Mar. 28, 2016
Low pay and long hours of teaching have left middle and high schools with small numbers of teachers educated in sciences other than biology.
In Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, he called for 100,000 improved Science, Technology, Engineering and Math educators.
On Feb. 17, 100kin10, a national organization that works with other schools to increase science and math teachers in the U.S., partnered with UCCS program UCCSTeach and Colorado Geographic Alliance.
According to Tom Christensen, co-director of UCCSTeach, there is a shortage of teachers in middle school and high school who are well trained in science and math.
“This is a national problem. The 100kin10 group as well as our UCCSTeach group are both trying to produce more well-prepared science and math teachers. That’s the big issue,” he said.
Vickie Newkirk, program coordinator for UCCSTeach, said the goal of UCCSTeach is to have content-rich teachers in the classroom.
Christensen said the other issue and reason to have programs such as UCCSTeach is recruitment of teachers.
“How do we get people to become excited about being teachers, once they become teachers how do we keep them in the schools? It isn’t going to be the salary, I’m afraid. The pay for teachers isn’t that good.”
UCCSTeach started in fall 2010, and Christensen said 120-125 students are taking classes in the program.
Students can get a science or math degree in addition to the UCCSTeach program that will provide students with a teaching license.
Before the program, three to five students graduated with a teaching license in addition to their science or math degree.
Since the program started, Christensen said up to 15 students graduate with a teaching licensure and a bachelor’s degree through the UCCSTeach program every school year.
Newkirk said she believes there is a lack of participation of teachers in these fields.
“The participation question comes from years and years of declining enrollment in all teaching fields, pay’s not great. It’s a lot of work, it’s hard work.”
Senior instructor and master teacher of UCCSTeach Cory Gavitt said that Colorado is one of the lowest funded states for education.
“Unfortunately we value people making a lot of money for ridiculous reasons,” Gavitt said.
Gavitt, who worked as a geologic engineer for the first part of his career after receiving a geologic engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin, enrolled at UCCS to receive a teaching license and master’s degree.
Gavitt taught science at Jenkins Middle School for nine years, with the last five years at Jenkins teaching engineering.
According to Gavitt, when sixth graders are asked if they think they can be an engineer, 60 percent believed they can. When high school freshmen were asked, 20 percent said they can.
“If that many people don’t think they can, that’s why we have a shortage of engineers.”
Christensen said that our society needs to prepare future scientists and mathematicians
“The technology that goes into so many things that we take for granted today, if we want to keep this stuff going, even just regular people who aren’t scientists and mathematicians, they need to have an understanding of where this science is coming from, where it’s impacting their lives.”
Newkirk said that UCCS was nominated because of the new engineering education degree added to UCCS last fall.