AUSTIN (KXAN) — Money and time — these are the biggest factors that can keep aspiring teachers from pursuing classroom jobs. A program called UTeach Accelerate at the University of Texas is working to fill that void by covering even more costs for accelerated teacher certifications.
Heather Harris joined the program in fall 2021. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in biotechnology and was a Navy electronics technician for six years. At the height of the pandemic, she wanted change.
“In 2020, everything was chaotic, and I did a lot of soul-searching and realized that I wanted to give back with my degree,” Harris said.
She joined UTeach Accelerate, an accelerated program with coursework and student teaching that certifies STEM teachers in as little as one year.
“I really wanted to hit the ground running. I wanted to learn the skills and grow as a teacher as quickly as possible,” Harris said.
That’s crucial, as numbers show the state of Texas has been losing teachers for years with difficulty retaining first-grade teachers.
According to the Texas Education Agency, at the start of this school year, Texas lost more than 42,000 teachers through attrition. New hires barely cover the number of teachers lost. In the past decade and a half, there has only been one time when the number of teachers lost has exceeded the number of new hires. It was the 2011-2012 school year, when the economy was down and still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
“Right now we are in uncertain times. There are major shortages across our country, so the question is what are we going to do about it,” said Ariel Taylor, assistant professor of practice and director of UTeach Accelerate.
It was a complete experience for Taylor, who previously participated in the UTeach Accelerate program and is now its director.
She helped the program expand grant funding to cover tuition – up to $20,000 per student.
The goal is to attract STEM degree holders or college juniors and seniors and accelerate their path to the classroom.
The program also adds funds for a Computer Science (CS) track in the fall.
The program’s educators hope it prepares non-CS majors for secondary certification in CS and offers up to $5,000 in stipends. As more tech companies come to Austin, the goal of the program is to prepare students for these careers.
“We need to be able to fill these jobs with our own employees, so why not raise our students with great computer science teachers who can inspire them and make them excited to pursue careers in computer science. “, said Taylor.
The program has about 25 slots for its next cohort for UTeach Accelerate.
According to UTeach, 49 universities have implemented the curriculum model, producing hundreds of teachers each year.