School of Education receives grant to recruit special educators

  • Preparing Inclusive EducatorsThe William & Mary School of Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund a project that will help increase the number of special education teachers in the nation. (Left to right) Sharon Defur and Chris Gareis are serving as are serving as co-principal investigators on the grant. Debbie Ramer is serving as project coordinator, and Virginia McLaughlin is dean of the William & Mary School of Education.

    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

    Preparing Inclusive Educators
The William & Mary School of Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund a project that will help increase the number of special education teachers in the nation.

The Preparing Inclusive Educators (PIE) project will support recruitment and training for educators in William & Mary's master's degree program in special education. The grant will provide $100,000 a year for a potential of five years. The grant's coordinators must apply for the funding annually.

"We are delighted to have received this grant," said Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education. "It will go a long way in supporting the superb work that our faculty and students in special education do and further the mutually beneficial relationships we have with our area schools."

Chris Gareis, associate dean for teacher education & professional services, and Sharon deFur, professor of education, are serving as co-principal investigators on the grant. Additionally, Lisa Ownby is serving as a part-time recruitment specialist for the project, and Debbie Ramer, a visiting instructor in the School of Education, is serving as project coordinator.

In addition to supporting William & Mary's graduate program in special education, the project will also build partnerships with local schools to identify needs and to ensure that local special education teachers are fully licensed.

"A unique and promising feature of this project is that we are reaching out to K-12 schools, to communities, and to our sister colleges and universities as partners," said Gareis. "Our intent is to actively identify and recruit a variety of individuals -- undergraduates, paraprofessionals, community members, parents -- with an eye toward building cohorts of students that are diverse in terms of ethnicity, life experiences, gender, age, and a host of other factors. Whatever their personal identities might be, these prospective teachers share a common motivation to make a significant difference in the lives of students and families."

Along with partnering with local schools, the project will also establish a parent advisory board to garner ideas from parents on how special education can be improved.
"We are excited that this project offers the William and Mary School of Education an opportunity to partner with families of students with disabilities," said deFur. "Families know their children and youth and have experienced how effective educators make a difference. The wisdom of these families will contribute to the skills of future inclusive educators."

The William & Mary School of Education offers three special education degree options: a five-year bachelor to master's program, a master's degree in special education and a collaborating master educator master's degree.