OGDEN, Utah – A pioneering program at Weber State University designed to increase the number of teachers trained to work with students with disabilities has received funding for a new cohort.
WSU’s Project PRIME (Preparing Research-based Inclusive Multidisciplinary Educators) was created in 2007 to help the state of Utah develop and train more special education teachers. The program’s first cohort of 11 students graduated in December 2008. A second cohort of 15 students is now midway through their studies.
Funding for the program comes from a State Improvement Grant offered through the Utah State Office of Education. Annual funding ranges from $65,000 to $75,000, which covers all of the costs excluding books and transcript recording.
Housed in the Department of Teacher Education in WSU’s Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education, Project PRIME was developed by teacher education professor Fran Butler, who has served as the project director since its inception.
The program is available to individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and already are working in local charter and public schools assisting students with mild to moderate disabilities. Candidates are nominated by their school district or charter school. Selection criteria include post-secondary experience, submission of a brief essay outlining reasons for wanting to become a special educator and an in-person interview.
“We keep the cohort size to 15 or fewer students, which allows for more individualized and intensive training,” Butler said.
In addition to traditional course offerings, the program requirements are met through special evening sections, summer classes and workshops, and online courses. The flexibility in the schedule helps accommodate students who work full-time in area school districts.
“We’ve had students come from as far away as Heber City and the Provo/Orem area,” Butler said, as well as the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, and Davis, Jordan, and Weber school districts, and charter schools from across northern Utah.
Nicole Broberg, who is now the special education director at East Hollywood High School in West Valley City, Utah, graduated from Project PRIME in December.
“Project PRIME was an awesome opportunity that opened so many doors for me,” said Broberg. “It gave me the chance to fulfill my dream of becoming a special education teacher.”
The program is currently accepting applications for the new cohort of students, who will start fall semester 2009.
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