A projected 33,000 math and science teachers will be needed to fill positions throughout California over the next 10 years.
The figure, based on the state‘s growing population and imminent teacher retirements, highlights the expanding gulf between supply and demand for teachers in these fields.
In light of this problem the UC Davis Math and Science Teaching (MAST) program is helping students on their paths to becoming the state‘s future math and science teachers.
“The situation is pretty desperate,“ said Howard Day, MAST director and UC Davis geology professor.
To become a teacher in California you must meet all the state‘s credential requirements.
This can be quite intimidating to students, as the graduate teaching programs require certain hours of teaching experience as well as specific courses, Day said.
“That‘s where the MAST program aims to help: by preparing students early and helping them keep their options open, we hope that our students will enter their credential program with their eyes wide open,“ Day said.
Part of a statewide initiative to encourage students to become math and science teachers, the program is still in its infancy but Day said that so far it has received incredible support from the faculties involved.
This in part is due to the acknowledgement that if California students aren‘t learning adequate math and science from a young age there is less chance that they will reach the college level. This will, therefore, have an effect on college admissions, as well as state industry as a whole.
The program offers several courses to UC Davis students that can be taken for credit: MAST I, II, III and, new for this quarter, MAST IV.
Each course specializes in teaching math or science to a specific age group, from K through 12 classes to the college level.
The courses provide students with practical experience in local classrooms as well as sessions in which they discuss approaches to teaching with experienced teachers.
Only in operation since winter 2006, the course program has seen a surge in popularity this year. This growth is expected to continue.
“It‘s a great way to try teaching,“ said Sara Sweeney, MAST student advisor. She added that the demand for these teachers in light of the gloomy job market is undoubtedly a draw for some, as math and science teachers are not among those getting laid off.
Yet for MAST IV participant Jessica Scheimer, the job availability is incidental as MAST is helping her fulfill a lifelong desire to teach.
“It‘s something I always wanted to do,“ said Scheimer, a senior physics major. “MAST seemed like a good way to explore the teaching field.“
Yet, for other students MAST has helped solidify their decisions.
“[Teaching was] not something I ever really thought seriously about doing,“ said Cara Schneider, a senior chemistry major. However, the idea has grown on her.
Senior geology major Natividad Preciado also got the idea to go into teaching while studying at UC Davis. After getting advice from the MAST office he decided to give it a go.
He finds teaching to be a rewarding experience, a sentiment that is often repeated among students.
“I find it enjoyable watching a student finally understand something they‘ve been having trouble with,“ he said.
But as well as being fun at times, the teaching also provides students with many challenges.
For Scheimer the hardest part is finding the right approach to take when teaching, as the role often demands tailoring ideas to individual students.
Meanwhile Preciado finds the discipline aspect of his role to be the biggest challenge.
“At times the students can get quite loud, but it‘s hard to know what to do as you don‘t want to undermine the real teacher‘s authority,“ Preciado said.
But the challenges can ultimately pay off.
Thanks, in part, to the practical experience she gained through the MAST courses, Schneider has been accepted onto next year‘s UC Davis credential program.
Her heart now set on becoming a high school chemistry teacher, the state aims for more to follow in her footsteps.
Students interested in participating in the MAST program can stop by the MAST Resource Center at 1023 Sciences Laboratory. Come by appointment, or e-mail Mary-Betty Stevenson email@example.com for more information.
CHRISTOPHER BONE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.