Sarah Eakes majored in biology with the intent to attend pharmacy school. But during her junior year at UT, she decided to try out VolsTeach, a new program that prepares math and science majors to be teachers, to see if she would like it.
She apprenticed in a middle school classroom “and I loved it,” she said. “I was sold after that.”
Eakes, of Knoxville, and seven other students will graduate this month as part of VolsTeach’s inaugural class. She already has been hired as a teacher at Karns Middle School for the fall.
Through VolsTeach, she said, “I never changed my major, which was nice. I just changed my career.”
VolsTeach prepares math, science, and engineering majors to become teachers in Tennessee’s high-need middle and high schools. It has been recognized statewide for helping to solve one of the state’s most vital education problems—a shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers in middle and high schools.
VolsTeach, which began in fall 2010, currently has 133 students. Students are able to earn a degree in their discipline and a secondary education teaching license within four years and at no extra cost. Students take VolsTeach as a minor. Their degree provides them with two career paths. The first cohort of students is a year ahead of the initially projected graduation schedule.
The program is a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. It replicates UTeach, a successful model developed by the University of Texas at Austin.
“We’re building that pipeline of students who earn their undergraduate degrees in their content areas and their teaching licensure to fill those critical teaching areas of chemistry, physics, math, and biology,” said Susan Newsom, assistant director of VolsTeach.
For Scott Bailey, a microbiology major from Maynardville, Tennessee, being part of the program has helped him develop his passion.
“I love teaching,” he said. “All the master teachers and instructors have been super thoughtful and helpful about how to make myself a better person and a better teacher.”
Bailey, who will graduate in December, said VolsTeach has given him an added benefit.
“The program has allowed me to meet a whole lot of people and make really close friends,” he said.
To learn more about VolsTeach, visit the program’s website.
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)