UT's VolsTeach program aims to direct math and science majors into filling the high need, high demand jobs of elementary and high school teachers.
According to coach and recruiter Jada Johnson, the program is an ideal way for students to try teaching on for size sans commitment.
"VolsTeach is noteworthy for being the only program that lets students have field experience as early as their freshman year," she stated. "This way, whether you've always dreamt of teaching or are simply trying to figure out what you want to do, you can get a feel for it without having to first earn the degree."
The program allows for students to receive their bachelor's degree in a math or science-based field as well as their secondary teaching license in only four years. Multiple steps are involved.
"You have the ability to take a Step One class, which is the first course in VolsTeach," said Johnson. "It's worth one credit hour. In it, you get to teach a class at the elementary school level."
Step Two involves teaching a middle school class. All other steps within the program provide field experience at the high school level.
"It's a great way for anyone who has ever even remotely considered teaching to get some real world experience under their belt and base their future career decisions off that," Johnson said.
The program is a replication of one successfully implemented at the University of Texas, Austin beginning in 1997. It was created as a prospective solution to the United States' dire, nationwide shortage of elementary and high school teachers in the mathematic and scientific fields. According to Assistant Director of Vols Teach, Dr. Susan Newsom, this shortage is partially an effect of the No Child Left Behind Act.
"No Child Left Behind placed a predominant focus on literacy rates and raising those scores," she said. "Science and math were comparatively neglected."
This fact, according to Newsom, has left the United States significantly behind in the quickening race of technological and scientific progression against other growing world powers.
"Today as a country, we are importing most of our scientists from countries like India, China, North Korea and Ireland," she said. "The evidence is clear. While other countries have been bumping up their workforce in mathematical and scientific fields since the late 1990s, we have been ignoring these areas for far too long."
This concept makes the rectification of an older generation's mishaps by the current generation of college goers extremely vital.
"It will be a struggle for this generation to build up positions of prominence in this field alongside more scientifically centered countries," said Newsom.
If the United States wishes to maintain any competitive edge in the modern era, it is imperative that the quality and quantity of science and math majors improve. In order to accomplish this, both subjects must be presented to students in a favorable way at an early age.
"We were so focused on the literary component of children's education that we are now having to look at new ways of teaching science," explained Johnson.
VolsTeach sweetens the deal for prospective scientists and mathematicians with the offering of tuition rebates and scholarships.
"Scholarships are available to be applied for by juniors and seniors," said Johnson. "You apply your sophomore year and can receive up to $12,000 for both their junior and senior years. Students may also be granted a $10,000 stipend."
In retribution for their financial assistance, students must spend two years for every year's worth of aid they received teaching in a high need school. Internships paying rates of $15 per hour are yet another mode of encouraging students to take up the scientific gauntlet.
"If we want our state and our country to get ahead, science is the way to succeed," finished Johnson.
Those interested to learn more can visit VolsTeach's Open House on August 20th from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Greve Hall.