UT Austin program helps people become teachers quicker

The teacher shortage continues here in Texas as well as across the country. 

That's why the University of Texas at Austin created UTeach for Texas, a program designed for people who already hold a STEM degree and allows them to become teachers in just seven months.

Program manager Carrie Culpepper joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to talk about the program and how it works:  

Mike Warren: You know, how does this program prepare people to become teachers so quickly? 

Carrie Culpepper: Well, what we have done is we've taken what we've learned over 25 years of preparing undergraduate students who are also getting their STEM degree at the same time. 

So that's why, you know, a lot of them take four years to do that, sometimes more. And we were able to look at our curriculum and sort of streamline the important pieces of what someone needs to have a good foundation. 

And I think the key to know with this program is once you are in the classroom, after that seven-month period, the support and the learning don't stop. And so our program continues to come in, provide you coaching, professional learning. And so it's a seven-month program, but we continue much longer after that. 

Mike Warren: You know, in a press release earlier this week, you wrote, the number of science and mathematics teachers coming from the country's teacher preparation programs has been falling for years due to the drop in production from the nation's universities, which has states turning to concerning solutions. What do you mean by concerning solutions? 

Carrie Culpepper: Well, because there is such a shortage. You know, school districts have to sometimes, unfortunately, fall back on the ability to hire someone who does not have a teaching certificate on day one. So they're able to, you know, do this provision where they can have a teacher with no preparation, essentially start teaching and then start their preparation program. 

So it's concerning because the teachers aren't really set up to be as successful as they could be if they had a good preparation. Obviously, a university degree with a teaching certificate is the best. But someone who already has a degree thing go through a program like ours and be set up really well and then have that continued support once they're in the classroom. 

Mike Warren: Now, if someone who is watching this right now is interested in becoming a teacher, how can they sign up for the program? How can they get involved? 

Carrie Culpepper: Sure. The best thing to do is to attend one of our information sessions. So if they go online, then they can register for that. We'll send them this Zoom link and they can learn a lot more about it at that session. 

Essentially, you're going to submit an unofficial transcript so that we can confirm you have a degree and look at your credentials and then you'll be invited to apply. There's also an interview, and so there's a couple of steps to the process, but it's pretty streamlined. And like I said, those information sessions give you a lot of detail about how to do that. 

Mike Warren: Real quickly, how serious is the STEM teacher deficiency right now in education in this country?  

Carrie Culpepper: It's critical if we want to have, you know, an economically vibrant country where there is great STEM innovation, we have to have really strong STEM knowledge from students and that starts with our teachers. 

So we're looking for people who have that strong STEM background and want to join in helping solve this problem, but do it in a way that gives them some really good preparation and support once they're there. So it is critical. It has been critical for a long time. 

But obviously, the pandemic has sort of exacerbated a lot of what we're seeing. And, you know, unfortunately, leading to some tough decisions about teachers and, you know, being able to staff our classrooms with the most prepared people. So we're here to be part of that solution.

Mike Warren: All right. It is called UTeach for Texas. Carrie, thank you very much for joining us. 

Carrie Culpepper: Thank you so much.