UTeach Dallas Meets Fundraising Challenge, Receives $2 Million
Grants Will Further Advance Math and Science Teacher Training in Growing Program
Apr. 3, 2013
Dallas-area foundations and industry partners in science and technology have provided $2 million to support an innovative program at The University of Texas at Dallas aimed at training the teachers who will inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs.
UTeach Dallas graduate Amiee Himler is a math teacher at Richardson High School.
The UTeach Dallas program prepares undergraduate students majoring in such fields as physics, math, chemistry and biology to be secondary science or math teachers. Established at UT Dallas in 2007 with support from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), the program allows students to earn secondary teaching certification while simultaneously completing bachelor’s degrees.
On April 3, NMSI awarded to UTeach Dallas a $1 million challenge grant for raising $1 million in matching funds for an endowment and meeting performance benchmarks. UT Dallas and the University of North Texas were among 12 universities nationwide to receive the challenge grants.
“Improving the quality of math and science teachers in Texas is a key step toward building a better-educated, technically savvy workforce, one with the skills necessary to fill – and create – jobs in a technology-driven society,” said Dr. Mary Urquhart, co-director of UTeach Dallas and head of the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at UT Dallas. “We cannot thank our donors enough.”
UT Austin developed the original UTeach program in 1997 to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics teacher shortages. UT Dallas was one of 13 universities in the first cohort of national UTeach programs, which began enrolling students in 2008. There are now 34 UTeach programs at universities around the country.
David Saba, chief operating officer of the National Math and Science Initiative, announced April 3 that UT Dallas is one of 12 universities nationwide to receive a $1 million challenge grant from the organization for its UTeach program.
NMSI is an organization funded in part by ExxonMobil, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. NMSI’s challenge grant initiative for UTeach programs requires that several milestones be met, including raising $1 million for a permanent endowment by a pre-set deadline. If all criteria are met, NMSI provides an additional $1 million for the program’s endowment.
“A $2 million endowment will provide the permanent resources needed to plan for even greater growth of UTeach Dallas,” Urquhart said.
Enrollment in UTeach Dallas has grown from 24 students in its first semester to its current 350 students. As of December 2012, 21 students have graduated, and all are employed in school systems or science learning centers, or have gone on to graduate school.
“School districts routinely ask us about the availability of our UTeach Dallas graduates,” said James “Bill” Neal, assistant director of the program and one of its six master teachers. “Moving forward, UTeach Dallas anticipates 35 new graduates by the end of 2013, and we expect at least 50 new graduates in spring 2014. These 100-plus graduates since the program’s inception could potentially impact about 79,000 middle and high school students by 2019.”
UTeach Dallas provides tuition reimbursements for the first two courses, paid internships and scholarship opportunities. Beginning with their very first course, students are immersed in local classrooms and given the chance to teach science or math lessons. Throughout the program they receive one-on-one guidance and instruction from experienced master teachers, a cadre of veteran science and math educators who form the program’s core faculty. After graduation, UTeach Dallas teachers receive an additional two years of professional development support.
Katie Donaldson, UTeach Dallas master teacher, works with UT Dallas student Anna Slaybaugh to prepare a chemistry lesson.
One of the factors that make UTeach Dallas graduates so attractive to potential employers is their exposure to and experience with advanced classroom technology, which is becoming more widespread in North Texas schools. For example, Texas Instruments provided the UTeach Dallas program with the TI-Nspire Navigator, a wireless system of handheld devices that connects students to the instructor, facilitates real-time interaction with electronic classroom display boards, and allows teachers to instantly assess whether their students are understanding the lesson.
“TI has been an extraordinary partner in UTeach Dallas’s efforts to enhance STEM education and teacher training,” Urquhart said. “The company has provided resources that give both new teachers and school children exposure to advanced technology.”
UTeach Dallas graduate Amiee Himler was a Terry Scholar who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UT Dallas in December 2010. She was hired as a full-time math teacher at Richardson High School beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
“Gaining experience with advanced technology as a UTeach Dallas student and being able to use it in the classroom from the get-go made me more hirable,” Himler said.
Now in her second year of teaching, Himler said the UTeach Dallas program helped to solidify her desire to teach.
“I was always interested in math, and was good at it, and I also dreamed of being a teacher,” Himler said. “But I didn’t always get a lot of support for that dream. Within the first three weeks of UTeach, though, I had been to class, was matched with a partner, met a teacher in the field, and was writing lessons that I would teach in another three weeks.”
Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which houses UTeach Dallas, said great teachers inspire students to perform at their best.
“There is nothing more important to our future than getting more school children excited about math and science,” Novak said. “These are our nation’s future doctors, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs. They must be inspired by great teachers, and UTeach has become a model for training those great math and science teachers.”
To reach its endowment fundraising goal, UTeach Dallas initially raised $500,000 through grants from the Tellabs Foundation, the Greater Texas Foundation and the O’Donnell Foundation. Texas Instruments Foundation came forward with a conditional grant of $150,000 that would only be made if another donor gave an equal or greater amount.
In June 2012, the Dallas-based Hamon Charitable Foundation stepped up with a $350,000 grant. This secured the TI Foundation grant, boosting the UTeach Dallas endowment to $1 million and meeting the NMSI challenge.
“UTeach Dallas is reaching a critical mass,” said Dr. David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas. “Schools throughout North Texas will be able to attract more of the inspirational teachers needed to spark the scientific imaginations of more school children. We thank all the organizations who support UTeach Dallas for their visionary investment in our nation’s future.”
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