April 24, 2012

ASU leads nation in federal TEACH grants

Posted: April 24, 2012
Mari Koerner
Mari Koerner joined ASU in 2006 as dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Among its many distinctions, Teachers College leads the nation in awarding federal TEACH grants.

More than a thousand students in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College are making a commitment to teach in high-need schools after graduation, through the U.S. Department of Education’s TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grant Program.

The most recent available figures show that 1,325 ASU students received TEACH grants of up to $4,000 per year, the largest number of recipients among colleges and universities in the United States. Students receiving the grant commit to serve at least four years as a full-time teacher in a high-need field at a public or private elementary or secondary school that serves students from low-income families.

One of the high-need fields as defined by the grant program is special education, which is the major chosen by Teachers College graduate Maggie Cunningham. She now works at Mesa Arts Academy as the special education director as well as special education teacher. Cunningham teaches kindergarten through eighth grade students with various high-functioning disabilities.

“I applied for the TEACH grant because I didn’t have enough funds to pay for school,” Cunningham said. “I knew that I wanted to work with at-risk students anyway, so it seemed like the perfect option. I am very happy that the TEACH grant exists because it helped me finish my degree and start my career.”

“This program exemplifies a successful government-university partnership,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College. “Hundreds of ASU students who want to make a positive impact on the lives of children are achieving their goal of earning teacher certification with assistance from the TEACH grant.”

“I chose to become a teacher because I have a passion for learning,” Cunningham said. “I also love working with children so it seemed to be the perfect fit. Now that I have had some time to really know what it feels like to be a teacher, my reasons for being one have expanded. The main reason that I love teaching is so that I can be a support for my students, someone they can trust, respect, and have as a role model. I am the voice for my students because sometimes children aren’t really listened to.”

TEACH is available not only to undergraduates but also to students with a bachelor’s degree in another field who have decided to pursue a career in teaching through Teachers College’s MAC (Master’s and Arizona Certification) program.

TEACH was established by Congress in 2007; the figures showing ASU with the nation’s largest number of grant recipients come from the 2009-10 academic year.

High-need fields as defined under the TEACH program include mathematics, science, bilingual education and English language acquisition, foreign language, reading specialist, and special education, as well as other fields identified as high-need by the federal or state government or a local education agency.

“TEACH is helping to place rigorously trained, motivated teachers from ASU in positions that Arizona school districts are especially interested in hiring for,” Koerner said.

Teachers College serves all four ASU campuses in metropolitan Phoenix and students across Arizona, and is one of the nation’s largest producers of new PreK-12 teachers. The college has earned national attention for its iTeachAZ curriculum, which emphasizes academic content knowledge and extensive internship experiences in local schools.

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