UTeach program builds confidence for UT students, grade-schoolers

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Every year, hundreds of UT College of Natural Sciences students participate in the UTeach program, where they serve not only as math and science teachers, but also as mentors and friends for children from elementary to high school.

This June, UTeach hosted a leadership physics and math camp to help girls build confidence in STEM areas and encourage teamwork. The program is also hosting four UT PREP sessions, each lasting six weeks, which offer courses ranging from statistics and engineering to computer science and technical writing.

Michael Marder, UTeach director and physics professor, said that UTeach has improved student learning outcomes and increased the number of STEM teachers in the classroom since it began in 1997.

Public health senior Xena Nam, who worked with third-graders at Mathews Elementary School last year, said it was one of the most rewarding moments of her college life.

“UTeach combined the two things I love: talking about science and interacting with kids,” Nam said. “Those kids were so attentive and enthusiastic about every lesson, even the one about metric conversions. Preparing for each session was tough, but those kids made it worth it."

Chemical engineering senior Drishti Wadhwa said the UTeach program has shaped her college life.

“UTeach was an invaluable experience for me because, for the first time ever, I got to use my degree for something more than a 8-to-5 job,” Wadhwa said. “Through UTeach ... I was able to positively impact someone’s life in a direct way, and that feeling is better than any sort of money I could make.”

Wadhwa added that the children themselves made the job enjoyable.

“On my last day, they wrote me little notes talking about how much they would miss me and wanted to be like me when they grow up,” Wadhwa said.

Marder said he sees the rewarding impact the UTeach program has on UT students.

“These students can obtain a teaching certificate alongside their major, without a cost to them of time or money,” Marder said. “We prepare teachers. They change the world.”

Marder added that he is excited about the far-reaching possibilities and impact of UTeach for not only the Austin community, but also the United States.

“UTeach has already expanded to 46 universities around the United States, but it would be great to expand more,” Marder said.