UAB is collaborating with three high-need school districts to recruit, prepare and retain 40 teachers who are transitioning from other careers through a program funded by a $1.35 million grant from the Department of Education.

Debbie Voltz, far left, shows other UAB faculty members the plan behind Transition Routes to Urban Education (TRUE), a program seeking professionals interested in transitioning into teaching careers.

Transition Routes to Urban Education (TRUE) pairs UAB with Birmingham City, Fairfield and Bessemer schools. The group is seeking recent college graduates who did not major in education, paraprofessionals in the participating school districts and others interested in transitioning to teaching careers, says Deborah Voltz, Ed.D., who directs the program.

“These teachers will meet state criteria for highly qualified teachers upon completion of the program,” Voltz says. “They will have the knowledge, skills and dispositions to deliver standards-based instruction, promote high levels of achievement among diverse urban students and be committed to teaching in the urban setting.”

TRUE participants will receive a master’s degree and certification to teach in high-needs areas designated by the participating school districts. These areas of certification include secondary education in math, science, English and social studies. Elementary education, special education and English as a second language (ESL) also are included. The program features a number of innovative initiatives, including:

Interested in changing careers? Do you or does someone you know want to become a teacher? UAB’s new Transition Routes to Urban Education (TRUE) program can help you become a highly qualified teacher while earning a master’s degree.
For more information, contact Deborah Voltz at or 934-8320. 

• Coursework infused with skills related to urban teaching
• Taught by university faculty and master teachers from the partner districts
• Use of Web-based and blended courses during weekend and evening course offerings
• Providing extensive and unique fieldwork opportunities and mentorship from UAB faculty liaisons and master teachers in the participating school districts.

TRUE also will support the partner districts in streamlining teacher-hiring systems and processes. Current practices will be examined to identify any barriers that exist to hiring qualified teachers. Strategies to remove these barriers then will be developed, implemented and evaluated.

UAB pursuing challenge
The shortages of highly qualified teachers for high-needs urban school districts are well-documented. Almost two-thirds of states report that the percentage of core academic classes taught by highly qualified teachers is lower in high-poverty schools than in low-poverty schools, according to the Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act.

And quantity isn’t the only concern. Even teachers who meet state criteria for being highly qualified feel challenged in addressing the diversity that characterizes the student population. Voltz says TRUE addresses those challenges.

The TRUE grant supports the Urban Teacher Enhancement Program (UTEP), an initiative of UAB’s Urban Education Project. UTEP prepares teachers who have the knowledge, skills and dispositions to promote high student achievement in urban schools and a commitment to remaining there.

Carmelita Bivens, the director of Special Education Programs for Bessemer City Schools, says UAB already has provided much-needed support in recruiting and training teachers through the UTEP program. She is excited to see TRUE build upon its successes.

“When you work in the urban school districts it’s difficult to find teachers, period,” Bivens says. “Often we find people who are available and want to work, but just aren’t qualified. UAB has aggressively pursued that challenge of finding people who are qualified.

“Just this year we have one teacher that I know is doing a fantastic job at one of our schools. She came to us with a desire,” Rivens says. “She did not have a special education degree, but she’s in the program at UAB. She’s doing a fantastic job in the elementary school working with those students who have special needs. None of that would be possible without UAB.”

If you or someone you know is interested in transitioning into a teaching career, contact Voltz as or 934-8320.