March 12, 2012

Program helps meet demand for math, science teachers

Posted: March 12, 2012
Krystal Oglesby
TEAMS student Krystal Oblesby (left) is student teaching at Tempe High School, where she works with students like Cierra Romero (center) and is mentored by teacher Jessica Hauer (right).

People with a degree in math or science, or at least 24 credit hours in a math or science discipline, and a desire to become a secondary school teacher can find a fast track to certification through Arizona State University’s TEAMS (Teacher Education for Arizona Math & Science) program.

TEAMS, offered by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College on the Polytechnic campus, enables students with a bachelor’s degree who start the program in May to earn an Arizona teaching certificate in one year. After a second summer of coursework, students are awarded a master’s degree in education.

TEAMS, which dates to 1995, has established a partnership with Mesa Public Schools for the cohort of students who start this May. All students will conduct their student teaching in the Mesa district. Students engage in two student teaching experiences, at the middle/junior high level and the high school level, while also taking university coursework.

There are numerous forms of financial assistance for which TEAMS students may apply, including an $18,000 living wage during the 2012-13 school year.

“TEAMS is an intensive program that requires a full-time commitment from students for that one-year period,” said Molina Walters, clinical associate professor in Teachers College.

“The in-depth classroom experience of TEAMS allows the student to come out of the program with significant hands-on experience with students,” Walters said. “Teachers College coursework is aligned to the day-to-day activities of our student teachers, so TEAMS students are able to apply knowledge in a real-world setting.”

Current TEAMS student Benjamin Fridkis credits this extended time in the classroom in helping him reach a breakthrough in his management style.

“About a quarter of the way through this semester, I had kind of revelation regarding classroom management and student relations,” Fridkis said. “Of course, this is an ongoing developmental process. But I did have a bit of a ‘quantum jump’ at one point a few weeks ago about how to project a sense of authority in the classroom while also maintaining a feeling of rapport with the students.”

The opportunity to work in a program specifically for aspiring math and science teachers was appealing to TEAMS student Krystal Oglesby.

“This program is special because it is full of science professionals who, after working in science industry, decided to go back to school to pursue a career in education,” Oglesby said. “We all chose this program for its teacher preparation reputation. This is one of the few education programs in Arizona that allows us to student teach for a full two semesters. We have the content knowledge, so in TEAMS we really focus on the art of teaching.”

“The mentor teachers who work with the TEAMS students have consistently said that because of the amount of time spent in the classroom, as well as the alignment of coursework to real-world application, TEAMS students are better prepared to begin teaching the following school year,” Walters said. “And because the TEAMS students are so integrated within the classroom, the best practices that schools are implementing in their classrooms are also being taught in TEAMS. Therefore, the students are learning the most up-to-date and relevant teaching practices.

“Moreover, the TEAMS program implements a community structure in that its students take classes together and work together in learning communities. This complements what their host teachers are doing together in schools, and what our students will find when teaching in their own school after graduation,” Walters added.

Student Neda Javidan originally planned to attend dental school but realized teaching was her real passion when she taught lab classes as a biology major at ASU.

“I feel our professors really care about us and about teaching,” Javidan said. “Most of our professors have had experience in the classroom at either the middle school or high school level, and having them share their experiences with us has been valuable. The TEAMS program has helped prepare me to be successful by exposing me to different types of classes and teachers from many different backgrounds.”

“As experienced math and science teachers retire, there is a shortage of individuals with a strong background in those content areas to replace them,” Walters said. “So despite a difficult budget situation for some districts, school principals are still very much interested in finding people with degrees in these fields, especially areas such as chemistry and physics.”

Applications are now being accepted for the next TEAMS cohort, which begins work in May. Students must possess a valid fingerprint clearance card to start the program, along with 24 credits in math, biology, physics, Earth/space science, or chemistry. Before starting their first semester of student teaching in August, students must receive a passing score on the AEPA (Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments) subject knowledge test in their content area.

To receive more information about TEAMS, contact Megan Gamarra at (480) 727-1084 or megan.gamarra@asu.edu.

TEAMS is one of several Teachers College site-based teacher preparation programs in the Valley for students with a bachelor’s degree and a desire to be an elementary or secondary school teacher. Additional programs are in place in the Deer Valley, Litchfield and Osborn school districts.

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