Notes from UTeach Nation: William Kiker
When William Kiker (BA Math 2007, MA Math 2012) was in first grade, he told his teacher that he, too, wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. Her response was to give him extra copies of every worksheet she handed out, which Kiker would then assign to his parents. “I was so excited about it that I’d grade my parents’ subtraction, which was correct, but if it wasn’t lined up correctly I’d subtract points,” he recalls.
As he progressed through elementary and secondary school in Dallas, Kiker’s passion for teaching never dimmed. In fact, when it came time to choose a university, Kiker’s search centered on which school offered the best teacher preparation program. That search is what led him to UTeach.
“I was in my bedroom at home looking up a bunch of teacher preparation programs and UTeach was one of the search results,” says Kiker. “I watched this video, which must have been from [the very beginning of the program], it was so old. But it was inspiring. It featured teachers from UTeach out in schools doing what they wanted to do, which was teach.
“I replayed it three or four times, then ran downstairs to talk to my parents about going to UT. I actually came to UT for UTeach.”
A mere two months after Kiker’s 18th birthday, he found himself enrolled in the first UTeach course, Step 1: Inquiry-Based Instruction, and teaching a lesson in an elementary school classroom. As he progressed through his degree work, he was able to shape his identity as a teacher from within the structure afforded by the UTeach program. “Being in a classroom every semester was really unique in that I saw myself grow as a teacher before I was a teacher."
Kiker’s first teaching job was at Austin High School in Austin, where he spent five years teaching Pre-AP Algebra II, Pre-AP Precalculus, and AP Statistics in the Academy for Global Studies. He will begin his second year at the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy in Austin in August 2016, where he teaches AP Calculus AB, Pre-AP Precalculus, and dual credit Statistics. His 2015–2016 AP Calculus students achieved a 100% pass rate, with 66% of the students scoring 5s (the highest score possible) on the AP exam.
In May 2016, Kiker was awarded the inaugural USEA Outstanding Alumni award. Says Carrie Culpepper, USEA and Alumni Manager, “The USEA awards were implemented to recognize alumni just like William. He represents everything that we strive for our alumni to be … strong in their content knowledge and their pedagogical approaches. He is an extremely deserving candidate for this award, and the UTeach STEM Educators Association and the National UTeach Alumni Network are proud to call him one of our own.”
When asked whether he has any advice for new UTeach students, Kiker says, “Take a moment to look around during your field experience and see if you can see yourself in that setting.” For example, during Step 1 you may realize that you don’t want to teach elementary school, but Step 2 or Project-Based Instruction show you that you feel comfortable with middle- and high-schoolers. What makes UTeach unique, he argues, is that your career training affords you the opportunity to experience the work before you’ve actually embarked on the career itself. “If you don’t take advantage of that, you’re missing out,” he says. “Ask questions. Soak up all you can from the mentor teachers in your environment.”
Recent graduates should also be prepared to leverage professional relationships and seek out mentors during their first few years of teaching. “Strap in, because it’s a crazy ride. Seek out people in your school whom you think you work with well or ask those questions you might not want to ask other people. Find those friendships early so you can have a less stressful experience your first year.
“Fall back on your resources with your support network and through the UTeach induction program. They are more helpful than you know. It’s going to be stressful because you’re learning a craft, but you have a solid foundation from UTeach, so falling back on that is one of the best things you can do.”