Columbus State Selected to Help Georgia Launch Teacher Prep Initiative

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State’s success in being designated for a federal grant worth up to $1.4 million will make it possible for the university to recruit math and science majors into a new teaching-degree program.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently designated Columbus State as one of three Georgia institutions selected to get the federal funds to “address a critical shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers in Georgia,” Deal said in a news release.

The funding originates in a U.S. Department of Education “Race to the Top” initiative from which Georgia has received $400 million. Columbus State will use its grant, up to $1.4 million over four years, to establish UTeach Columbus, modeled after a highly successful program started at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997.

West Georgia University and Southern Polytechnic State University are the only other universities in the state participating in the grant.

Columbus State plans to start  in spring 2012 to recruit at least 25 students per semester into UTeach Columbus introductory courses taught by a master teacher who is an experienced high school math or science teacher.

Any CSU-enrolled student will be eligible, with priority given to math and science majors. Stipends will cover tuition and books for each one-hour introductory course.  

Students who enroll in UTeach will quickly engage in practice teaching in grade 6-12 classrooms in area schools, supervised by the master teacher. “Ideally, we’ll have one master teacher with a specialization in science and another in math,” said Debbie Gober, chair of CSU’s  Department of Teacher Education and co-director of the program. 

Gober and her colleagues will devise and propose a compact degree plan to “streamline the curriculum so UTeach students can complete the program at CSU within four years.” Currently, students working toward teaching degrees with math or science certification often take more than four years to complete a program due to the heavy demands of content coursework and extensive field experience requirements.  

“We are proud to be partnered with two other institutions that are both deeply committed to teacher education,” CSU President Tim Mescon told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “I think one of the reasons we got this is we have a track record for teacher preparation work.” 

Gober said another reviewer-cited factor for CSU’s selection was “strong support from our administration,” plus “a high level of commitment, enthusiasm and collaboration among CSU core faculty from the colleges of Letters and Sciences and Education and Health Professions.” 

Gober is co-directing UTeach at Columbus State, along with physics professor Kimberly Shaw, former director of the Math Science Learning Center, also believed to be a factor in CSU’s selection for the grant.  The center, established in 2006, is dedicated to enhancing the learning of math and science through curriculum development and best-practices training for college faculty, as well as in-service and pre-service K-12 teachers.