TEAMS program transforms math, science pros into teachers in just 1 year

Did you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in math or science and now imagine yourself as a teacher? Arizona State University’s TEAMS (Teacher Education for Arizona Math & Science) is helping math and science professionals realize their teaching dreams through a partnership with Mesa Public Schools that prepares them to become Arizona secondary teachers in one year.

Enrolled in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, TEAMS teaching candidates begin the 15-month program in May and are recommended for state certification to teach middle school/junior high and high school the following May. The accelerated program then awards the future teachers a Masters of Education (MEd) in Secondary Education after they complete a second summer of coursework in August.

Applications are now being accepted for the next TEAMS cohort. The priority deadline to apply is April 1, with applications accepted through May 1 based on space availability.

Interested persons are encouraged to attend an upcoming information session. Registration for a TEAMS specific information session March 20 at ASU’s Polytechnic campus is available at A second session March 21 on the Tempe campus includes all Teachers College programs for bachelor’s degree holders interested in earning a master’s in education and Arizona teacher certification. Sign-up is at

Anyone applying for the TEAMS program must have at least 24 credit hours in a math or science discipline. For math, the cumulative hours can be in any mathematics discipline; in science, they must be in one content area, such as biology or chemistry. Students also can apply for various forms of financial aid, including an $18,000 living wage during the 2013-2014 school year that includes a three-year commitment to teach in Mesa upon graduation.

“People applying for TEAMS often say ‘I’ve been thinking about this for several years, and this seems to be a good fit,’” said Amy Hettmansperger, Teachers College recruiter for TEAMS. “They didn’t think that someone in their position could become a teacher. They are not aware of the need for highly qualified math and science teachers in the field of education. It completely blows their minds.

“A common misconception is that students need to have teaching experience to apply for the TEAMS program,” she said, “but they don’t. They need to come with the content knowledge. From there, they’ll be taking the courses and getting the field experience they need to become teachers.”

Because TEAMS is an accelerated program model, covering the same material as a two-year master’s program in a 15-month period, those considering the program should be ready to make a full-time commitment, explained Megan Gamarra, Teachers College advisor for TEAMS.

“It does only take a year to complete,” she said. “That’s the good news, and it’s also the bad news. Because TEAMS is so intense, it really requires students to commit full time. I’ve had students who have tried to work a part-time job while enrolled in TEAMS, but it’s just been too tough. However, for most students, the accelerated one-year program is a better option than a longer commitment to another program.”

Current TEAMS teacher candidate Ken Griego said he was surprised by how much he has learned about teaching science and managing a classroom over the past year. But one of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been the relationships he has developed with other students in his cohort, he added.

“I would tell future students thinking about TEAMS to prepare themselves for an epic adventure,” he advised. “I would ask them to open their minds, be willing to accept change and trust the faculty and instructors to guide them. Because of the investment from all those making the TEAMS program possible, I am a better student and much better teacher.”

TEAMS site coordinator Karl Pilar said he is working with Mesa Public Schools administrators to ensure that the program is as good for Mesa as it is for ASU’s TEAMS students.

“Our hope is that as Mesa watches them for a full year, they are able to identify TEAMS students as potential teachers for Mesa,” he said. “For students, it’s like a year-long interview. We tell them to make themselves the type of candidates that Mesa wants to have on board.”

Pilar also praised Mesa teachers acting as mentors to TEAMS students by working with them in their classrooms. He said the mentor teachers take their role as coaches very seriously and are in the classroom every day observing, coaching and co-teaching with the student teachers.

“It’s not like the old days, when a teacher might have told a student ‘it’s all yours, I’ll be down the hall in the teachers’ lounge,’” Pilar said.

For Griego, the TEAMS program has turned out to be ideal. He had considered getting his teaching credentials for several years, but worried about the cost and the unpaid student teaching requirement.

“I was elated to find out that I could not only earn my teaching credentials, but also a master’s degree in education,”  he said. “Because of the partnership with the Mesa school district, the best part is that I was able to earn a stipend to help with living costs while I finished my degree.”