Science and math teachers needed

Illustration by Michael Uribes / The Collegian

Fresno State President John D. Welty committed to at least double the number of math and science teachers that the university produces.

Welty signed a letter Jan. 6, along with 39 other university presidents, sent to President Barack Obama pledging to double the number of science and math teachers by 2015.

As part of the national Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) Fresno State has put a plan in place that will generate substantially more, high-quality science and math teachers.

Dr. David Andrews, director of the Science and Math Education Center, said the shortage of math and science teachers will be a problem in the immediate future if the correct actions are not taken.

“There is what we call a pipeline crisis developing,” Andrews said. “There is great need for math and science teachers. It is a very serious situation.”

Andrews said that current math and science teachers will retire in the near future creating an even greater need for teachers in these fields. But Fresno State is doing what it can to limit the discrepancy in the supply of teachers through the Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI).

“I think [the MSTI program] puts a carrot out there to attract new teachers into these fields,” Andrews said. “We have seen a significant increase in the number of students in the programs.”

Fresno State has many programs that are aimed to draw in more teachers. Andrews said that the programs place students in classes where they will gain field experience. Some students can earn a stipend while in school for up to $10,000. Students are then required to teach at high-need Central Valley schools.

“The efforts and the support programs are making a difference,” Andrews said. “The numbers are going up.”

Fresno State is one of 121 universities participating in SMTI that have collectively pledged to produce an additional 7500 teachers over the next five years. Carol Fry Bohlin, the director of Fresno State’s MSTI, said the university is offering courses and workshops at a nominal fee to generate more interest.

“Fresno State has a strong cadre of mathematics and science educators who are committed to producing the next generation of outstanding mathematics and science teachers,” Bohlin said.

Bohlin said MSTI is funded by grants from the California State University Chancellor’s office and has been successful in supporting efforts to increase the campus’s production of highly qualified math and science teachers.

“The latest official report from the state teacher credentialing commission shows that the number of mathematics and science teachers produced by Fresno State has more than doubled since 2006,” Bohlin said.

MSTI offers six courses and two workshop series aimed at improving the skills of prospective middle and high school teachers. Bohlin also said that Fresno State has been training teachers who want to specialize in physics and chemistry.

“MSTI has sponsored a year-long lab-based ChemTeach and PhysTeach experience designed for prospective teachers in those areas,” Bohlin said. “The instructors are talented teachers from University High School.”

Associate dean of the college of science and mathematics, Dr. Fraka Harmsen said the school has taken numerous steps in order to prepare high-quality teachers in math and science.

“We’ve actually ramped up our efforts,” Harmsen said. “Physics and chemistry are areas of the greatest need. There is a shortage.”

Harmsen said that the state and federal governments have aided Fresno State by creating programs that not only help to prepare new teachers but also improve the ability of current teachers.

“These programs help to provide opportunities for practicing teachers to enhance their skills,” Harmsen said. “And also help future teachers pass the credential requirements.”

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