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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Bill seeks to certify STEM profs to teach K-12 classes

A new House bill has been proposed in an effort to allow college professors to fill gaps in K-12 math and science, which has seen a decrease in the number of teachers throughout Arizona.

HB 2161 is designed to make the teacher certification process easier and more efficient for already well-educated instructors in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is geared toward collegiate-level instructors making the transition into teaching high school classes.

“Institutions will be able to build a bridge in the K-12 and college levels,” said Rep. Heather Carter, who sponsored the legislation. Carter said that the need for HB 2161 came from the progressive presence of technology in the classroom and the extended correspondence of collegiate-level professors serving as well-educated mentors for high school teachers. But the state of Arizona’s bureaucratic laws prevents individuals with a master’s or doctorate degree in science from actually physically instructing a classroom without the proper certification, she added.

“This legislation breaks down barriers,” Carter said. The law will manufacture a new academic relationship between colleges and high schools, she said, and is meant to rejuvenate interest in the field of science for a younger generation of students. The expertise of collegiate-level instructors is sought to better prepare high school students for when they eventually enter a college setting, she said.

“There is a great interest in this field, but a need for more teachers,” Carter said. The lack of financial incentive is partly why more and more students graduating with a degree in science are looking for jobs in research-related fields instead of teaching. The bill is meant to allow experts with a desire to teach to easily obtain state law certification, which will permit them into the classroom. Some professionals in the science field can’t imagine that the bill will have realistic outcomes, however.

“I don’t see this as having a significant impact,” said Ingrid Novodvorsky, director of the College of Science teacher preparation program. Novodvorsky said she agrees that there is a declining interest in science majors entering the teaching field, but doubts that college professors will be the right demographic to fill the void of K-12 teachers.

“Teaching is not seen as a rewarding career path,” Novodvorsky said. As the program’s director, Novodvorsky ensures that students will be eligible for certification to teach science in grades seven through 12, and said she believes the bill will suddenly spark interest in well-seasoned professors to find time in their busy schedules to teach, for example, a 10th grade chemistry class on the side.

“The teaching pedagogy between the two populations is very different,” said Elliott Cheu, the associate dean of the College of Science. The proposed legislation isn’t taking into account the difference in emotional maturity levels and special needs of individual students at the K-12 level, Cheu said, and most college professors are not properly suited to handle that kind of educational environment.

“While we are all interested in improving education throughout the state, our strengths probably lie in the profession that we have already chosen,” Cheu said.

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