Sarah Eakes majored in biology and planned to attend pharmacy school. But during her junior year at UT, she decided to try out VolsTeach to see if she would like it.
The VolsTeach program prepares math, science, and engineering majors to become teachers in Tennessee’s middle and high schools.
Eakes apprenticed in a middle school classroom. “I loved it,” she says. “I was sold after that.”
She and seven other students graduated in May as part of VolsTeach’s inaugural class.
Even before graduation, Eakes had already accepted an offer to teach at Karns Middle School in the fall. “I never changed my major, which was nice,” Eakes says. “I just changed my career.”
VolsTeach was created to help solve one of Tennessee’s most vital education problems: a shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers in middle and high schools.
VolsTeach students are able to earn a degree in their discipline and a secondary education teaching license within four years and at no extra cost. The program is a collaboration between the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We’re building that pipeline of students who earn their undergraduate degrees in their content areas and their teaching licensure to fill those critical teaching areas of chemistry, physics, math, and biology,” says Susan Newsom, assistant director of VolsTeach.
For Scott Bailey, a microbiology major from Maynardville, Tennessee, being part of the program has helped him develop his passion.
“I love teaching,” he says. “All the master teachers and instructors have
been super thoughtful and helpful about how to make myself a better person and a better teacher.”
There have been a total of 400 students in the VolsTeach program, and there are 111 mentors in schools in Anderson, Roane, and Knox county schools.