Quality science and math education can transform lives—and this transformation starts with building a STEM-educated workforce at the college level.

That was the message delivered by West Virginia University President Gordon Gee Tuesday at the Erickson Alumni Center as he helped kickoff WVUTeach, the manifestation of the renowned UTeach program, a unique teacher-training program for secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers.

UTeach-ResizedWVUTeach is supported by a $1.45 million, five-year grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, in partnership with the UTeach Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“I am so proud to help launch the UTeach program on our campus – and to pledge West Virginia University’s full commitment to helping it succeed,” Gee said.

“STEM is the future – for our children, our state and our nation,” he said.

Founded at the University of Texas-Austin in 2006, UTeach is designed to attract high-performing undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines to the teaching field and ultimately prepare them for teaching careers in secondary education. The program’s structure allows support for students to pursue degrees in their intended major while earning a secondary teaching certificate – without adding time or cost to their four-year degree program.

Gee said that bringing UTeach to WVU is an essential step in the effort to combat a critical problem in West Virginia: a shortage of quality science and math teachers.

Gee emphasized that it’s a problem that cannot be ignored.

“This is a time when science and math education is more important than ever,” said Gee.  “According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM job opportunities are growing at nearly twice the rate of other fields.”

Leading advocates for STEM research were on campus for the celebration, including keynote speaker Norm Augustine, retired chairman and chief executive officer of the Lockheed Martin Corp. Augustine currently serves as the lead director of the National Math and Science Initiative.

Augustine emphasized the importance of recruiting and training teachers who can spark excitement in today’s youth regarding the STEM opportunities that permeate the workforce.

“Up to 85 percent of jobs created in the United States over the last half-century are related to advancements in science and technology,” he said.

“We need teachers who can inspire our young people to get excited about learning STEM to capitalize on these opportunities,” Augustine said.  “That would make this program an enormous success.  And I have no doubt that it will be a success under Dr. Gee’s leadership.”

UTeach Institute director Kimberly Hughes said that WVU was selected through a competitive process and believes it is up to the challenge of enhancing STEM learning throughout the state and nation.

“WVU attracts talented, curious, capable students, and we believe these same students will benefit from UTeach,” she said.

“We are looking forward to the contributions WVU will make to national STEM learning efforts,” Hughes said. “UTeach welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with WVU leadership to make this implementation a success over the next five years.”