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Participants in aggieTEACH benefit from side-by-side experience in the classroom with master teachers, such as Bryan High School's Colleen Holmes (center). (Robb Kendrick/Texas A&M Foundation)

COLLEGE STATION --

Texas A&M University has gained a local ally in its ongoing effort to meet steady state and national demands for additional, better qualified secondary science and mathematics educators.

The Bryan-based Greater Texas Foundation (GTF) recently committed the funds to match a $150,000 challenge grant issued last fall to Texas A&M's aggieTEACH Program, a nationally peer-reviewed teacher recruitment model designed to deliver more certified teachers in high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

GTF's gift, established through the Texas A&M Foundation and intended to be distributed during the next three years, completes a philanthropic trifecta that began last October with an initial $150,000 commitment to aggieTEACH from the Dallas-based Texas Instruments (TI) Foundation. As per the agreement, Texas A&M University and a third outside party would provide matching funds to support the program in the total amount of $450,000. Given its longstanding reputation for funding worthwhile research and other improvements to benefit statewide educational outcomes, GTF rose to the occasion, closing the gap by providing the final $150,000 commitment in support of aggieTEACH earlier this spring.

"Our goals for this grant mirror those of aggieTEACH -- most importantly, to improve math and science instruction in Texas through the preparation and support of highly qualified educators," said Dr. Wynn Rosser, GTF executive director. "We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with Texas A&M University and Texas Instruments Foundation to support aggieTEACH."

A collaboration of the College of Science and the College of Education and Human Development, aggieTEACH has helped position Texas A&M as the state leader in university-trained mathematics and science teachers produced for the last six years, according to the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. The renowned program, which is administered through the Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE), enables undergraduate mathematics and science majors to earn their certification with no additional credit hours to their degree plan under the tutelage of local educators.

"Greater Texas Foundation is interested in increasing the number of highly qualified, highly effective secondary math and science teachers," said Jennifer Whitfield, aggieTEACH Program manager and a senior lecturer of mathematics. "The aggieTEACH Program produces just this type of teacher."

In addition to bolstering the program's initiatives to deliver better prepared STEM educators, the GTF funds will support the hire of a new assistant director for aggieTEACH whose responsibilities will include the implementation of two new programs specifically designed to prepare and support new graduates as they pursue teaching careers. Each is underpinned by proven strategies aimed to increase the successful workforce placement of new STEM teachers as well as to ensure their overall retention rates. With the help of the TI Foundation funding, aggieTEACH already is collaborating with The Association of Former Students to create the Aggie Teacher Network, a new professional support system for recent graduates. The initiative helps connect new Aggie teachers with more experienced, Texas A&M-taught educators already in the field as a means of informal mentorship to help ease fledgling teachers' transition from a seat in the classroom to being head of their own, thereby improving their chances for career success.

In addition, the grant will fund the creation of an improved aggieTEACH information database. The system will track statistics on recent graduates and current teachers in order for aggieTEACH personnel to monitor the retention of Aggie teachers in the field and better evaluate the program's success rate from year to year.

Despite the efforts of aggieTEACH and similar programs across the state and nation, Whitfield notes that the shortage of mathematics and science teachers remains due to the high number of career changes made within the first five years. The program hopes to address this issue with a new objective to better ensure that aggieTEACH graduates are prepared to make a long-term career investment in teaching.

"These new programs will enrich the aggieTEACH program by connecting our graduates -- an element that has been missing in previous years -- and supporting them in their beginning years of teaching while giving us much-needed feedback on the effectiveness of our program," Whitfield said. "This will be a triple-win situation. Our graduates win, because they receive needed support; the aggieTEACH program wins, because we learn about how well-prepared they are; and the state of Texas wins, because our highly qualified teachers will be better retained in the classroom."

Greater Texas Foundation financially supports a wide array of efforts to ensure that all Texas students are adequately prepared for and able to complete a postsecondary education, with a particular interest in helping undeserved or disadvantaged populations. From 2002 through 2010, GTF awarded a total of $29.8 million through more than 400 grants.

For more information on Greater Texas Foundation's support of secondary education, visit http://greatertexasfoundation.org/.

To learn more about aggieTEACH or the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, visit http://aggieteach.tamu.edu/.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Jennifer Whitfield, (979) 458-2087 or jwhitfld@math.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • STEMming the Tide

    Patricia Oliver '11 (right) accumulated extra classroom experience as an undergraduate through aggieTEACH that she says was highly beneficial to her in her current career as a teacher in Dallas. The program, a collaboration between the College of Science and the College of Education and Human Development, has helped Texas A&M lead Texas in university-trained mathematics and science teacher production for the past six years. (Robb Kendrick/Texas A&M Foundation)

  • Jennifer Whitfield

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