UCF Program Helps STEM Pros Transition to Teaching

UCF Program Helps STEM Pros Transition to Teaching

Forty-six students, part of the first class of UCF’s Resident Teacher Professional Preparation Program, will graduate with Master of Arts in Teaching degrees in August.

Scientists, engineers and mathematics professionals are educating the next generation of thinkers full-time thanks to an innovative program at the University of Central Florida that provides them with the knowledge and experience necessary to lead a classroom.

Forty-six students, part of the first class of UCF’s Resident Teacher Professional Preparation Program, will graduate with Master of Arts in Teaching degrees in August. The 15-month program was designed by the College of Education in response to the growing need for skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“In many cases, middle and high school science and mathematics teachers may not have deep knowledge of their content areas but have the educational training needed to be an effective teacher,” said Rosemarye Taylor, a professor who leads the program with College of Education faculty Janet Andreasen and Erhan Selcuk Haciomeroglu.

“There are other cases where STEM-degreed individuals find that they are drawn to teaching, but they do not have proficiency with pedagogy. This program marries the two concepts of having expertise and deep knowledge of science or mathematics.”

Known as RTP3, the program is open to those who have earned undergraduate degrees in a STEM field since 2008 and have no experience teaching. Students accepted into the program work directly with UCF’s partners, including Florida Virtual School and the school districts in Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Lake Counties.

The program is funded by a $10 million Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Grant funding covers all aspects of the program, including tuition costs for students.

For resident teacher Sandy Do, who teaches ninth and 10th grade biology at Dr. Phillips High School, the teacher training program has exposed her to progressive teaching practices that haven’t yet been integrated into most mainstream classes.

“In work meetings, I find that I am already proficient and knowledgeable in the upcoming changes, and my colleagues look to me for information,” said Do, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology. “Before the graduate program, I easily assumed the role of the new person who didn’t know anything and couldn’t contribute much to the discussion. Now, not only can I contribute to discussions, but I can also shed light and answer questions on some of the newer concepts.”

This month, 81 new students will begin coursework for the 2013-2014 program, and they’ll start serving as resident teachers in local schools in August.

Through the program, resident teachers receive instructional coaching and feedback from their partner schools, which allows them to improve their classroom practices. Corbet Wilson, director of teaching and learning for Seminole County Public Schools, says students have responded positively to resident teachers.

“The resident teachers have strong content knowledge and expertise of what can be done with a STEM degree and how it goes across so many careers. This provides students with wonderful, real-life examples and connections to the real world,” said Wilson. “This is especially important for students thinking of life beyond high school. The resident teachers have a passion for the subject that you really can’t fake. Students can see right through it if you don’t have a passion for what you do and the information that you’re talking about.”

To learn more about the program, visit http://education.ucf.edu/rtp3/.