeach model focuses on that collaborative environment.”

Carver continues by saying that since arriving at WVU, the institutional support for this type of cross-college collaborative effort has been strong and continues to grow. “I look forward to working even more closely with my colleagues across campus on the WVUteach program and helping our strong STEM students become the change agents that are needed to continue moving STEM education forward in the 21st century.”

The key elements of the program include collaboration across colleges, student recruitment and support, compact and flexible degree plans, a focus on research-based strategies for teaching and learning math and sciences, early and intensive field teaching experiences, and personal guidance from master teachers and faculty.

The UTeach program has a successful track record as 81 percent of the more than 2,100 UTeach graduates have entered teaching. Of those graduates, 64 percent are teaching in the highest-need schools.

STEM education is a priority at the national, state and local levels as communities work to keep their economies vibrant and growing in a marketplace that has become increasingly dependent on scientific innovation. As the nation faces a shortage of secondary math and science teachers and fewer students take curricula that will academically prepare them for college or work, there is a real need to get students and teachers excited about math and science.

UTeach began in 1997 at the University of Texas Austin as a way to address these challenges. The National Math and Science Initiative has worked to bring the success of that program to institutions across the United States. In 2013, it received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the UTeach Expansion Program to extend to 10 additional research universities, allowing them to establish UTeach model programs to address their states’ needs for more highly qualified STEM teachers.

“NMSI is committed to building a pipeline of skilled students and teachers to meet the nation’s need for a STEM-capable citizenry and workforce,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of NMSI. “The UTeach expansion initiative is a proven way to ensure teachers are equipped with the STEM content knowledge and instructional expertise needed to be effective in the classroom.”

WVU is one of five universities to receive the five-year grant today. The other four universities are George Washington University, Louisiana Tech University, the University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Nevada Reno. Five other universities received grants in spring 2014.

In total, the UTeach Expansion Program will be implemented in 44 universities across 21 states and the District of Columbia. Collectively, the UTeach programs are expected to produce an estimated 8,300 secondary math and science teachers who will teach a projected 4.8 million students by 2020.

“In the United States today, there’s a shortage of good science and math teachers in classrooms,” said HHMI president Robert Tjian. “We must continue to take steps toward change to replenish this country’s star teachers—teachers who can move students to explore and love math and science.”

About National Math and Science Initiative: NMSI, a non-profit organization, was launched in 2007 by top leaders in business, education and science to transform education in the United States. NMSI has received national recognition for training grade 3–12 teachers and improving student performance through the rapid expansion of highly successful programs: NMSI’s College Readiness Program, NMSI’s Laying the Foundation Teacher Training Program and NMSI’s UTeach Expansion Program. Inaugural funding for NMSI was provided by ExxonMobil, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. For more information, visit www.nms.org.

About UTeach Institute: Established in 2006 at UT Austin, the UTeach Institute assists universities with implementation of the UTeach program and supports a growing, national network of K–12 educators and university-based research and clinical faculty collaborating to strengthen STEM education in the United
States. This work is supported through a variety of strategic partnerships at the national, state and local levels. For more information, visit www.uteach-institute.org.

About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: HHMI plays an influential role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the U.S. and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org.