OSU launches Oklahoma's first UTeach program

OSUTeach will generate highly qualified mathematics and science teachers

OSUTeach College of Arts and Sciences College of Education, Health and Aviation Programs

The greatest elementary and secondary math and science educators of the future may not yet know they're interested in teaching. But OSUTeach, a new program at Oklahoma State, plans to ask the brightest and best science, technology, engineering and mathematics college students whether they could ever see themselves at the front of a classroom.

"Even those who answer with a tentative 'yes,' we'll hook," says College of Education Dean Pamela "Sissi" Carroll. As a lifelong educator she knows the power of children's interests coming alive with a drive to ask questions, explore and redefine "fun" with intellectual curiosity.

The hook will be in the form of two free one-hour classes that allow students to explore the idea of teaching. If they're interested, they will be encouraged to enroll in OSUTeach. Master teachers will mentor the students, who will also train in local public schools (as early as their first semester in the program) and be able to graduate in four years with their degree related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) as well as their teaching certification.

OSUTeach is a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. The program will offer degrees in biological science, chemistry, geology, mathematics and physics beginning this fall.

On March 10, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, OSU leaders and representatives from the National Math and Science Initiative and the UTeach Institute announced OSUTeach's launch. The National Math and Science Initiative awarded a $1.4 million grant to establish the program.

"The education of our children must be our top priority," Fallin says. "In order to build a stronger and better workforce in the state, it is imperative we emphasize STEM subjects in both our elementary and secondary schools. OSUTeach will go a long way in accomplishing this by focusing on training teachers who are engaged in STEM, and they in turn will, pass on that passion and enthusiasm for these subjects to their students."

Creating a pipeline of qualified teachers is critical in Oklahoma where key industries include oil and gas, energy, aerospace and engineering, says OSU President Burns Hargis. "The program will nurture STEM college students to become inspirational, effective teachers with an emphasis on middle-school education, which has been identified as a crucial time in capturing the attention of bright students," he says.

President Hargis

OSU President Burns Hargis announces the OSUTeach program from the Willard Hall terrace.

OSUTeach, the only program of its kind in the state, is modeled after the UTeach program, developed in 1997 at the University of Texas and since implemented at 35 universities across the country. By the fall of 2015, UTeach is expected to be in 45 universities. The program is expected to account for nearly 10 percent of the 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers by 2021 that President Barack Obama called for in his 2011 State of the Union address.

The UTeach Institute and the National Math and Science Initiative target top research institutions to permanently establish programs to produce the highest quality teachers beyond the initial grant period.

OSU will have five years to establish OSUTeach into the culture of the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences. Oklahoma State and the OSU Foundation will partner with corporations, private donors and family foundations to raise funds and establish endowments to provide perpetual financial stability for the program and to fulfill match requirements stipulated by the grant.

In addition to the official program announcement in March, the university also recognized the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation in Tulsa for its $600,000 gift to support the OSUTeach program.

"We are especially thankful to the Schusterman Family Foundation for its gift to support OSUTeach," Hargis says. "This program is going to have a significant impact on our students in both the colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences and on common education across Oklahoma.

"OSU is proud to be the only university in the state to be chosen for this nationally recognized program and grateful we have supporters like the Schusterman Family Foundation willing to step forward and enhance what it will offer our students and faculty," he says.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bret Danilowicz says educating future teachers is the responsibility of the entire university.

"We should be asking students, 'What would you like to do, and can we align this with an option in teaching?'" he says. "It doesn't hurt the students to add teaching as a career option, and it can provide the teachers our state desperately needs."

OSUTeach represents an investment in Oklahoma State's future and illustrates how, as a land-grant institution, OSU and its colleges should collaborate with each other and community partners, he says.

"We will now graduate more teachers specifically trained for increasing engagement with science and mathematics in our schools. The schoolchildren that they motivate will be OSU's future science, technology, engineering and mathematics students," he says. "Imagine with me the innovation and creativity that can be built upon this next generation of school students, on the shoulders of our next generation of STEM teachers."

Science and Math Teacher Shortage

36 — Percentage of public middle school math teachers in 2007 who either did not major in the subject in college or are not certified to teach it.

$17,000 — The average cost of one teacher turnover in 2007.

$7.3 billion — The amount all teacher turnovers cost America annually.

$266,000 — The amount of increased earnings per classroom involved if a poor teacher is replaced by an average one.

Source: National Math and Science Initiative