Recruiting more math and science teachers has long been a critical need in Virginia - the state needs more than the 10 fully licensed physics teachers it produced in 2011 to keep kids learning.
Old Dominion University has become the first college in Virginia to use state grant money and a program started in Texas to induce more math and science majors to take their skills to Virginia's classrooms. That's a smart, scientific approach to growing our own educators, better teaching our kids and preparing them for college or careers.
MonarchTeach will receive nearly $700,000 over two years from money set aside by the General Assembly in 2012 to recruit students for the Math and Science Teacher Education Reform Initiative.
ODU hopes to enroll up to 20 students in the program beginning in August, with incentives that include free tuition for two of the required teaching courses. Those who graduate from the four-year MonarchTeach program beginning in the spring of 2017 will leave the university with degrees in math and science along with Virginia teaching licenses.
In Texas, the UTeach program founded at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 saw tremendous success over the course of a decade in training more of its graduates to teach in math and science fields - 746 educators since the program began. According to UTeach, 88 percent of the Austin program's graduates become teachers. After five years, about 80 percent remain in schools.
In 2006, the university founded the UTeach Institute to help other schools re-create that success. It has spread to 35 colleges and universities across the country, and those programs have helped to train another 410 math and science educators.
Mary Enderson, associate professor of math education at ODU, said the school's college of education already produces many of Virginia's teachers. MonarchTeach course curriculum will be geared to those who want to teach in math and science fields. Students will get help from mentors to ensure prospective teachers learn the skills they need to succeed in the classroom, Enderson said.
Helping more Monarchs teach more Virginia kids in science, technology, engineering and math solves two problems at once - getting more teachers in the pipeline and providing better education to our kids. That's good for everyone in the commonwealth.