UT aims at training more math and science teachers

UT aims at training more math and science teachers

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Federal education officials selected Tennessee this spring for $500 million in Race to the Top money, and the University of Tennessee is helping translate it into more math and science teachers.

UT is introducing two new programs aimed at reducing the severe shortage of math and science teachers in the state.

"Vols Teach" kicks off in about two weeks and "Teach Here" will start this fall.

"Our existing math and science teacher program is a fabulous program. It's a five year program, but it produces about 10 or so students a year," said Dr. Susan Benner, with UT teacher education. 

Nearly 70 freshman and sophomores are already signed up for Vols Teach. It will allow them to graduate with a teaching degree in four years, instead of five.

"We have streamlined courses, made them more efficient and put field components in every single thing all the way down to their freshman year, whereas right now, most of the field work is not done until the senior year and then as a graduate student," Dr. Benner said.

One of the reasons it's so difficult to turn out highly qualified math and science teachers is because other careers pay much more.

"When there is a shortage of lawyers or doctors, we don't lower their pay and let anybody become our doctor or lawyer. We keep high standards and we pay whatever the market will bear," Dr. Benner said.

"We in education have tended to allow people to open the flood gates, say well gee we need teachers. Well, we don't have any, let's just grab some. Then we complain about the quality of the teachers that we have," she added.

Incentives for Vols Teach include paid internships while in school and some tuition reimbursement at the completion of some courses.

Teach Here is a partnership between the Hamilton County and Knox County Boards of Education, along with UT.

It will focus on recruiting students who've just graduated from college, and train them to be highly effective teachers in urban schools.

When they graduate, teachers must commit to spending four years in the school where they're most needed.

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