VolsTeach is here to stay.
Although the VolsTeach program has been running under experimental approval for three years, it was recently recommended for sanction by the Tennessee Department of Education.
Providing science, technology, engineering and math students the opportunity to translate their skills into secondary teaching, VolsTeach offers a degree in a chosen STEM field, as well as a minor in secondary education.
"We really want to expand the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors who are willing to explore and consider teaching as a career, so we developed VolsTeach as a way to do that," said Susan Benner, Ph.D., co-director of VolsTeach and associate dean for Professional Licensure, in a phone interview on Nov. 5.
Students can enroll in VolsTeach as freshmen, sophomores or juniors. Each year, VolsTeach students progress through the courses and gain field-based experience.
"Initially, it's a one hour course," said Alexis Dabney, a third year VolsTeach student and microbiology major. "You meet once a week and you go out and teach in an elementary class."
Although VolsTeach is aimed toward secondary teachers, students begin their field-based experience in an elementary setting for a reason.
"Since these are folks who have just graduated from high school themselves, we can't really turn around in three months and put them back in high schools in a totally different role," Brenner said. "Putting them in elementary schools gives them the context of schooling and education and gives them a teacher they can look at and then children that they are clearly older than and taller than that they can work with and enjoy the learning process."
In their final semester, VolsTeach students complete apprentice teaching in a 7-12 grade classroom, working alongside a licensed teacher.
VolsTeach students may also receive tutoring and customized advising through the program, in addition to access to the VolsTeach materials library.
The library is where Molly Schaeffer, a senior math major in VolsTeach, interns.
"In the library, over the summer we received a lot of new materials," Schaeffer said, "and I feel that our library has almost doubled since we've gotten so much new technology and new things that the students can work with."
There are currently 10 VolsTeach students on track to do their apprentice teaching in the spring of 2014, Schaeffer said.
"I've really enjoyed being in the program," she said. "It's a great way to get involved in a community on campus."