“PREP” program aims to fill shortage of teachers in special education

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This article was published on WKYT by Ashton Jones on January 16, 2021.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – A new Western Kentucky University program will bring more special educators to Kentucky. The university received a $1.1 million federal grant for the PREP program.

“We’re looking for and have successfully found some of those people who are going to be the leaders in their field,” explains Dr. Christina Noel with WKU’s School of Teacher Education.

The U.S. Department of Special Education Projects awarded WKU the grant to further special education in the state and provide “the opportunity to better serve our partners and students with disabilities throughout the commonwealth by creating highly qualified teachers that are now able to work in our special education programs throughout our districts,” according to Dr. Susan Keesey of the School of Teacher Education.

The program is for collegiate students in special education or communication disorders to help high-intensity kids in K-12. Dr. Keesey and Dr. Noel say they hope to address the teacher shortage in special education.

“We have pulled in scholars from all over the state of Kentucky, so a lot of different regions are being represented in our project right now,” says Noel.

The first group of PREP students are going into their second semester, and the next group starts in the fall. Student Emma Taylor is apart of the first round–a group of just 10 students.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved working with children regardless of special needs or general education kids. I have family members with special needs so I kind of just gravitated toward that,” Taylor tells 13 News.

Taylor’s been a teacher for 17 years and says she wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to give her students, even more, saying, “they’re the light of my life and I can see so many rewards daily and it’s just extremely gratifying to see them every day and how much they gain.”

Her goals after the program are to stay in Barren County and keep teaching the kids she’s so passionate about.

The program is looking for individuals with a passion for working with students with high-intensity needs, leaders in their fields, and applicants from rural districts. The program is still open for applicants.

In order to enroll in the program, you must apply to the graduate school before applying for PREP.