The University of Tennessee is trying to put a stop to the national shortage of math and science teachers across the country.
Back in 2010, UT adopted the VolsTeach program. This program originally started at the University of Texas in Austin back in 1997, and has since been replicated across the country due to teacher shortages.
Starting this fall, VolsTeach is moving into the newly renovated Greve Hall, and they are holding an open house on Aug. 20 from 2-5 to celebrate this occasion, as well as talk to prospective students about becoming a part of their program.
The target audience for VolsTeach is freshman, but all students are welcome.
VolsTeach Coach Jada Johnson said the program is for those that want to be teachers, but is also for those who are math and science majors but are unsure where those majors will take them.
The program starts soft, with no commitment on the student's part and only a few hours of work.
Students will take a one-credit hour course called Step One, and they will have an elementary field experience with that course. Step Two, like the first, is just a recruiting course to feel students out and gauge their interest.
"It gets students to try out teaching to see if that's what they really wanted to do," she said. "I had students in one course that came to UT planning to teach math and science, and then you also have some that may be interested in pre-professional programs or maybe don't know what they want to do with their math and science degree, but they just want to try out teaching."
If students decide to continue with the program after the first two courses, it involves one course per semester, with three credit hours each.
Ultimately, the goal of VolsTeach is for students to become licensed teachers and equip them with skills to teach at the high school level.
Johnson said that students are given ample internship and scholarship opportunities, and the early field experience is essential in today's job market.
Students will go out into the teaching field five times per semester and be able to both sit in and actually teach a class.
Each student is assigned a master teacher, who is a teacher with high school teaching experience that has come back to help prep those who want to be teachers.
"Two times that semester, they will meet with their mentor teacher, in which the master teacher will identify who the mentor teacher will be," Johnson said. "They will meet with their mentor teacher twice, give them a chance to observe the students in their classroom. Then they go out three times to teach. They go there with their partner, who is in there class. One time they will teach with their partner, one time they will teach by themselves, and one time they will let their partner teach."
On Aug. 20, VolsTeach will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the open house, and collaborating staff will be coming from the health and human sciences, arts and sciences and education departments.
The whole first floor of Greve Hall has been designated for VolsTeach by the university. That whole space will have dedicated classrooms for VolsTeach classes as well as a commons area for students to hang out and form study groups.
Assistant Director of VolsTeach Susan Newsom said that students who participate in the program are exposed to so many things early on that it really helps them in the job market.
"Five of the nine courses are associated with school-based experiences," Newsom said. "So we have some very highly qualified mentors in elementary, middle and high school levels. We find our students are exposed and gain a breadth of experience and knowledge in classroom practices, knowledge, application and getting a real sense of what it takes to be a highly regarded teacher."
And while the goal of VolsTeach is to license teachers to teach, Newsom understands that some may not feel called to teach after being in the program, and that's why they offer it.
"We're really helping them build a professional skill set," she said. "If some of the students find out early that teaching is not for them, that's ok. They would have some really well-grounded and well-supported experiences for them to make those informed decisions."