Workshop Equips Participants for Success as New Teachers
More than ever, the need for qualified teachers is real. This is especially true for teachers specializing in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).
Enter the CenterPoint Energy New Teacher Academy at the University of Houston.
The academy is organized by teachHOUSTON, UH’s secondary STEM teacher preparation program that is a collaboration between the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the UH College of Education. teachHOUSTON focuses on addressing the shortage of highly qualified teachers in STEM.
The CenterPoint Energy New Teacher Academy provides support and professional development to recent graduates of teachHOUSTON who have been teaching for up to three years. For 2023, 26 graduates took part in the program, at no cost to them.
Preparing New Graduates for Success as Teachers
Held for three days over the summer, the academy offers lectures, workshops and mentoring.
“The nature of the classroom is always changing, so it’s important that we invite our alumni who are already in the classroom to come back and offer their expertise,” said Amanda Campos, teachHOUSTON induction coordinator and CenterPoint Energy New Teacher Academy workshop coordinator.
teachHOUSTON alumni serve as mentors, alongside teachHOUSTON faculty, who offer support to new graduates as they begin a career in teaching. Alumni who have teaching experience can qualify as mentors.
“Some of the professional development sessions offered range from inquiry-based learning to culturally responsive teaching,” said Campos. “We also offer strategies to survive and thrive in your first year of teaching.”
Participants benefit from the program by gaining valuable insight on lesson planning and how to interact with students. Most importantly, past participants credit networking and the program’s support system as their way to survive the first year of teaching.
“For me, the most important takeaway was networking and the community building you can have not just in your classroom, but also among your like-minded peers,” said Olivia Pittman (’22), a teachHOUSTON alumna, serving as a mentor at the academy.
Discovering New Ideas for the Classroom
Hands-on sessions gave participants new ways to incorporate STEM learning with their students.
During the academy, participants were given parts and instructions to build a miniature concept vehicle and measure the distance it traveled. The “Take a Drive Through STEM” session included car kits and a lesson plan developed by teachHOUSTON alumni now teaching in Houston-area school districts. Participants learned how to build the cars and could take home the materials to help plan a future lesson for their own classes.
“The car kits were tied to the content that could be taught through the hands-on activities for the session,” said Campos.
Offering Help to Aspiring Teachers
While most first-time teachers enter the classroom not knowing what to expect, the CenterPoint Energy New Teacher Academy alleviates this stress.
“I feel like they gave me the brick to lay down, and I was able to have a point of departure just by being a part of this program,” said Pittman.
“I was able to take specific things I learned and incorporate this into my lesson design and my classroom culture,” said Nolan Nash (’22), teachHOUSTON alumnus and academy mentor.
Support for the program is provided by teachHOUSTON, CenterPoint Energy, Good Reason Houston, Comerica Bank and the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). Financial aid is available to participants in the form of scholarships and stipends.
In 2023, the CenterPoint Energy Foundation awarded the NMSI and teachHOUSTON $85,000 to help fund the academy for the future. CenterPoint Energy made an initial grant of $100,000 to the program in 2022. Paige Evans, teachHOUSTON co-director, served as principal investigator at UH.
In addition to mentorship and financial aid, participants also receive classroom supplies, which teachers typically pay for out of pocket.
- Chris Guillory, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics