DragonsTeach: A Two-for-One Opportunity for STEM Majors

Starting next year, Drexel students in the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — will have the opportunity to get a two-for-one deal on their degrees, earning their secondary school teaching certifications along with their chosen majors.

The program, called DragonsTeach, is designed to provide a secondary set of skills and expertise for students coming out of STEM majors in the hope of creating more well-rounded graduates, helping to fill much-needed STEM teaching positions and providing them with additional employment opportunities.

Even if the participating students don’t ever go into teaching, the skills they learn as part of DragonsTeach can help them in a number of areas both professionally and personally, says Jessica Ward, director of operations for DragonsTeach.

“It’s been shown that these students come out of these programs as leaders,” she says. “They’re going to stand out at the top and it’s going to make them competitive, even if they’re going into graduate school.”

DragonsTeach, which begins in the winter 2015 quarter, is the latest addition to the national UTeach program, established by the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas Austin in 2006 to replicate the program nationwide. As of spring 2014, there were 6,704 students enrolled in UTeach programs throughout the United States, with 2,135 graduates anticipated this year.

Those who complete the DragonsTeach program are fully certified to teach in Pennsylvania and must complete the required hours of student teaching to do so. In the process, Ward says, the students learn skills — such as dealing with student personalities and school cultures — by working in classrooms with students and mentor teachers.

“This is a good Plan B… We’re touting it as a way to maximize your STEM degree.”
— Jessica Ward, director of operations for DragonsTeach

Ward notes that teaching skills are especially critical for many graduate students, who often get put in charge of classrooms as graduate assistants. And if they choose to pursue a path in teaching full-time, the need is certainly there, especially in places like Philadelphia, Ward says.

“We want to create new teachers who can go out and have the background of their STEM degree and have real-world context for the curriculum they’re developing,” she says.

The result is people who can teach by doing rather than by dry memorization and reading, thus engaging students on a more personal level so they learn more effectively.

And last, but not least, are those students who might not want to teach full-time, but who find themselves in need of backup employment while they wait to be accepted into graduate school or to find another job in their major.

“This is a good Plan B. Maybe you want to teach when you retire. Maybe you want to have a summer job,” Ward says. “We’re touting it as a way to maximize your STEM degree.”

A new program will help Drexel STEM majors earn teaching certifications.