Forging Future Science Teachers

Teresa Huang
Teresa Huang teaches a lab on photosynthesis at a high school in Natomas, California. Photo credit: T.J. Ushing

Teresa Huang’s passion for chemistry and teaching was awakened at an early age by her grandfather, who was a chemistry teacher before he immigrated to California from China. She plans to follow in his footsteps and become a high school science teacher.

Huang (B.S., chemistry, ’18) is close to achieving her dream thanks to the CalTeach/ Mathematics and Science Teaching Program (MAST) program at UC Davis. “MAST changed my life,” Huang said.

What is CalTeach/MAST?

CalTeach is a University of California system-wide program to recruit, prepare and support highly-qualified K-12 teachers in science and mathematics. The initiative was launched in 2005 in response to state and national concerns about the critical shortage of highly qualified elementary and secondary teachers. In addition to its state funding, CalTeach is supported by foundation, private industry and other external sources.

Undergraduates who are curious about teaching at any level, from kindergarten through college, can explore their interest through the courses offered by CalTeach/MAST. Classes offered through CalTeach/MAST cover instruction and learning techniques for science and mathematics classrooms, including California curriculum standards such as common core math. The program helps students satisfy some of the requirements for both their undergraduate degree and a teaching credential.

Classroom experience

CalTeach/MAST also provides opportunities for teaching practice under the guidance of a mentor teacher in a local K-12 or UC Davis classroom. These internship hours satisfy most credential program classroom experience requirements. “One of the benefits of our courses is that they allow you to try the realities of classroom teaching while pursuing your studies,” said Susann Pinter, academic coordinator and lecturer for the UC Davis program.

As an undergraduate, Huang interned at Davis Senior High School and worked for the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS). “You can say you want to be a teacher, but you don’t really know until you’re in front of the classroom,” she said.

Huang is now completing her teaching credential program through the UC Davis School of Education with a student teaching placement at a public charter high school in Natomas, a Sacramento suburb. Through its Diverse Future Teachers program, the Natomas school district pays for 80 percent of Huang’s credential program in return for a three-year teaching commitment. Huang said she learned of the scholarship through CalTeach/MAST. “I love the people in MAST and how supportive they were, and I had so many opportunities thanks to them.”

Promoting diversity

The UC Davis CalTeach/MAST program has the largest enrollment in the UC system, and has sent more STEM teachers into underserved California schools than other CalTeach programs, said Sandy Carlson, faculty director and professor of earth and planetary sciences in the College of Letters and Science. CalTeach/MAST also has a positive impact on California schools by bringing well-trained, enthusiastic and diverse teachers to their districts, she said. More than two-thirds of CalTeach graduates are from underrepresented-minority or Asian backgrounds.

“The teachers we’ve hired from the UC Davis CalTeach/MAST program have been game changers at our school. They are subject matter experts, develop wonderful relationships with students, and collaborate effectively with peers. They make everyone around them better,” said Ed Santopadre, principal at Vacaville High School in Vacaville, California.

— Becky Oskin, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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