Retired faculty and alumni lend strength to fundraising

On the day Cal Teach graduate Monica Villarón began her teaching career, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 634 points.

That may have been a great hook for a lesson by a new math teacher, but it’s a worrisome sign the economy is a long way from a vigorous recovery, and a slumping stock market only aggravates an already difficult fundraising environment.

“The state budget crisis means inconsistent support from the state,” said Gretchen Andreasen, a director of Cal Teach at UC Santa Cruz. “Our current challenge is to find local donors.”

Two retired math faculty from UC Santa Cruz are trying to fill the void, establishing the Edward and Miriam Landesman Fund for Future Teachers of Math or Science earlier this year.

Edward Landesman, professor emeritus, and his wife Miriam, a former lecturer, have been strong supporters of Cal Teach from the start. Edward was the first director of the Aurora Project, the community college component of Cal Teach.

“If we are to succeed in research and in industry and not lose our position as far as creativity and doing major work, we need to reach students early in their careers and motivate them to be teachers of math or science,” he said. “It’s important to the state, it’s important to the country, and it’s a profession from which participants can gain great satisfaction.”

Part of that motivation is financial. Becoming a teacher means a lot of extra expenses, everything from incidentals like the price of gas to get to a classroom internship and fees for state exams, to the significant costs of a credential program that adds a fifth year of schooling.

To encourage students to take on the challenge of teaching, the UC system has been raising money for stipends and internship expenses, and UC Santa Cruz has mobilized additional funds for scholarships for a credential program, thanks in large part to major campus donor and alumnus Stephen Bruce (Cowell ‘79, economics).

Systemwide cuts torpedoed some stipends last year, however, and enrollment in Cal Teach dropped. Through the Landesman Fund, the program is now raising about $50,000 to restore them in 2011–12, a modest figure that would provide critical aid to students already taking on debt to pursue a profession that is not especially remunerative.

“Our idea is to begin funding with a reasonable amount and others will contribute as well,” Landesman said. “We’re hoping by associating our names with Cal Teach, alumni will see the importance of this and want to contribute too.”

This funding is essential just as the program is maturing and producing teachers—its absence would have deleterious effects in a political environment where teachers are blamed for many of society’s ills, Andreasen said.

“It can be very discouraging to go into teaching in this era. There’s a lot of bad news all the time about budgets, about how schools are not doing their job, suggesting teachers are not doing their jobs,” she said. “The students I work with are committed to making a better world by helping children learn. For them, the emotional impact is big when their choice of career is validated with financial support from Cal Teach, especially from individual donors like Stephen Bruce and the Landesmans.”

For information or to contribute to Cal Teach at UC Santa Cruz, contact Anne Hayes at (831) 459-5238 or You may also contribute to Cal Teach online.

This article appears in the fall 2011 issue of Review magazine.