The first five graduates of UNT's Teach North Texas program earned their degrees in December 2010, having completed the innovative program that encourages students majoring in math, science and related fields to pursue teaching. Approximately 200 undergraduate students are currently enrolled into the program.
Teach North Texas was created to meet the state and national need for qualified mathematics and science teachers and to improve the quality of math and science instruction in secondary schools. According to a 2007 report by the National Academy of Sciences, approximately 30 percent of math and science teachers do not have appropriate certification.
The UNT program started in fall 2008 and is run through a collaborative effort between UNT's College of Education and College of Arts and Sciences. Students can earn a degree in math, science or a related field while also earning a teaching certificate.
"Our graduates are literally the pioneers of Teach North Texas," says John Quintanilla, co-director of Teach North Texas and associate professor of mathematics. "I've watched many of them teach, either in the field or practicing in class, and have been consistently impressed with their dedication to fine-tuning their skills in communicating their love for mathematics and science to their future students."
The first five graduates of the TNT program and the degrees that they received are:
- Christina Korenek; Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics; student teaching under mentor Julie Hedden at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth
- Andreea Popa; Bachelor of Science in Mathematics; student teaching under mentor Lori Dodson at Marcus High School in Flower Mound
- Lauren Robertson; Bachelor of Science in Mathematics; student teaching under mentor Bonnie Barger at Hebron High School in Carrollton
- Heather Thames; Bachelor of Arts in Biology; student teaching under mentor Karen Hiller at Western Hills High School
- Matt Wolodzko; Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics; student teaching under mentor Leland Wilhelm at Lewisville High School in Lewisville
Some of the graduates already are working in area school districts.
The TNT program partners students with area school districts providing them with opportunities to gain firsthand teaching experience. As early as their freshman year, students take courses in the professional development sequence that emphasize field experiences, teaching strategies and concepts related specifically to the subjects the students will teach.
The program's curriculum begins with two free, for-credit courses in which students teach elementary and middle school students three times each semester under the direction of experienced classroom teachers. Students receive field experience in area high schools in more advanced courses, including the final semester of student teaching.
Another key aspect of the program is the students' interaction with UNT faculty master teachers, who are experienced high school teachers hired by UNT to teach courses, supervise field work and offer real-world advice to the future teachers.
Teach North Texas is based on the innovative UTeach model developed at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997. UNT was one of 13 universities nationwide to receive a replication grant by the UTeach Institute in 2008. Teach North Texas was initiated with a $1.4 million grant from the Greater Texas Foundation, and the National Math and Science Initiative will contribute an additional $1 million if matching funds are raised by 2012.