NevadaTeach Helps Address Teacher Shortage - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

NevadaTeach Helps Address Teacher Shortage

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The University of Nevada has a new program, designed to address the Silver State's teaching vacancies. NevadaTeach started last fall, offering math and science students to get certified to teach, without added costs or time. The program is now in its second semester, and officials say it is already growing in popularity. 

73 students are enrolled in the program, that serves as a dual degree.

"We had almost 30 additional teachers trying out teaching, just to see if it's for them," Glenn Waddell, Master Teacher said. "A whole bunch of them decided it was pretty cool and they liked it."

Priscilla Lee and Mariela Santiago are both sophomores at UNR. Both are majoring in biology and originally planned on entering the medical field. This program offers another option, by giving them a hands-on education on teaching. Their latest assignment was to teach science to fifth graders at Mount Rose Elementary School.

"The kids are amazing," Lee said. "I love it. I love kids, so they really brighten up my day."

"They get so excited that you're making up all the lessons for them and you're making the time to come see them and teach them," Santiago said. "They're really excited. They're really good kids."

Every year, Nevada hires about 3,000 teachers, but the state's universities only certify 500-600 new teachers per year. As of December, the Silver State had 817 teaching vacancies, including 27 in Washoe County. Clark County was much higher, with a shortage of 698 teachers. Rural Nevada had 92 openings.

"We desperately need math and science teachers in the district, as well as the state, and this program kind of turns math education and science education on its head, and recruits College of Science students to think about becoming teachers."

The program is a collaboration between the College of Education, College of Science, and College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources.  Waddell is hoping to get computer science on board, through the College of Engineering. 

Most recruits are freshmen, and the goal is for them to complete two classes in their first two semesters. Each class is one credit, and the cost is reimbursed through a grant. Along with taking a class, once per week, students observe a teacher, twice, and teach three classes. Step 1 is at the elementary school level. Step 2 is at the middle school level. Students get certified to teach, while working for their degrees.

"If you're not really sure on going the education route, it gives you a great way to get your hands in there and experience it all for the first time and still get to study what you love, which mine is biology," Santiago said.

Most education students do not get a chance to student teach until their junior or senior year of college. This program allows them some experience as underclassmen, which helps some decide what they want to do for their careers.

"Instead of waiting to get into the classroom when they're a senior, and then it's too late to change course, they get the experience, first semester," Megan Beckham, Master Teacher said. "They hit the ground running and they get out and meet experienced mentor teachers in the community."

Ashlee Bushee is a sophomore at UNR. She already has her Associate's Degree in Chemistry. Like many underclassmen, she has changed her mind about what she wants to get her Bachelor's Degree in. After joining NevadaTeach, she has decided to use her chemistry degree to teach.

"I really think they can change your life," Bushee said. "If you have a teacher that helps you feel like you can conquer the world, you might actually do it."

Many STEM majors require Master's or Doctoral Degrees in order to get a job. Knowing that a job will be available in education, immediately after four years of college, offers peace of mind for some students.

"With teaching, to know that you would get a job, right after is just so much different than what I've been hearing with everything else," Richard Campbell, UNR freshmen said. "It's really nice."

"It shows me that I will have a career in life and I will make a big difference in these kids because that's my passion, is making a difference in someone's life," Lee said.

NevadaTeach has two master teachers, and much more growth is expected. There could be as many as seven of them by 2020.

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