Fifty-nine aspiring teachers who were trained in the UTeach program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will receive bachelor’s degrees with teaching certificates in virtual graduation ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday.
UTeach is a four-year program that trains middle and high school math and science teachers. It is one of 45 such similar programs at colleges and universities across the country, said Elizabeth Goldberg, one of nine master teachers in the program. Graduation for math teachers will be on Wednesday and for science teachers on Thursday. The graduations will be live-streamed on Facebook.
Among the graduates, 33 will be certified to teach mathematics, 14 at the middle school level and 19 for high school, while 26 will be certified to teach science, five in middle school, 17 in high school biology, and two each in chemistry and physics.
Because they were trained during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new teachers have experience in both face-to-face and virtual instruction. As such they will in be in an advantageous position to find jobs. Many already have.
Goldberg said the program is often referred to as providing training for two careers at the same time, teaching and or other careers in the math and science fields.
Some of the graduates will be staying on to earn master’s degrees.
Among them is Estefana Sierra, who has only to complete her master’s thesis during spring semester to obtain her master’s of applied mathematics. She then plans to go into teaching.
Sierra did her student teaching this semester at Rivera Early College High School under Rogelio Errisoriz teaching Algebra I to ninth-graders. They used Google Classroom to post homework assignments and Google Meets to meet with students. She said she learned a lot but missed the face-to-face interaction that a regular classroom provides. She said many of the students were reluctant to turn on the camera during class, making it difficult to establish anything approaching eye contact.