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University of North Texas Innovates Teacher Training Amid Nationwide Shortage

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DENTON, Texas — The University of North Texas (UNT) is pioneering a new approach to teacher training to address the critical shortage of teachers across Texas and other U.S. states. UNT’s Teach North Texas program enables undergraduate students in the College of Science and information technology majors to earn a teaching certificate along with their degree, focusing on secondary level mathematics and science education.

Teach North Texas co-director Rudi Thompson highlighted the importance of this initiative, especially in the wake of educational disruptions caused by COVID-19. The pandemic has led to significant learning losses in STEM subjects, and UNT aims to produce teachers skilled in lesson and classroom management, capable of catering to individual student needs.

The program leverages the innovative Mursion Lab, a mixed-reality teaching environment, to prepare student instructors for real-world classroom challenges. Funded partly by the Sid W. Richardson Foundation and the Caruth Foundation through the UNT Foundation, the lab uses Mursion, Inc.’s virtual reality training software, originally developed for various industries. In this immersive setting, UNT students practice managing simulated classrooms and refining lesson content.

Senior mathematics student Leilani Fielding praised the Mursion Lab’s effectiveness, noting how the virtual avatars’ unpredictability enhances the training experience. The lab also allows students to review their sessions and improve their teaching strategies.

Janel Madeley, a master teacher and lecturer with the program, emphasized the lab’s role in creating realistic teaching scenarios. This immersive training environment enables student teachers to prepare for a wide range of classroom situations, reducing reliance on trial and error in actual classrooms.

Cindy Watson, a principal lecturer in UNT’s College of Science and a master teacher in the program, observes lab sessions to assess the budding instructors’ relationship-building skills with students, which is crucial for classroom engagement.

Both Madeley and Watson have observed significant development in student instructors who train in the lab. These skills are further honed during actual classroom teaching sessions across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The program’s approach evolves from lesson preparation to implementation and responsiveness in the classroom.

Watson noted the confidence and leadership skills that students gain, making them akin to second-year teachers upon graduation. Rudi Thompson added that Teach North Texas graduates have a 100% hire rate, attributing this success to the comprehensive training that includes both simulated and real classroom experiences.

The Mursion Lab at UNT is also available for immersive training in counseling, coaching, and other high-stakes interpersonal skills. For more information or to request a demonstration, interested parties are encouraged to contact Rudi Thompson or Ali Degraffenreed with Teach North Texas.

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