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State grant to help teachers of disabled students

Majority of award to pay for educators’ UNM tuition

A grant awarded to UNM will help both established and aspiring teachers better serve disabled students in classrooms throughout New Mexico.

The $65,000 grant, provided by the New Mexico Department of Education, is aimed at helping teachers and schools provide better assistance to disabled students.

“The current problem is that many New Mexico schools don’t have a sufficient number of teachers trained to work with students with disabilities; it’s a statewide problem,” said Ruth Luckasson, coordinator of the emphasis in mental retardation and severe disabilities for the College of Education. “The bad outcome is that students without appropriate trained teachers will not receive the educational service that they have the legal right to.”

The majority of the grant will provide tuition for teachers interested in learning how to help disabled students.

Applicants who are awarded tuition will be allowed to take one or two classes from the college’s special education-emphasis in mental retardation and severe disabilities department.

“This is mostly for educators, and what is so important about it is that the overall goal is to improve education and schools particularly for students who have disabilities,” Luckasson said. “In order to achieve that goal, we are able to provide tuition reimbursement to general education teachers, registered principals, special education teachers and to students who are preparing for those roles and that’s just part of the grant.”

She said the grant will also be used to help some of New Mexico’s schools with technical assistance and research.

Luckasson said students with disabilities are often isolated and part of the grant will provide technical assistance to certain schools to enhance skills to help disabled students become part of the community.

UNM student Meg Ausbrook, who is working on a degree in elementary and special education, was recently awarded tuition for six credit hours via the grant. She said it has been a lifesaver in many ways, providing a look into her future career and easing her financial struggle as a working student.

“It’s like a preview of what I’m getting myself into even before the student teaching,” Ausbrook said about some of the hands-on training she has received through the program so far. “I think it is going to give me a broader spectrum of how to work with students and their families. A lot of times teachers look at students without even thinking about the families.”

Ausbrook is one of 55 students selected to receive assistance through the grant.

“This exemplifies the College of Education’s role as an institution that is doing a statewide service, the area’s need in special education is enormous,” said Jeff Hale, College of Education development director. “We have such outstanding faculty in the special education area that the credit for the grant goes to them.”

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For more information about the grant or how to apply for the program, call Luckasson at 277-7226.

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