UWA plans kickoff event for new education program

A student performs a science experiment at UWA.

UWA-TEACH is expected to boost options for science and math teachers in Alabama

Story: Phillip Tutor

University of West Alabama administrators have spent months planning the launch of a new program, UWA-TEACH, that’s designed to increase the quality of science and math instruction in public schools and the number of qualified teachers in those classrooms.

That birth is drawing near.

On April 20, the university will hold its UWA-TEACH kickoff event from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on campus at the Bell Conference Center. Part celebration and part introduction, the event will feature appearances from state leaders and serve as a vital recruiting tool for the program, which begins this fall.

“We want everybody to know this is a new program and what it’s going to afford to our students,” said Dr. Tracy Keener, an instructor of biology at UWA. “This is why it’s so important.”

In December 2022, the Alabama STEM Council awarded $3 million grants to six universities, including UWA, following recommendations from Gov. Kay Ivey’s Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM. That grant is allowing UWA to develop a program based on the groundbreaking effort at the University of Texas at Austin, which began in 1997 and is considered the national model.

Among the special guests and speakers attending the April 20 kickoff are UWA President Dr. Ken TuckerLee Meadows, director of the Alabama STEM Council; a UTeach administrator from the University of Texas at Austin; and representatives from public schools systems in Sumter County and nearby Black Belt counties. Keener expects the kickoff to benefit current UWA students and high school administrators who take the program’s details back to their campuses.

In Livingston, UWA-TEACH will specifically address the university’s commitment to rural education with a specially designed curriculum. When entering the program, STEM majors at UWA who want to teach can benefit from a streamlined approach by choosing their preferred major and simultaneously earning teacher certification. 

Administrators at the Julia Tutwiler College of Education also plan to include alumni options that would allow UWA graduates with science or math degrees who are still seeking desired employment to take advantage of a shortened certification process for becoming a qualified K-12 teacher in Alabama.

“The main thing is we’re going to try to tap into students who are going into STEM majors and let that we want them to get their major in a STEM area,” Keener said. “But we also want to give you this opportunity to get a teaching certificate along with it, because a lot of the STEM majors are going into real competitive fields.”