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UTeach math and science teacher program receives $5 million pledge

Texas-National Instruments cofounder and former UT Austin graduate student Jeff Kodosky and his wife, Gail Kodosky, have pledged $5 million to The University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach program, which guides interested students to and through the teacher certification process in math and science.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Texas-National Instruments cofounder and former UT Austin graduate student Jeff Kodosky and his wife, Gail Kodosky, have pledged $5 million to The University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach program, which guides interested students to and through the teacher certification process in math and science.

"We live in an increasingly technological society with an increasing need for a scientifically literate and informed population," said Jeff Kodosky, who is a member of the College of Natural Sciences Advisory Council and Executive Committee. "UTeach will provide the excellent science and math teachers we need to achieve that goal."

Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences, said: "This generous gift will go a long way toward making sure that the UTeach program becomes a permanent part of The University and its educational mission.

"One of the critical issues facing our society — and our economy — is the shortage of qualified math and science teachers," Rankin added. "This program is a key part of efforts to address this shortage, and to provide career guidance for students seeking to teach math and science. I hope UTeach will serve as a national model."

Rankin spearheaded the development of the UTeach program, which is a partnership between the UT Austin Colleges of Natural Sciences and Education and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) that began in fall 1997. Dr. James Barufaldi, professor of science education, is co-director of UTeach for the College of Education.

Dr. Manuel J. Justiz, dean of the UT Austin College of Education, said: "We are thrilled with this major gift, which will provide us an opportunity to build on this excellent collaborative program with the College of Natural Sciences."

Dr. Michael Marder, a professor of physics and director of special projects for the College of Natural Sciences, said that every student entering the College of Natural Sciences is invited to participate in the first two UTeach courses for free, gaining field-based experience under the guidance of over 70 AISD mentor teachers and five UTeach master teachers. In addition to providing students with early teaching opportunities at local AISD schools from their first semester, UTeach offers paid internships at select community sites.

"These early field experiences and internships allow students to discover a calling for teaching within themselves if it exists," said Rankin.

The $5 million gift goes towards a $12 million UTeach endowment campaign started by the College of Natural Sciences last year to pay for mentor teacher compensation, free tuition for the first two courses and other elements of the program that cannot be funded from the state-appropriated instructional budget. Master teachers, award-winning secondary teachers who are hired by UT Austin, act as advisors, instructors in the pedagogy courses and supervisors of internships and field programs. Mentor teachers, who receive stipends from The University, coach students in the classroom during trial teaching, electronically collaborate on lesson plan development with UTeach students, offer formal evaluations of student-led lessons and serve as guest lecturers in UTeach courses.

UTeach participants graduate in four years with a degree from the College of Natural Sciences and recommendations for state certification from the College of Education. There currently are 280 participants, making it one of the largest programs of its kind at any research university in the country.

By fall 2002, UTeach enrollment is expected to reach 300, with an average of about 500 students expected within three years. This will allow UT Austin to produce more than 100 new math and science teachers each year. The overall retention rate of students in UTeach is more than 60 percent, double the overall College of Natural Sciences graduation rate of 30 percent.

"We are convinced that our efforts have succeeded in building a shared vision and mission among these potential teachers, which in turn, has led to high retention rates," said Rankin.

"We hope to help other Texas institutions and other institutions across the country replicate some of the things we’ve learned," Marder said. "There are some hopes that these will be teacher leaders who will help improve science and math teaching beyond their own classrooms."

Grants for UTeach also have been received from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Houston Endowment, Microsoft, the Science Foundation, Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation and Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers for Technology and the Educational Advancement Foundation.

For more information, contact Caroline Ladhani at the College of Natural Sciences at (512) 232-1075 or e-mail cladhani@mail.utexas.edu or Michael Marder at marder@chaos.ph.utexas.edu or contact Mary Long, UTeach master teacher, at (512) 232-2771 or e-mail marylong@mail.utexas.edu.