National Teaching Grant to Boost Diversity

Sam Houston State University was one of 12 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to receive a portion of the U.S. Department of Education’s Augustus F. Hawkins Centers for Excellence Program grants, which aim to increase high-quality teacher preparation programs for teachers of color, strengthen the diversity of the teacher pipeline and address teacher shortages.

The program supports comprehensive, high-quality teacher preparation programs at MSIs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs). SHSU is categorized within MSI as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).

“Texas and U.S. public schools are increasingly diverse, but the teaching profession has not kept up with that increasing diversity the same way the population has,” said Abbie Strunc, chair of SHSU’s School of Teaching and Learning and the grant’s PI. “We are working to support teacher candidates and in-service teachers who want to get their bilingual teacher certification and increase diverse candidates in the profession.”

Grantees were selected based on their focus on key aspects of a high-quality teacher preparation pipeline, including evidence-based, comprehensive preparation that emphasizes classroom experience and mentorship. It will allow the university to build off its already cutting-edge Education Preparation Program, which provides support services for students seeking degrees that prepare them for Texas certification as classroom teachers, principals, superintendents, educational diagnosticians, reading specialists, school librarians and school counselors.

The grant will allow personnel in SHSU’s College of Education to expand on the work they have already accomplished in this area and further support these students by establishing the Hawkins Scholarship Program.

“This will be a competitive, application-based program for students admitted at the undergraduate level in our teacher preparation program,” Strunc said. “We are going to support them with scholarships and a dual-track certificate program, which will cover diversity, equity and inclusion training as well as behavioral analytics practices.”

Hawkins Scholars who have children will also be eligible for funding to help assist with childcare.

Strunc credited multiple department colleagues for their contributions as co-PIs throughout the process and continued work, including Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Benita Brooks, Associate Dean Helen Berg, associate professors Tori Hollas, Jaime Coyne, Kristina Vargo and Mae Lane and adjunct faculty member Jamie Thompson.

This marks the first year the program has received funding since its 2008 inception. The amount of the grants total over $18 million, with SHSU receiving $1,599,900. The award is 100% financed with federal money through the Department of Education; no amount or percentage of the award is financed by non-governmental sources.

“Today, more than half of our learners nationwide are students of color, and yet fewer than 1-in-5 educators come from communities of color,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a Feb.

15 press release. “I’ll never forget the impact that my first teacher of color had on me as a student, and my experience tracks closely with years of research suggesting the profound, positive influence that educators of color have on students of all backgrounds.”

The program’s namesake, Augustus Freeman Hawkins, was the first Black politician elected to the U.S. House of Representatives west of the Mississippi River (Calif.) and author of Article VII of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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