AT&T gift propels UTeach success

NAUTeach is one of five UTeach programs across the country to share a $500,000 contribution from AT&T.

AT&T’s gift was announced by the National Math and Science Initiative, an organization that promotes the development of best-practices educational programs. Other UTeach programs benefiting from the gift are at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Florida and Florida State University.

In just four years, NAUTeach has contributed to a doubling of graduates specially trained to teach science and mathematics to middle and high school students, addressing a national need for such teachers.

As daily news reports point out that the United States is struggling to produce students accomplished in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the graduation of 28 teachers-to-be from Northern Arizona University’s NAUTeach program since spring 2011 is no small achievement.

In addition, enrollment in NAUTeach has grown rapidly. Nearly 150 students have enrolled for fall 2012, which means a pipeline full of potential STEM graduates.

“It is promising to see the increased growth in our number of graduates,” said Janet McShane, director of NAUTeach. “We are excited about our progress and continue to adjust our program to give students the best foundation possible for their future careers.”

NAUTeach trains mathematics and science teachers with the goal of increasing quality science instruction in K-12 schools. The program has been operating at NAU since 2008. Students in the program gain immediate experience in the classroom, which is one of the cornerstones of NAUTeach.

“I really like how they get you into the classroom right from the get-go. That was huge,” said Bryce McFarland, who recently graduated with an education degree that emphasizes physics. “It confirmed that I really wanted to do it—that teaching was right for me.”

Allison Loesl, another recent graduate, said that the NAUTeach approach helped her choose the college at which she would pursue her mathematics education. After a tour at NAU, she said, “I decided I was excited to go there and be in a classroom right away.”

Loesl said she has never been “one of those people who’s scared of math,” although she has encountered plenty of students who are. “I just thought there’s a disconnect somewhere,” she said. “People really struggle in math and science, so I want to be there to help those kids before they give up.”