Much-Needed STEM Teachers are Focus of Accelerated Certification Program Expansion

Students working outside in a science/lab class at the Avery Point campus. Avery Point was selected for the STEM expansion of the accelerated teacher certification program because of the big focus on science that’s there already. (Al Ferreira for UConn)

Students working outside in a science/lab class at the Avery Point campus. Avery Point was selected for the STEM expansion of the accelerated teacher certification program because of the big focus on science that’s there already. (Al Ferreira for UConn)

To help meet the national demand for certified science, technology, engineering, and math teachers who will engage and inspire young people, the Neag School of Education is expanding its one-year accelerated Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG) to UConn’s Avery Point campus.

Like the TCPCG programs already in place on regional campuses in West Hartford and Waterbury, the Avery Point program will allow qualified students who hold a bachelor’s degree to earn a master’s in education and Connecticut teacher certification in just 12 months. Classes at Avery Point, however, will only be open to those looking to teach in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

“School systems in Connecticut and throughout the nation are scrambling to find qualified STEM teachers – there’s a critical shortage – so this program meets a crucial need,” said Michael Alfano, executive director of UConn teacher education programs.

National education officials estimate that to properly educate and engage students in these fields – as well as inspire them to pursue related careers – U.S. colleges and universities need to graduate as many as 25,000 new STEM teachers each year.

President Barack Obama has called meeting this number a “national imperative,” and challenged the U.S. Department of Education to spearhead efforts to train 100,000 STEM graduates over the next decade.

“Traditionally, math and science majors go into industry jobs – a math major becomes an actuary, a science major goes to work for a lab,” Alfano said, “but we’re hoping to change that and inspire more STEM undergrads to become teachers, as well as professionals who’ve worked in the fields for a while. Clearly, the need is there, and this new program at Avery Point will make the process of becoming a certified teacher that much more convenient. Neag’s TCPCG program really is a natural fit for professionals looking to make a career change and become teachers.”

Each year, 70-80 new certified teachers graduate from UConn’s accelerated TCPCG program. Another 120-130 graduate annually from the UConn Storrs campus’ traditional Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Teacher Education Program. The Avery Point program will lead to an additional 20 teachers certified annually in one of the STEM fields.

An information session for those looking to learn more about the program will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, at Branford House on the Avery Point campus. Participants will get the opportunity to learn not just how UConn’s TCPCG program effectively integrates school-based experiences with seminar and core coursework, but see the sophisticated marine studies facility and other laboratory and research facilities that make up much of the Avery Point campus.

“It really was the logical place for the STEM expansion, because of the big focus on science that’s there already,” Alfano added.

Applications for the STEM/Avery Point program will be accepted in fall 2012, from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1. The first class of 20 will enter the following summer and attend full time. Part-time students are not accepted.

“It’s a rigorous program, but the benefits are clear,” Alfano said. “Not only is UConn’s Neag School of Education the No. 1 public school in the Northeast, but we frequently get feedback from superintendents who say Neag grads are their first choice for hires. Our graduates are exceptionally well educated and tend to stay in education far longer than the state or national average. What we do for teachers, students, and really education as a field is pretty special. There’s definitely a Neag difference.”

For more information or to register to attend the May 16 open house, contact Monica Gat at monica.gat@uconn.edu or 860-570-9266.