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Friday, July 10, 2020

Activities & Organizations

UH program aims to produce more teachers in STEM


Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

UH’s teachHOUSTON program will launch the Advancing Cultural and Computational Engagement in STEM Scholars, or UH-ACCESS, initiative in Fall 2020.

This initiative will be a way to produce more high school computer science, physics and technology teachers. These future teachers will be educated in socio-cultural awareness to better work in under-served communities.

UH certifies many non-STEM teachers each year through the Teaching and Learning program, and despite Teaching and Learning’s popularity, relatively few students choose to pursue careers as high school math and science teachers, according to teachHOUSTON associate director and UH-ACCESS principal investigator Paige Evans.

Before teachHOUSTON’s launch in 2007, the University graduated only four high school math and science teachers per year. The number rose to 40-50 in recent years, and Evans anticipates 60 certifying secondary STEM teachers in 2021.

UH-ACCESS is planned to graduate 30 students over five years and teachHOUSTON received a grant worth $1.2 million to help with expenses.

Aside from being focused on generating high school STEM teachers for under-served populations, UH-ACCESS is unique from other teachHOUSTON programs in that future teachers receive mentoring and support from Master teachers, STEM faculty, LEAD Houston Master Teacher Fellows and members of the community involved in social justice work.

“All will serve as mentors to guide scholars on best practices for utilizing computational tools as well as integrate culturally relevant pedagogy in STEM curriculum development and classroom management,” Evans said.

UH-ACCESS students will gain hands-on observations and practice in the Houston, Alvin, Pasadena, Spring Branch and Cy-Fair Independent School Districts.

Other benefits include a Noyce scholarship of $12,000 per year over two years and a supportive Teacher Interest Group.

Evans said students will be chosen for the program in Fall 2020.

Eligibility requirements include junior teachHOUSTON students with GPA’s of at least 2.75. and majors that fall within the College of Natural Science and Mathematics or the College of Technology, Evans said.

Other selection criteria include: gender, ethnicity, racial, linguistic, disability status, financial need and first-generation college student status. The cohort of students are expected to be dedicated to social justice and display exhibiting socio-political awareness, which has not previously been included in the teachHOUSTON criteria.

A further requirement for the future teachers is writing an essay addressing career goals, social justice perspectives and how they will take up justice work in their STEM profession. When nearing graduation, they will participate in an “Exit/Interpersonal Interview” about how they view a strengths-focused mindset and cultural responsiveness in STEM teaching.

After acceptance into UH-ACCESS, these students will be involved in a variety of activities developed to hone these traits.

“They will read a critically conscious work (i.e., journal article, book excerpt, media piece, or newspaper article) modeling social justice and reflect on the reading via peer group discussion,” Evans said. “As well as teach STEM mini-lessons with a focus on social justice issues in local communities.”

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