Written by MAISHA RUMMAN
Before I took UTeach’s Step 1 class, teaching wasn’t a career that I had considered very seriously. When I took Step 1 and tried to put myself in the shoes of a teacher, I soon found out that I was very passionate about education and teaching. Step 1 is the first class in a sequence of classes required to get certified to teach high school or middle school science or math through UTeach. I’m now taking my fifth UTeach class and I’ve learned something important and unique from each one. What about my experiences in Step 1 and UTeach solidified my decision to teach? I couldn’t even begin to list all of them but here are just a few.
1. Collaboration: Step 1 (and most UTeach classes) allows numerous opportunities for collaboration with others. I worked closely with my Step 1 instructor, TA, peer mentors, and partner to create a lesson plan. Because I am taking my fifth UTeach class, I can safely say some of my best learning experiences were a result of others helping me learn.
Creativity: As a Biology student, I sometimes feel as if I’m rarely prompted to exercise my creativity. Does creativity even play a role in science? As I was making my lesson plans, I tried to think about different ways to present content. I had to think about how I could best reach students who had diverse learning needs. How could I make a lesson relevant, fun, and relatable all at the same time? Because I love being creative, these challenges are ones that I embrace.
3. Empathy: The kinds of teachers that inspire me the most are ones who not only modeled a lifelong passion for learning but also acknowledged me, listened to my concerns and worked tirelessly to provide resources for students to learn more effectively. I think that one of the most challenging tasks as a teacher is to be patient and try to place oneself in the shoes of a student. Because the capacity for empathy is something I respect, teaching is that much more appealing to me because I get to practice empathy all the time.
4. Misconceptions: One of the very first things I learned in Step 1 was about misconceptions in science. Sometimes we think we know a subject, concept or definition but when we’re asked to actually say it out loud or apply it—we are at a loss. For example, over this winter break I asked my brother what a protein was. When he replied, he said that a protein is made from RNA which is made from DNA. I asked him again, “Ok, you know how it’s made but….what is a protein?” I wasn’t very surprised at his response because it was exactly what I was expecting him to say even though he had taken Pre-AP Biology and AP Biology. Sometimes, we only memorize the definitions we are asked to learn but we never think very deeply about the concepts we are learning. This was an important realization to me and the classes I’ve taken with UTeach has taught, repeatedly, that I may memorize whatever I need to know for a test but to really be able to apply the knowledge I need to think more critically about the subject matter. If these reasons and the idea of teaching sound appealing at all, register for Step 1 (UTS 101). It is a one hour course that is open to all majors. For me, being a UTeach student is one of the best things about being at UT. Here is what other UTeach students have to say about their experiences below.
"I love the fieldwork component of UTeach. Actually, thinking back, my most memorable moment thus far has been my most unsuccessful lesson taught rather than my best. I won't go into details, but just assume most things that could go wrong went wrong. The awesome thing is that my UTeach professor and mentor teacher turned the experience into something to learn from. The fieldwork UTeach provides, allows the possibility of endless growth from its students and it's this right here that has made it such a great experience for me. "
-Jazmine Castanon, Mathematics Major
"When I got in front of my class for the first time, something clicked. I knew that I was where I wanted to be. The best thing about UTeach is that they place you in the field right away, through both classes and internships. When a student's head perks up and they say "Ohhhh! I get it now!", you feel a wave of pride and excitement like no other"
- Matt Canik, Biology Major
"My friends openly describe me as 'a science nerd'. I get excited by biology and the scientific process! Being able to share that excitement with kids and watch them be curious, ask questions and explore their world is the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I like UTeach because it gives me hands-on experience in local classrooms from the very beginning. The level of support and community that exists in UTeach is beyond words; every instructor, TA, mentor, and classmate that I have interacted with has been helpful, friendly, supportive and genuinely interested in my experiences and ideas. Getting certified to teach through the UTeach program is the best career decision I have ever made."
-Jamie Cox, Biology Major
"I like teaching because I feel like it's one of the few professions that you can make a lasting difference in peoples' lives every day"
- Chris Deyo, Math Major
“UTeach is an amazing program that has really opened my eyes to all of the difficulties and benefits of becoming a teacher. I believe that each class in the UTeach program helps you become a more well-rounded individual and teacher. They provide you with the experience of actually teaching in an elementary school, middle school, and high school. And just knowing that what happens in your classroom will change the world is the most gratifying feeling ever”
-Haylin Pruitt, Actuarial Science
“UTeach provides a unique opportunity to start teaching immediately, starting from the very first Step 1 course. Having the chance to directly interact with students and mentor teachers fosters growth and improvement in your own teaching abilities that can only take place with this kind of hands-on approach. And since we get to work with students of all ages, starting with elementary school kids in Step 1 and on up through middle and high school with the following courses in the sequences, you get a feel for what age group and subject you can see yourself teaching in the future if you do decide to become an educator”
-Linda Liang, Mathematics Major
“I think UTeach is beneficial to everyone regardless of what career choice is chosen because being able to teach is not a skill constrained within the walls of a classroom. Every day we are encountered with the opportunity to teach, to explain our point of view or translate another's. As a pre-med, I hope to incorporate education into how I address patient misconceptions and promote preventative strategies for overcoming disease”
-Vittoria Rossi, Biology Major