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UTTC teacher training receives boost
15 September 2008

WASHINGTON The U. S. Department of Education has awarded United Tribes Technical College a four year grant to train teachers who will serve children with disabilities in North Dakota.

      North Dakota U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy announced the award of $200,000 to UTTC for what is known as the "Sweet Grass Project."

Lisa Azure
Lisa Azure, UTTC Teacher Education Department Chair

      "Its a four project to recruit and train students interested in a career in serving children with disabilities," said Lisa Azure, project director and department chair of UTTC Teacher Education. "The total amount will be $800,000 - $200,000 per year for four years."

      The funding will come through the DOEs Personnel Preparation Program, a nationwide effort that assists states in providing personnel to serve children with disabilities. Funding was awarded by the DOE with funds appropriated by Congress.

      According to Azure, students enrolled in the Sweet Grass Project will take Bachelor level courses on the UTTC campus that are offered through Sinte Gleske University, Mission, SD.

      Graduates will meet the No Child Left Behind "highly qualified" requirements. They will also be eligible for an Early Childhood Special Education credential endorsement to serve children with disabilities.

      By offering a dual major in early childhood special education and elementary education, the Sweet Grass Project hopes to create more childhood special education personnel in the community, said Azure.

      "The first and most important step in providing quality education is to recruit and train teachers and education personnel who are committed to their jobs and devoted to changing the lives of the children they teach," said the North Dakota delegation in a joint statement. "The Sweet Grass Project is specifically aimed at training teachers to work with disabled students and children with disabilities in North Dakota, and we believe it will be a huge success."

      Recruitment will begin next spring with students beginning the program in the fall of 2009. Preference will be given to candidates who are members of a federally recognized tribe, have already completed an AA or AAS degree, and who have met or exceeded the cut scores on the Praxis I (PPST) exam.

      According to Azure, the application process will be highly competitive.

      "The grant was written to support 20 American Indian pre-service teacher candidates," said Azure. "We already have a number of potential applicants who have expressed interest in the project who have the disposition, fortitude and ability academically to successfully meet the rigorous challenges."

      The UTTC Teacher Education Department is currently in a no-cost extension year of a previous DOE personnel preparation grant. Participants in that program are completing a dual major in elementary education and special education through Sinte Gleska on the UTTC campus. They have been very successful with the Praxis I and Praxis II exams, both of which are requirements for teacher licensure, and typically a challenge for American Indian teacher candidates, Azure said.

      The Sweet Grass Project builds on the "lessons learned" from the earlier program and is expected to be even more successful in preparing more American Indian teachers in North Dakota.

      For more information contact Lisa Azure, Teacher Education Dept. Chair, Child Development Centers Administrator, United Tribes Technical College, 701-255-3285 x 1407, lazure@uttc.edu.



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