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OSUTeach Helps Future Teachers
Danielle Cain is convinced that working with students is her calling. Every day she grows more excited about fulfilling her desire to teach mathematics.
Cain, a sophomore from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is a student in the OSUTeach program, a collaborative initiative between the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University. OSUTeach, a replication site for the UTeach Institute born at the University of Texas, is designed to give science and mathematics majors the opportunity to explore a teaching career with no additional time or cost, graduating in four years with their degree and teaching certification.
OSUTeach is the first and only UTeach site in Oklahoma and one of just 45 in the United States. OSU was selected as a new site by the National Math and Science Initiative and awarded a $1.45 million grant, made possible by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in February 2014.
At the time, Cain was a senior at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa. She had been considering a public out-of-state institution for her college choice before she discovered OSUTeach, which solidified her decision to attend OSU.
“It was perfect for what I wanted – the chance to get a math degree, take all of the high-level math (courses) and be certified to teach without added time or cost,” Cain says.
OSUTeach offers degrees in biological science, chemistry, geology (choice of earth/space science or physical science), mathematics and physics. Students begin the program by taking one-hour Step 1 and Step 2 courses, for which they receive stipends. As a freshman, Cain took both courses and had the opportunity to experience teaching in elementary and middle school classrooms in Stillwater Public Schools.
Though Cain planned to become a high school teacher, she enjoyed working with the students in elementary and middle school classrooms. Working with younger students is not intimidating and offers a chance to stair-step her way up to the secondary level, she says.
“Not many freshmen can say they have had experience teaching in a classroom. I got a chance to practice classroom management. I’m learning different ways to get students to practice critical thinking. I think working with younger kids helps you find the inner child at every age,” Cain explains.
Internships are another attractive element of the OSUTeach program. Thanks to funds from OSUTeach, including a Mathematics and Science Robert Noyce grant from the National Science Foundation, 11 underclassmen were placed in paid internships during the summer of 2015.
Cain worked at Fab Lab Tulsa, a nonprofit organization providing community access to advanced manufacturing and digital fabrication tools for learning skills, developing inventions, creating businesses and more.
“Adults come to Fab Lab to access cool technology for projects they are designing. In the summer, camps are offered for middle school and high school kids,” Cain explains.
She watched and worked with students at Fab Lab Tulsa as they used computers to design their own skateboards and stickers and then actually produced the skateboards.
“As a math person, it was a good experience for me to get outside of my comfort zone and learn about new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts. I was able to take what I had learned in my SMED (science mathematics education) classes and apply it during the internship, designing my own lesson,” she says.
Cain is doing much more than matriculating through the OSUTeach program. Along with classmate Brittni Foster, she attended the annual UTeach Conference
in Austin, Texas, and was inspired to establish an OSUTeach Club, which she now serves as president.
“It helps students get to know one another. We can help each other and work together. It creates a family,” Cain says.
In addition, Cain serves as an OSUTeach Ambassador, helping to recruit new students to the program.
“Danielle epitomizes the best of our program,” OSUTeach program coordinator Caitlin Barnes says. “She is genuinely friendly and relatable for all kinds of people.”
Cain says she loves the recruiting events, meeting with high school students, and talking to them about teaching as a career option.
“OSUTeach is a great way to try it out — see if you like teaching. I like to find out what they are interested in and make it personal,” she says. “I tell them, ‘If it’s not for you, you are still gaining skills that will help you no matter if you decide to pursue teaching.’”
She says the skills gained through the program are very valuable in serving as a tutor in a student’s chosen field, too. As Cain recalls what inspired her to pursue teaching, she remembers watching the way her high school Advanced Placement calculus teacher taught.
“He was inspiring, personable, highly credentialed and someone you could not only learn from but could go to if you had an issue,” Cain says.
That’s the kind of teacher Cain is on her way to becoming, and her passion grows with each new OSUTeach experience.
Partnerships with private donors and corporations are also helping prepare certified teachers who have enthusiasm for the subject matter. Contributions to OSUTeach include a $600,000 gift from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Several funding opportunities are available to secure the future of OSUTeach and make strides in placing qualified STEM educators in tomorrow’s classrooms.
“I’m excited about how prepared I will be because of my experiences through OSUTeach,” Cain says. “I cannot wait to be in the classroom full-time.”
For more information about contributing, contact Denise Unruh at 405-385-5663 or email dunruh@OSUgiving.com.
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Uploaded on May 1, 2016