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A potential new answer to Virginia's teacher shortage problem: UTeach

Governor Ralph Northam announced a proposed $1 million investment for UTeach, a program to attract STEM teachers at Virginia's two HBCUs.

NORFOLK, Va. — STEM is a growing industry across the state, but there’s also a growing problem: teacher shortages.

On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam unveiled what he called a potential new solution to Virginia’s teacher shortage problem. Northam announced a proposed $1 million investment toward attracting STEM teachers from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

It's called UTeach and it gives secondary teaching certificates to students who graduate university with degrees in things like biology or chemistry.

“Science, technology, engineering, math -- I'd also add healthcare -- those are the jobs of the future,” Northam said. “We need more STEM teachers in general but we particularly need more STEM teachers of color.”

Northam announced the initiative while making an appearance at Norfolk State University.

As long as students are majoring in STEM, UTeach will give them certificates without adding any extra time or cost to their degree.

“Of course there’s an overall teacher shortage but there’s an even more drastic shortage in qualified STEM teachers,” said Dr. Leon Rouson, NSU's Dean of the School of Education.

“I think that [UTeach] is a great pathway to help cut the shortage for STEM teachers at Norfolk State. We will also be cutting into the shortage of teachers of color in STEM and so we’re doing both things at the same time, we’re killing two birds with one stone.”

The money will go toward establishing UTeach programs at Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, Virginia's two public HBCUs. 

“We know that students respond better, they learn better when their teachers look like them,” Northam said. 

The program is already in place at 45 colleges and universities across the country, including Old Dominion University.

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