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USF Tackles Shortage in Science, Math, Technology Educators

10-22-2013
Teacher resident works one-on-one with student

Catherine Cuadrado MA '14 taught second grade at San Francisco's El Dorado Elementary School or her teacher residency last year .

The University of San Francisco’s teacher residency program has joined a national effort to train 100,000 new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers in the next eight years.

The San Francisco Teacher Residency (SFTR) will train about 150 new math and science teachers to work in San Francisco public schools, as part of the 100Kin10 initiative. 100Kin10 brings together universities, school districts, private companies, and foundations, combining their resources, with the goal of placing 100,000 new STEM teachers in classrooms nationwide by 2021.

The movement responds to an alarming trend: U.S. students lag behind their peers in other industrialized nations in STEM achievement, ranking 25th in math and 17th in science out of 31 countries — due in large part to a deficit of qualified math and science teachers.

Meanwhile, STEM-related jobs have become key to the U.S. economy, growing at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs. “The disconnect between the number of well-prepared new teachers we have and the need for more is alarming,” said Peter Williamson, SFTR co-founder and USF assistant professor of teacher education.

San Francisco schools find recruiting and retaining STEM graduates a major challenge, mainly because private companies and corporations can pay them more. “Top college grads in the Bay Area tend to go into more lucrative fields in technology and biotech,” Williamson said.

The SFTR program was created to tackle this challenge. It’s grown into a national model, from a pilot project begun four years ago — receiving multimillion-dollar federal grants along the way.

USF and its SFTR partners, Stanford University, the San Francisco Unified School District, and the United Educators of San Francisco, have trained more than 50 teachers so far, including a handful of STEM professionals who have made mid-career changes. Recent graduates include a former lawyer, a chemist, and an accomplished entrepreneur.

Graduate Dorothy Morallos MA ’13 worked as a civil engineer to resolve traffic congestion issues on the Bay Bridge, before taking up teaching. Now she’s at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco, teaching sixth grade math, science, and an elective STEM class where she draws on her professional experience to engage students.
“The students really liked to hear about the things I’ve done. They ask me a lot of questions about my background with the Bay Bridge. It’s something that they can relate to,” Morallos said. “For me, the transition has been very rewarding.”

Written by Monica Villavicencio »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews