First HBCUTeach Initiative Programs Set to Enroll Students This Spring

by Vivian Abagiu

For Dr. Denelle Wallace, the fact that students of color can complete their entire K-12 education without ever having a teacher of color is astonishing — and motivating. Dr. Wallace, Dean of the College of Education at Norfolk State University, sees the university’s new partnership with UTeach as a way to bring meaningful change to representation in the classroom.

“As the diversity of our student population grows, one thing I want to see is the diversity of our educator population to grow. I hope to see an increase in the number of biology, chemistry, and mathematics majors that graduate as eligible for teacher licensure in the state of Virginia and furthermore that the majority of those graduates provide classroom instruction in a secondary education setting,” she says.

Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, working in partnership with The UTeach Institute, will enroll their first group of students into their HBCUTeach programs at their respective campuses this Spring. These two initial program launches are the first of several slated for the coming year and constitute a milestone for the HBCUTeach Initiative, which was established in 2020 to partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to increase diversity in the STEM teaching workforce.

NSU (Spartans Teach) and VSU (VSUTeach) are the first of ten HBCUs slated to implement new secondary STEM teacher preparation programs based on UTeach. They are part of the larger HBCUTeach Initiative which, in its second phase, is working to fund additional program launches through public and private support. The initiative works in collaboration with HBCUs to address key inequities that exist in the STEM teacher pipeline today and increase representation in STEM classrooms.

In a statement shared by Virginia State University, Dr. Willis Walter, Dean of the College of Education, outlined the urgent need HBCUTeach will help address in STEM education locally: “Currently K-12 classrooms [in Virginia] are 52 % students of color, but only 18% of teachers in those classrooms are of color. VSUTeach will help to inspire students to pursue math and science teaching careers,” he said.

Dr. Michael Keeve, dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Norfolk State University, praised the program’s structure, which provides a career path to STEM majors without extra cost. “We’re taking STEM majors who are not in the education area and certifying them to teach K-12 and it doesn’t add any more time or money. It won’t add another year to their program and that’s a plus,” he said.

The HBCUTeach Initiative brings UTeach’s proven and effective method, which began in 1997 at The University of Texas at Austin, to HBCUs across the U.S. It also presents an opportunity to strengthen the UTeach program model. Kimberly Hughes, Director of the UTeach Institute, emphasized that “this project is also aimed at leveraging the deep expertise of faculty at HBCUs to collaboratively strengthen our approach to addressing issues of equity and inclusion in STEM teaching and learning.” The opportunity for a strategic partnership with HBCUs is evident considering that HBCUs comprise just 3% of colleges and universities but produce 24% of Black students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. This vital work will help create opportunities in STEM for underrepresented communities across the U.S.

UTeach is a nationally recognized program proven to prepare secondary STEM teachers who outperform their peers in math and science student achievement. The UTeach Institute has successfully established UTeach programs, all aimed to increase the number and quality of STEM teachers produced, at 49 universities in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

Visit uteach-institute.org/hbcuteach for more information.

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