When Teachers Can Teach

Texas needs great teachers. That’s why the THRIVE program in the College of Education, powered by an investment from Jeanne and Mickey Klein, helps UT students grow into effective, compassionate and long-term educators.

If children are the future, teachers are the ones who help them understand what that future can be.

That’s why one couple is working to ensure that Texas teachers at every stage — whether they’re learning the profession, applying for their first job or navigating their first years in the classroom — have the support and network necessary to power their success.

Mickey and Jeanne Klein have a keen understanding of young teachers’ needs and a powerful calling to meet them. It’s now been five years since Mickey, BS ’58, JD ’63, and Jeanne, BS ’67, invested $13 million into creating game-changing scholarships in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education. “With strong financial support from UT, students can get a great education and go on to be great teachers,” Jeanne says. “These scholarships help ensure they don’t graduate with a lot of debt that might push them to end up pursuing some other career.”

“The Kleins’ estate gift benefitting undergraduate scholarships in the College of Education is a legacy gift that bridges their love for UT and their longstanding commitment to children, equity and education,” says Charles Martinez, Jr., dean of the College of Education. “They understand the profound promise of education to transform lives and work directly to strengthen our systems of support for educators, schools and students.”

Starting to Thrive

Once a freshly minted College of Education graduate receives their diploma, the work is just beginning. Last year, a statewide survey discovered that as many as 60% of these individuals leave the profession within their first five years. The number one issue for early-career teachers? Feeling overwhelmed.

The recent memories of pandemic-induced lockdowns and lost classroom time looms large for new and early-career teachers. But despite those and other obstacles, Martinez says that enrollment in the College of Education has still been growing. “Students are not naive about the reality and the challenges. But they also know there is a calling and that service to their communities matters — that’s why they’re here.”

Jeanne and Mickey Klein heard that call to service too, and they decided to become early investors in a solution. Their investment helped to create the new THRIVE program, a full set of services and supports for young teachers that the College of Education and Austin Independent School District began to roll out this January.

three images, first one of two yoing kids, the second of a UT student holding a snake and the third is of a teacher and student sitting on the floor
Annie Palmer, BS ’22, a young teacher participating in the program, shares, “In my heart and in my mind, teaching is a lifelong career, but I’m very aware of teacher burnout. I know it’s going to be really hard, but with the right support, I can see myself doing it forever in some capacity.”

“The biggest stress comes from the fact that society doesn’t always show a lot of gratitude to our teachers,” says Kelly Ocasio, one of the teacher mentors developing and participating in the THRIVE program. “We just treat our teachers like they’re babysitters. We have to create a workforce where people can grow and become leaders and become the mentors themselves for future teachers.”

“THRIVE gets to the heart of why teachers are leaving during these first years by focusing specifically on the conditions teachers find themselves in,” says Dean Martinez. By providing on-the-clock professional development opportunities, developing customized learning programs that meet the unique needs of individual teachers and linking up young teachers with experienced ones for mentorship and support, THRIVE hopes to change the landscape of the teaching profession in Texas.

“I support Texas Education THRIVE and the College of Education because the best thing we can do for the future of Texas and society is support teachers and provide them with the tools they need to be successful,” says Jeanne. “What kind of world will be living in if we can’t keep teachers in the classroom and provide all children with a high-quality education?”

ROIs and High Fives

Both Mickey and Jeanne are well-known as deeply engaged philanthropists who contribute their time in addition to their gifts. Jeanne has served for decades on the College of Education’s advisory board, and one of Mickey’s passions has always been working with UT Elementary. When they’re not working to improve classrooms across the state, they sometimes speculate about what they might do with their lives if they weren’t doing what they’re doing now. Mickey’s answer underscores his passion for education: He’d be a fourth-grade teacher.

“There is no greater feeling than walking onto the campus and getting hugs and high fives from these kids,” he says. “I once received a letter from a student telling me that I changed her life by teaching her how to read. Their display of gratitude and affection, which is mutual, is my greatest return on investment.”

“The best thing we can do for the future of Texas and society is support teachers and provide them with the tools they need to be successful. What kind of world will be living in if we can’t keep teachers in the classroom and provide all children with a high-quality education?”

Jeanne Klein
(with Mickey Klein)


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