Stephanie Ruiz and Carisza Lenaburg will be among the many UC Merced students earning bachelor’s degrees at this weekend’s commencement ceremonies. Unlike their fellow graduates, however, Ruiz and Lenaburg will also be graduating with single-subject teaching credentials from UC Berkeley.
Ruiz and Lenaburg are the first to graduate from the joint UC Merced-UC Berkeley credential program as part of CalTeach at UC Merced. The CalTeach Program was initiated by the California Legislature in 2006 and provides funding to the University of California system to address the state’s shortage of K-12 math and science teachers.
Rather than entering a credential program in the fall, Ruiz and Lenaburg will both begin their first year of teaching at Livingston Middle School.
Both students said they enjoyed the CalTeach program’s interactive environment and appreciated its impact on their job prospects upon graduation. Ruiz, who had originally planned to be an accountant, said CalTeach helped her find a more fulfilling future.
“I have been able to find my true calling,” Ruiz said.
For Lenaburg, who had wanted to teach since childhood and was a tutor in high school, CalTeach reinforced her decision.
“The program really gave me an opportunity to explore the idea of being a teacher,” Lenaburg said.
Three Pathways to a Credential
CalTeach at UC Merced is led by Faculty Director Mayya Tokman and Program Director Chelsea Arnold, and fosters three pathways: Natural Science Education Minor (NSED), Natural Science Education with Central Valley Teacher Preparation Partnership (NSED + CVTPP), and the Natural Science Education Minor with a Teaching Credential (NSEC).
The NSED minor is open to all majors at UC Merced and fulfills prerequisite course requirements for credential programs in California. The NSED + CVTPP pathway is similar to the NSED pathway but also guarantees admission into Fresno Pacific University’s credential program upon graduation from UC Merced.
The NSEC minor — a joint UC Merced-UC Berkeley credential program — is open to all STEM majors at UC Merced. It allows students to earn a teaching credential from UC Berkeley while they are enrolled as an undergraduate at UC Merced.
As a newer campus, UC Merced has been able to create a program that offers students unique opportunities to explore and pursue careers in math and science education.
“We looked at all different models, and we built the program that we feel is best suited for UC Merced,” Tokman said. “Students in the program gain early exposure to the classroom environment, allowing them time to decide which teaching methods they prefer, design lesson plans and teach classes. This approach gives them an immediate, realistic view of what the job will involve and prepares them for the classroom earlier, but also allows them to decide if teaching is right for them."
Ruiz will graduate this year with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics along with a single-subject teaching credential in math from UC Berkeley. Lenaburg will earn her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cell biology, along with single-subject teaching credentials in biology and chemistry from UC Berkeley.
The soon-to-be graduates said they’re grateful to have been part of the CalTeach program at UC Merced. Tokman said the accelerated path to a credential leads to greater opportunities for graduates.
“Given the state’s shortage of math and science teachers and the experience students gain from the program, graduates are all but guaranteed to find teaching jobs right away, often wherever they choose,” she said.
Contact a CalTeach staff member for more information.