AUTeach develops new STEM teachers, aims to reduce STEM teacher shortage, prepare next generation to enter workforce in state of Alabama
Auburn University held a kickoff event on Sept. 28 for its new AUTeach program, an initiative in the state to create a new generation of STEM teachers who are not just trained as educators, but also experts in a particular discipline of science.
The students will graduate with an undergraduate degree in science and have the opportunity to start teaching in the classroom immediately. The program is a collaboration between the College of Education (Education) and the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), in conjunction with the UTeach Institute, Alabama STEM Council and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education that funded the $3 million grant over five years.
“AUTeach is one of the most powerful options that students have,” said Lee Meadows, executive director of the Alabama STEM Council and founding education co-director for UABTeach in 2013. “The program lets students explore teaching, gain actual experience in classrooms and earn their teaching certification that is reciprocated in 48 states.”
The program does not end when students graduate with their undergraduate degree from Auburn.
Students will have a chance to work with a mentor while at Auburn, Matt McVay, who will answer questions and provide guidance during their time in AUTeach. McVay, who was recently a ninth-grade biology teacher, leads the no-cost, one-credit exploratory courses.
“I provide guidance, advice and letters of recommendation for AUTeach students,” said McVey. “Once they complete the program, I will still communicate with them offering support and being someone they can lean on as they start their new careers.”
The AUTeach program gives students a chance to learn more about teaching with no commitment.
“The students also receive paid internships providing experience to excel and apply their excitement for science with students,” said Lawrence T. Cooper, program manager at the Alabama STEM Council.
They can start getting experience in the classrooms at the very start.
“Through AUTeach, science majors will go into classrooms to practice teaching as early as fall of their freshman year,” said Jeffrey T. Fairbrother, dean of the College of Education and Wayne. T. Smith Distinguished Professor. “This unique program is removing roadblocks so Auburn students are prepared to teach on day one after they graduate.”
And in addition to the teaching experience, the students continue to earn their degree in science from COSAM.
“The strength of the program is how it combines the expertise in pedagogy with an unparalleled depth in a scientific discipline,” said Edward E. Thomas Jr., dean of COSAM and professor of physics. “These teachers will be molding the next generation of STEM leaders throughout the state for rewarding careers.”
The two co-directors of the AUTeach program are Christine Schnittka from Education and Stephanie Shepherd from COSAM, and they shared what means most to them at the kickoff event.
“Two decades ago, I helped create a middle school for girls and taught science there for nine years,” said Schnittka. “I enjoyed that time so much, and I want to share that passion for teaching with COSAM students through this program.”
The AUTeach Office is located in the Haley Center, where the two co-directors lead a team that helps students learn more about this program and the benefits of AUTeach.
“My greatest joys as a faculty every day is to talk to students about my love for science and my dedication to teaching,” said Shepherd.
The co-directors introduced the UTeach Institute, where the program was founded in 1997 at the University of Texas.
“Auburn is home to top scientific minds and researchers, and Auburn will create lifelong teachers who change the way STEM is taught,” said Kimberly Hughes, director of the UTeach Institute.
The funding for the program is administered through the Alabama Commission on Higher Education as part of an effort to improve STEM education.
“The legislature committed immediately to this initiative,” said Jim Purcell, executive director, Alabama Commission on Higher Education. “Auburn is making sure the workforce in Alabama is prepared and ready for tomorrow.”
Provost Vini Nathan extended greetings from Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts.
“There is a need for great teachers for all students, particularly in STEM fields,” said Nathan. “I assure you that Auburn is committed to being part of this solution and helping educate the next generation of the workforce in Alabama.”
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