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Gift Will Fund a Scholars Program for the U of M’s UTeach MEmphis Program

For release: March 31, 2011
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

A $1 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous will be used to establish a Scholars Program for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and who are also part of the UTeach MEmphis program at the University of Memphis.

The donation comes from an individual who is particularly interested in the UTeach MEmphis program and for whom secondary education is a family tradition.  A board of community members will be appointed to select students for the Scholars Program.

An important part of the Scholars Program is that students who continue in the UTeach program beyond its initial stages will receive scholarships and internships that offer opportunities for community outreach in education.  They will also receive priority in placement for tutoring and instructional jobs on the U of M campus.

UTeach MEmphis is a collaboration between the University’s College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education.  It enables students who are majoring in math or science to earn a degree in either of those fields and be certified to teach those subjects after they graduate from the U of M.

Dr. Henry Kurtz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said internships are a critical part of the educational experience in the UTeach program.  “This gift makes these internships possible and supports our students, so they can become involved in the profession and in the community, where they will make a difference right away.”

Dr. Donald Wagner, dean of the College of Education, in discussing the effect the gift will have, said “The UTeach program addresses the shortage of qualified math and science teachers by introducing undergraduate math and science majors to the rewards of the teaching profession.”

Nationally, studies show that more than 20 percent of high school students taking math courses and more than 60 percent of high school students taking chemistry and physics are being taught by teachers without expertise in those fields. UTeach is a teacher preparation program created specifically to attract a wide range of bright STEM majors into careers as secondary-level teachers.  The program prepares them with an advanced field-intensive curriculum, then promotes their retention as teachers through continued support and professional development.

The initiative is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, using money provided by the “Race to the Top” funds provided by the federal government. Tennessee and Delaware were the first two states awarded those grants following a national competition for the funding; they were named recipients in March 2010. Similar programs are also being offered at two University of Tennessee campuses and at TBR’s Middle Tennessee State University.

Based on the highly successful UTeach program introduced at the University of Texas a decade ago, the program gives participants a gradual introduction to teaching. As early as their freshman year, they will spend some time in public school classrooms, working under the guidance of experienced local teachers. Ultimately, during their final year in the program, the participants will spend time as an apprentice teacher. Throughout the program, participants will work closely with U of M faculty, including two master teachers who have been hired specifically to work with the UTeach students.

Possibly the best endorsements of the program come from students currently involved.  Two of them, Brinkley Mathews and Landon West, have very good things to say about UTeach MEmphis.  Mathews, a senior majoring in physics and anthropology, teaches a class of sixth-grade girls at the Memphis Business Academy.  She said she thinks there’s no better way to learn how to teach than to go ahead and get into a classroom. “UTeach does that for you,” she said. “It’s magnificent.”

West is a freshman physics major who teaches sixth-grade math at the Memphis Business Academy.  He said, “UTeach is a unique way to become an effective member of the teaching field and to reap the personal rewards that come with that career.”

UTeach MEmphis seeks freshman and sophomore math and science majors who want to learn more about teaching as a career. A student who enters the program will have two skilled advisors, one from the UTeach program and the other from the student’s major department. Together, they will make sure that all courses necessary for the major’s requirements and for the teacher certification are completed.

More information about the UTeach MEmphis program is available online at www.memphis.edu/uteach. Students who are interested in enrolling in the program should consult their academic advisors or contact the UTeach office in Manning Hall, Room 324, 901-678-3017, uteach@memphis.edu.

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