TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — A federal grant will allow Northeastern State University to increase the number of comprehensively prepared teachers from diverse backgrounds.

NSU was awarded a four-year grant totaling a little more than $1.5 million through the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program. NSU College of Education Dean Dr. Vanessa Anton said the funds will be used to create the RiverHawk Center for Teacher Excellence with locations on both the Tahlequah and Broken Arrow campuses.

“We want to continue to address the teacher shortage in all teaching areas,” Anton said. “There is a critical need for teachers who are ready and able to engage and facilitate student learning on day one. Through this grant, NSU can help potential education majors, teacher candidates and teachers be successful in their career journey to become a certified, impactful and employed teacher by providing a comprehensive, positive and supportive environment for them to learn and grow.”

Anton said the center will provide support to teacher candidates and teachers through scholarships, professional development, advising, mentoring, tutoring/coaching and other connections for overall assistance that supplement ongoing initiatives. She said objectives include increasing the number of individuals from diverse backgrounds admitted and completing teacher education programs, including passing teacher certification tests. Another objective is to increase the number of certified teachers in high-need local educational agency schools or hard-to-staff schools.

Anton said research also shows that school-aged students, especially those from diverse backgrounds, benefit from teachers that mirror their racial and ethnic diversity.

“It is not just a matter of quantity, but a matter of quality and diversity,” Anton said. “With this grant, we hope to address all three.”

In addition, the center seeks to increase the number of individuals completing certifications through the Alternative Certification Education Institute at NSU which provides critical training in classroom management and pedagogy for career professionals transitioning into a teaching career.

Anton said to successfully recruit and retain teacher candidates and teachers through the center they will be hiring various positions to staff both campus locations. This includes a director, campus coordinators, mentors and academic coaches.

In addition, the university will continue to leverage current partnerships with other institutions and community partners and actively pursue new ones to ensure teacher candidates and teachers have the support they need. Anton said there is no way to effectively prepare teachers to meet the needs of Oklahoma communities without them.

“We want to be an innovative partner as we work with stakeholders so that we can continuously improve and serve,” Anton said. “The goal is that those who graduate, earn certificates or earn micro-credentials/badges in education, have the confidence, skills, knowledge and dispositions to successfully engage and facilitate learning.”

Named for Augustus F. Hawkins, the first Black politician elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi River, the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program supports comprehensive, high-quality teacher preparation programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.

NSU was one of 12 institutions in the nation to receive the grant. Anton said for decades NSU has been known in the state as a top preparer of quality teachers and is one of the most affordable.

In addition, Anton said university education programs offer hands-on learning opportunities which stems from the belief that quality practical/clinical experiences are critical to the preparation of effective and confident educators.

“Our faculty and staff are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others, and this manifests itself in many ways—such as, smaller class sizes, mentoring, writing grants that offer resources and funding, convenient timing and class delivery modes and relevant curricula,” Anton said. “Every day, we are striving to innovatively meet the needs of those interested in education professions.”

To learn more about the education programs at NSU visit coe.nsuok.edu.