Teach@Mines offers pathway to education career in STEM fields
Program prepares Mines students to become teachers in math, science and computer science
Colorado School of Mines students now have a state-approved pathway to become science and math teachers – including the first university program in Colorado licensed to prepare computer science educators at the K-12 level.
The Colorado Board of Education in March unanimously approved Mines’ plan to offer teacher preparation in four disciplines: secondary science (grades 7-12), secondary math (grades 7-12), middle grade math (grades 6-8), and K-12 computer science.
With the approval, Mines students can now pursue licensure as part of their coursework in one of three programs offered by Teach@Mines: a minor in Teaching, a BS in Engineering with a STEM Teaching focus, or a Master of Science in STEM Education, with a specialty in Science Teaching, Mathematics Teaching, or Computer Science Teaching.
“We have around 7,000 of the strongest math and science students in the state and we see it as our responsibility to provide pathways for those who are interested to become teachers,” said Wendy Adams, research professor of physics and director of Teach@Mines. “There’s a serious shortage of math, science and computer science teachers and we want to see every Colorado K-12 student have the opportunity to learn these subjects from someone who is passionate about them. It’s been a long road. Mines has been working on building a program for more than a decade."
In the past, Mines students had to seek out other pathways to become a teacher and this deterred many potentially great teachers from entering the profession. There’s also a history of Mines grads going into private industry and then working their way into the classroom later in their career.
"By offering licensure at Mines, students can gain their credential and have the option to teach immediately after graduation or a few years after they’ve tried out private sector," Adams said. "It's about options."
Another added benefit of this new program is that it puts approximately 50 Mines students into local classrooms each year to support teachers and build relationships with students. This provides exposure for Mines students to experience the profession and help mentor young people.
Approved by the Mines Board of Trustees in June 2022, the Master of Science option is a non-thesis, residential program, with evening coursework. This is a flexible program that can prepare both Mines students and other career changers who’d like to pursue teaching. Undergraduate Mines students can pursue the master’s degree as a 4+1 degree, working on a Bachelor of Science in any department at Mines while also working toward one of the specialty areas for the master’s degree. Up to six credits can “double-count,” meaning the classes are applied toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degree requirements.
All three pathways at Mines focus exclusively on preparing STEM subject area educators. Adams said.
“Other teacher preparation programs are generally focused,” she said. “Ours is exclusively for math, science, and computer science and has been rated in the top five physics teacher preparation programs in the nation based on quality.”
Through the program, Mines students get in-classroom experience alongside professional educators, making it a true apprentice-type program. Teach@Mines students don’t just learn theory; they directly learn about the best practices in teaching math, science and computer science and gain experience using these techniques at a range of grade levels.
The program has partnerships with several local school districts, who are interested in recruiting Mines students, Adams said. Those who go through the program often have multiple offers to choose from, whether they’re looking to teach in Colorado or out of state. Students who want to teach outside of the U.S. also have options around the world, especially if they’re teaching computer science, science, or math, she added.
The list of advantages to a teaching career is long, Adams said. Salaries are competitive, teachers report a strong and healthy work/life balance and they rate their lives better than all other professions, trailing only physicians. Teachers also have strong retirement benefits, retiring a full four years earlier than other careers, Adams added.
The biggest benefit Adams cited is that those who go through the program get to have a direct impact on the future by working directly with the next generation – a great recruitment tool for Mines – and can truly change lives.
“So many of our students want to help people and help students, so they become teachers. Engineers make bridges, artists make paintings, scientists make rockets, teachers make them all,” Adams said.