By Laura Fenton
"Step aside after writing on the board. Provide more than one example problem. Use
the same terminology as the textbook."
These classroom management and teaching tips didn’t come from an education class lecture.
Students like Eudarius Jones, sophomore mathematics major, learned them on the job.
Jones is a participant in the University of Memphis Tigers Teach program, which allows
students to pursue a four-year undergraduate degree while also receiving the training
to be a licensed teacher following graduation.
"It makes me feel like I’m doing my job already, even before I start my job teaching,"
Created in 2009, Tigers Teach is a replication of a University of Texas - Austin program
started 10 years ago. It’s funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Tennessee Higher
Education Commission by way of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top
The program is unique in that Tigers Teach participants can begin their first semester
of college or any semester after that. It differs from the Teacher Education Program,
which prohibits students from entering until their sophomore year or until they have
reached 45 credit hours.
All participants in Tigers Teach must also be in the College of Arts and Sciences
majoring in science, technology, engineering or math (referred to as STEM), but none
have to commit to teaching following graduation.
"If you decide not to go to pharmacy school or medical school, for example, there
is a need for you in education," said Andrea Reeder, master teacher and clinical assistant
professor for Tigers Teach. "We definitely need math and science teachers. It’s a
good plan B."
Understanding classroom instruction provides students with better communication skills.
"The skills that you’re going to learn here are going to carry you through your entire
life," Reeder said. "You’re really bettering yourself by knowing about how you learn,
how other people learn, how to effectively present and communicate information."
Getting in a classroom to observe and lead lessons is vital.
"I mean, how else can you get a chance to learn about what it means to be a teacher?"
said Ernie Shaw, fourth-grade teacher at the Campus School.
Shaw, a mentor teacher who allows Tigers Teach students to participate in his classroom,
finds the University students greatly improve in classroom management and become more
comfortable with teaching his students as the semester progresses.
Allison Neubert, junior mathematical sciences major, learned how to accommodate different
learning styles and uses that to adapt lessons as she teaches honors geometry at Southwind
High School this semester.
Freshman Danielle Wooten was anxious about teaching, but found the students to be
"I thought I was going to be really nervous and I thought I would mess up, but they
said, ‘Ms. Wooten, thank you.’ That really made my day," Wooten said.
Participants go to elementary, middle and high schools in pairs and complete two visits
of observation and three teaching the lesson.
Phyllis Adams, third-grade teacher at Shady Grove Elementary, has mentored with the
program for three semesters and is very impressed with it.
"I certainly wish it had been around before," Adams said. "My first experiences were
not hands-on teaching. I think it is very important to get them started doing the
real thing. Theory is OK, but practice is best."
Once a student begins Tigers Teach, there is not a commitment to remain in the program.
Plus, students receive reimbursement for the first two classes if they pass with a
C or higher in the course.
"If you hate it and know you hate it, then finish the course and get your credit and
then go and do something else. No hard feelings," said Dr. Kristina Whicker, clinical
assistant professor for Tigers Teach. "We’re still going to be your friend. We still
have a couple students that stop by every now and then who dropped out their very
Participants also encourage each other through involvement in the Tiger Learning Community
(TLC) and Tigers Teach Student Society (T2S2). TLC pairs an upperclassman with a new student to be an assistant coach that helps
with lessons or general advisory. T2S2 is more a social group that allows Tigers Teach participants to meet one another.
"It’s very helpful if I need help in Calculus II because I can go ask an older student
that I know through T2S2," said Alexandria Camp, freshman mathematics major. "If they’re in Calculus III they
can help you out. Obviously they’re going to know how to help you out because we’re
all trying to be teachers, so we all know how to tutor."
Becoming a teacher is not for everyone, but Tigers Teach allows students to test the
"If you’re going to be a science or a math teacher, that’s a special quality," said
Dr. Donald Franceschetti, co-director of Tigers Teach. "That’s not just something
anybody can do, even somebody with an engineering degree. You need to be able to think
through the learning process. It takes dedication and long hours, but the rewards
For more information, visit www.memphis.edu/tigersteach.