Federal grant awards CEIS $1.1 million for special education teachers

The Special Educators of Excellence in Diverse Settings scholarship aims to address the severe shortage of special education teachers in the United States

The Department of Education has given the College of Education and Integrative Studies a grant worth $1.1 million for students wishing to study special education.

Thanks to the grant, the Special Educators of Excellence in Diverse Settings (SEEDS) scholarship was created.

SEEDS offers funding for students to earn both their teaching credential and a master’s degree.

It  aims for select post-baccalaureate students who are pursuing a master’s degree in moderate/severe special education or adapted physical education (APE), which is a specialized program offering physical education to students with disabilities, to receive full tuition funding.

The scholarship is applicable to students getting their first teaching credential in special education and is intended to encourage students to pursue a career in education to fill the intense need for teachers specializing in moderate/severe special education.

This grant will essentially cover 63 full tuition scholarships over a five year span. This includes textbooks, technology used for the program and special conference fees.

Assistant Professor Joanne Van Boxtel said there is a national and regional shortage of special education teachers.

“It’s probably the biggest reason it’s [special education] so critical right now,” she said.

The SEEDS scholarship is meant to combat the critical shortage of special education teachers and encourage students to pursue the specific facet in education focusing on kids with special needs or disabilities.

“The main goal is to put more quality teachers into special education classrooms for students with more intensive learning needs and APE programs,” said assistant professor and director of SEEDS Heather Wizikowski.

The federal grant was awarded to the school in January and this is the first year the scholarship has been offered.

After outreach and recruitment at different school districts and community colleges, the program has received a good response. As of Sept. 19, the scholarship has had 20 applicants.

Due to the controlled funds, approximately 15 scholarships can be awarded each year.

Five students have already been awarded this scholarship: two within special education and three studying adapted physical education.

“I am extremely grateful to be a recipient of the SEEDS scholarship,”  said Elizabeth Morgan, one of the recipients of the scholarship. “This scholarship allows me to fulfill my dream of becoming a special education teacher without the financial burden of student loans. I am able to focus on my class work and on working with my students to try to learn as much as possible so that I can be prepared when I step into my own classroom.”

Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA, acceptance into either credential program (special education or APE), completion of the scholarship application and undergo an interview with Van Boxtel, Wizikowski and Adaptive Physical Education Program Coordinator, Beth Foster.

Another requirement for the scholarship is that recipients must fulfill a service obligation for the federal government. For every year of funding, graduates are required to work two years in moderate/severe special education or APE.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are also eligible to apply for the scholarship.

April 1 is the deadline for fall applications and the spring semester deadline is Oct. 1.

“This scholarship really has been an amazing gift and I am very honored to have been chosen,” Morgan said.

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