UTeach Students Go Extra Mile Online for Future Employers

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed K-12 schools in North Texas, three University of Texas at Dallas seniors in the UTeach Dallas program took the initiative to help their mentor teachers in area school districts transition to online learning. Now each has been hired at the same school where they performed their student teaching.

Tommy Fabyan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a mathematics certificate, will teach math at Trent Middle School in the Frisco Independent School District. Neuroscience senior Aaly Hussain has landed a job teaching science at Skyline High School in Dallas ISD, while David Le, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, will be a science teacher at North Garland High School in Garland ISD.

Students in the UTeach Dallas program earn undergraduate degrees, primarily in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — concurrently with teacher training and certification. The program is housed in the Department of Science/Mathematics Education in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Fabyan, Hussain and Le are among the 26 UTeach Dallas students who have graduated or will graduate this year by August. Other students have been hired as teachers in Dallas, Houston and Amarillo. Two more have completed the Master of Arts in Teaching program and will go on to share their expertise with area students.

“UTeach Dallas is the gift that keeps giving to the University, because our graduates are teaching STEM subjects to younger students in the area, many of whom will go on to enroll at UT Dallas. It’s a long-term investment that pays off.”

Katie Donaldson, assistant director of UTeach Dallas

Many UTeach Dallas graduates receive multiple job offers because of their subject expertise and experience in the classroom, said Katie Donaldson, assistant director of UTeach Dallas and master teacher.

“We’re getting calls daily from employers. Our students have a deep, rich content knowledge coming in to professional teaching. We put them in schools their first semester, helping teachers with fourth- or fifth-grade science or math. Before they ever start their student teaching, they have had 18 to 20 hours in the classroom,” Donaldson said.

“All of them were student teaching when COVID-19 hit,” she added. “We told them to jump in and help their teachers wherever they could.”

Fabyan had several challenges as he was completing his student teaching. His close-knit family had come to the U.S. from Ghana when he was 13. When his mother — also a teacher — had to undergo medical treatment last fall, Fabyan dropped out of student teaching to help care for her. After she stabilized, he returned to teaching this spring.

As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted teachers to transition completely to online learning for middle school math classes, Fabyan took charge of digital instruction for kids who did not respond particularly well to lectures. He set up Zoom tutorial sessions, videos and math games to target the areas where students needed help.

“To get them even an inch closer to the ‘aha!’ moment was amazing,” Fabyan said.

He credited his mentor teacher for helping him overcome obstacles and even land a job at the school.

“Being able to finally cross that finish line in my student teaching was really great. My mentor teacher has been my biggest cheerleader from the day I met her. She told me to invite the principal to watch me teach, so when it came to hiring someone, they already knew what I was capable of in the classroom,” Fabyan said.

At Skyline High School, Hussain was able to combine her love of the sciences and teaching, working with two different mentors to teach anatomy, physiology and pre-Advanced Placement chemistry. She decided to pursue teaching after working as a tutor in high school, where students told her she “explained things nicely.”

By the time COVID-19 hit, Hussain had already been using the online platform Google Classroom to upload assignments and videos that allowed students to do their projects online and receive feedback quickly.

“It was perfect,” Hussain said of the transition to online learning. “I think it’s easier for my generation because we grew up with it. I had a good exchange with my mentors and set up Google pages for classes and internships.”

Hussain, who is also a pre-med student, hopes to go to medical school and become a faculty member after gaining more teaching experience. “The teaching aspect of it is what intrigues me,” Hussain said.

Le, who will teach either chemistry or physics at North Garland High School this fall, also helped his mentors quickly formulate plans for online learning using interactive platforms to upload PowerPoint presentations, worksheets and videos with questions for students to answer.

When he learned he was going to be hired at the school, Le was thrilled and a little surprised. “I slapped myself to see if I was awake,” he said.

A first-generation college student, Le credited UTeach Dallas for stimulating his interest in STEM education. Being placed in a classroom early in his college career helped him realize that he enjoyed class preparation and interacting with students.

“After being in the classroom, I was in love. UTeach pushed me when I needed it most. The energy and passion of the master teachers was out of this world. It was contagious,” Le said.

Since 2008, UTeach Dallas has graduated almost 200 students with science or mathematics certification. All faculty instructors are award-winning master teachers with years of expertise.

“UTeach Dallas is the gift that keeps giving to the University, because our graduates are teaching STEM subjects to younger students in the area, many of whom will go on to enroll at UT Dallas. It’s a long-term investment that pays off,” Donaldson said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].