MSU Denver leads teachers’ aides to the head of the class
With help from a $1.5 million grant, the University will help DPS paraprofessionals earn credentials to become licensed teachers.
Metropolitan State University of Denver is launching a new effort to grow and diversify Denver’s teacher workforce with the help of a $1.5 million federal grant.
MSU Denver’s School of Education is one of 12 institutions nationwide to receive funding from the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program, which aims to support more teachers from historically underrepresented populations by expanding teacher-preparation programs at Minority-Serving Institutions.
MSU Denver will use the grant, managed by the U.S. Department of Education, to provide 15 scholarships a semester to paraprofessionals already working in Denver Public Schools high-needs schools, especially those in underserved and Spanish-speaking communities.
Paraprofessionals provide instructional support under the supervision of licensed teachers, assisting with class organization, supporting students with disabilities, working with bilingual students and doing other tasks.
“MSU Denver wants to help paraprofessionals become licensed teachers themselves,” said Christine Muldoon, Ed.D., executive director of the University’s Office of Education Solutions. “They’re already working in the school district, so there’s a huge opportunity here. But what we know is that it’s not enough just to bring students here. We need to do things in order to support them while they’re here.”
The four-year grant will be used to bolster those support services, including more in-class and out-of-class faculty support for students and the creation of support groups designed to offer students a sense of belonging on campus.
“We want to create space where everyone feels like they belong in the School of Education and where students can enjoy social events together and support each other and really develop that community that we hope will stay with them when they leave the University and go on into the teaching profession,” said Lisa Altemueller, Ed.D., associate dean of the School of Education.
MSU Denver also plans to grow its Bilingual Education Specialist certificate program with the help of Hawkins grant funding. While English-learners are the fastest-growing public-school student demographic, comprising more than 10% of America’s enrollment, most states face a shortage of certified bilingual and multilingual teachers.
“Those who go into our bilingual program might have started off their lives as Spanish-speakers but might need help with Spanish writing,” Muldoon said. ”So this gives more support for those teachers to feel more comfortable in a bilingual classroom.”
The grant program is named for Augustus F. Hawkins, the first Black politician elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi River. It supports comprehensive, high-quality teacher-preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions. MSU Denver is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with more than 35% of its undergraduate students identifying as Latino.
“Today, more than half of our learners nationwide are students of color, and yet fewer than one in five educators come from communities of color,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement. “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.”