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To increase and retain more well-prepared bilingual/multilingual teachers of color, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education (COE) Department of Special Education (SPED) was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program.

Project Equal Access, under the direction of SPED Professor and Chair Jenny Wells, aims to create a more diverse teacher workforce to serve students of color in rural and remote communities.

“We are deeply honored to be acknowledged as a Center of Teaching Excellence by the USDOE,” Wells said. “This award will enable us to enhance our teacher preparation programs and increase our ability to prepare and support diverse special educators. We are committed to the goals of the Hawkins programs and are eager to begin this work in conjunction with our COE and Hawaiʻi Department of Education partners.”

The four-year project, which will supplement the existing rigorous COE special education teacher training programs, is co-directed by Associate Specialist Linda Oshita and Assistant Specialist Janet Kim. The focus is on the various aspects of the teacher preparation pipeline, including the recruitment, preparation, support, placement and retention of teachers in high-need areas to support underserved students.

“Our diverse student population mirrors the multicultural profile of the state with 76% of teacher candidates being students of color,” Wells added. “Project Equal Access will address the disproportionately underrepresented Native Hawaiian, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander special educators within the teacher workforce.”

Grant activities will address five areas: reduction of inequity and inadequacy in resources and opportunities in teaching license programs; increase in the effective use of technology, instructional techniques, and strategies; preparation of teacher candidates to design and deliver instruction in ways that are engaging and provide opportunities to think critically and solve complex problems, apply learning in authentic and real-world settings, and communicate and collaborate effectively; preparation of teacher candidates to build meaningful and trusting relationships with their students’ families; and sustained and high-quality preservice clinical experiences and mentoring of teacher candidates by exemplary teachers.

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