Enrollment in Nebraska’s pre-K—12 schools is growing rapidly, from 334,000 in 2009-10 to more than 361,000 today.
The pipeline for preparing future generations of teachers, however, isn’t keeping pace: The number of college students in Nebraska majoring in education has fallen from 5,370 in 2009-10 to 3,600.
And the number of teaching positions left vacant or filled by someone other than a fully qualified teacher has more than tripled, to 232.
Thanks to a generous gift from the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, the University of Nebraska – the state’s largest producer of teachers – will be in an even stronger position to meet one of Nebraska’s most critical workforce needs.
The Scott Foundation’s gift, announced today by President Hank Bounds, will allow the university to pilot one cohort of a new Teachers Scholars Academy at all three of its undergraduate campuses to recruit, retain and develop a larger, highly qualified and more diverse teaching workforce for Nebraska, from early childhood through high school.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha will begin recruitment for the Teachers Scholars Academy immediately, with the inaugural class of more than 100 students expected to enroll next fall.
Bounds noted that while the Academy is a university-wide effort to expand access and grow Nebraska’s workforce, it will be implemented at the campus level to reflect the unique roles, missions, student bodies and faculty expertise of each NU campus. Broad areas of focus will include preparing future educators to serve diverse populations, work in rural schools and teach English language learners.
“The Teachers Scholars Academy is about Nebraska’s future,” Bounds said. “Research and common sense tell us that the quality of care and education we receive starting at birth has enormous implications for our success and well-being later in life. It’s vital that we have enough highly qualified educators in Nebraska to carry out this important work.
“The Teachers Scholars Academy will keep the University of Nebraska at the forefront of meeting the needs of Nebraska’s children and our workforce. I couldn’t be more grateful to the education deans across our campuses for their vision and leadership in growing our state, and to the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation for its generosity and commitment to our young people.”
In a joint statement, Ruth and Bill Scott said: “We are fortunate to have a wonderful education system in Nebraska staffed by teachers who are great at what they do. There just aren’t enough of them. We’re making this investment in the Teachers Scholars Academy because the future of our state demands we provide a quality education to our young people and families. We are proud to support the University of Nebraska’s work to meet the state’s most critical challenges.”
The Scott Foundation’s gift, made to the University of Nebraska Foundation, will provide full-tuition scholarships plus $8,000 annually for other educational costs for 104 students – 40 at UNK and UNL and 24 at UNO. Academy students will also have access to learning communities and peer networking opportunities to strengthen retention and maximize their professional development.
Other enrichment activities like guest lectures, volunteer work and mentorship may also be available to Academy students. Activities will be managed by a program coordinator on each campus who will lead recruitment and other efforts to foster community among the students, such as Academy-only sections of some education courses, research, seminars and post-graduation networking.
With the pilot Teachers Scholars Academy established, the university and NU Foundation will now begin raising funds for future Academy cohorts.