Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced an initiative intended to increase the number of secondary teachers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. Northam made the announcement Monday, Feb. 10, at Norfolk State University.

Gov. Northam is proposing to invest $1 million to increase pathways for students to become STEM educators at Norfolk State and Virginia State universities — Virginia’s two public historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The initiative, UTeach is an innovative, university-based approach to recruiting, training, and retaining STEM teachers that is currently functioning at 45 colleges and universities across the country. Virginia is the first state in the nation to propose investing public funds toward establishing a UTeach program.

“The demand for STEM education is growing rapidly, and we must ensure that students of color, students from lower-income school divisions, and students in other under-represented populations are not left behind,” said Northam. “UTeach will help address our existing teacher shortage and create a pool of diverse, talented STEM educators who are equipped to ensure Virginia students have the knowledge, skills and mindsets necessary to thrive in a fast-changing, technologically advanced, global society.”

NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston noted that Northam is a champion for HBCUs and is committed to funding equity in higher education. “In fact the governor’s 2020-2022 biennium budget proposal makes historic investments in Virginia’s HBCUs,” she said during the announcement. “This investment will be a game changer for NSU and our students as we continue to create access to a high-quality education.”

From its beginnings 84 years ago, Norfolk State has had a focus on teacher education and classroom learning. Now the School of Education and College of Science, Engineering and Technology will work together to implement the program.

“Norfolk State University has had a long legacy of producing diverse classroom teachers,” said Dr. Leon Rouson, dean of the NSU School of Education. “NSU Faculty with expertise in STEM fields and secondary teacher education will work alongside master teacher practitioners to design a program emphasizing deep understanding of STEM content, practices and pedagogy, and strong connections between theory and practice.”

Dr. Michael Keeve, dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, said the initiative provides STEM majors with additional career opportunities. “We’re taking STEM majors who are not in education area and certifying them to teach K-12 and it doesn’t add any more time or money. It won’t add another year to their program and that’s a plus.”

One student who is glad to hear that is Nathan Foster, an NSU sophomore biology major. Foster plans to teach at his high school alma mater while pursuing his dream to become a physician assistant. “By the Governor implementing this program, I am able to give back to my community and make my dreams become a reality.”