09:14 AM

UHCLTeach's new master teacher follows passion for science

Takisha Bolden Gastile has spent her entire professional life doing what she loves — developing future science educators. After 14 years in the Houston Independent School District, she saw University of Houston-Clear Lake's College of Education implementing an innovative way of connecting to science majors who wanted to become teachers.

"I was a science curriculum manager and my passion was always in science," Bolden Gastile said. "While in Houston I.S.D., I was developing teachers, but what I found at UH-Clear Lake with the newly-created UHCLTeach Program was something unique because it develops science and math teachers earlier in their degree programs, giving them the opportunity to teach in an actual school setting from the very first semester, instead of at the end of their coursework."

Now Bolden Gastile is a lecturer in secondary science and math at UHCL, and the UHCLTeach program's new master teacher.

"I'm excited to talk to students about how participating in this program will be a great way to learn how to teach," she said.

"I became a teacher through the 'alt-cert' path and it was really tough," she said. "It's a huge priority to try to steer students away from that route, because teachers who get certified that way almost always find they're not as equipped with the resources they would have needed to be successful in the classroom. Teachers who get certified through the UHCLTeach program will have the tools and be ready with everything they'll need from the first day."

Bolden Gastile said she would be visiting classes in the College of Science and Engineering to talk to students about joining the UHCLTeach program.

"The first two courses are free to try out," she said. "In those courses, we help students gain the insight to see if becoming a teacher is what they want to do. If the students pass them with a 'C' or higher, they are reimbursed their tuition."

The program is still new, explained Bolden Gastile, but it's already indicating strong signs of success. "We're seeing retention," she said. "Students who enter the program are deciding to stay the course to certification. This was not the case in the past."

She said when students graduate, they will be certified in math or science in grades 7-12, and they'll be well prepared in skills critical to teachers' success, as well as plenty of experience in classroom observations and student teaching.

"We partner with Pasadena Independent School District and Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District, and some of our students are already employed in these districts," she said. "When they do student or team teaching, the likelihood of getting a job is much higher than for teachers who have the alternative certification."

Students who aren't sure what level they'd like to teach will have hands-on experience in elementary, middle and high school settings. "This way, you're exposed to all levels," Bolden Gastile said. "This is a great opportunity for a student in a STEM field to participate and know they'll be successful, well before investing years of time and coursework in this path."

School districts around Texas have expressed a specific need for teachers in math and science, making those with this certification in high demand.

"STEM is the way to go," she said. "People with this background are very much needed in all areas. If you can add a teacher certification to your other qualifications, you'll be even more marketable, because you can apply the skills you learn in your teacher training to whatever career choice you may make."

For more information about UHCLTeach, go online.