HONOLULU (KHON2) — The U.S. Department of Education’s Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program has awarded the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s College of Education with a $1.6 million grant to help Hawai’i train bilingual/multilingual teachers of color.

The program, known as Project Equal Access, is spearheaded by SPED professor and chair, Jenny Wells. Its intention is to create a more diverse teacher workforce that will serve students of color in rural and remote communities.

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In Hawai’i, the program is targeting Native Hawaiians, Asian American, Native Amercian and Pacific Islanders who want to develop and pursue special education.

“We are deeply honored to be acknowledged as a Center of Teaching Excellence by the USDOE. This award will enable us to enhance our teacher preparation programs and increase our ability to prepare and support diverse special educators,” Wells said.

“We are committed to the goals of the Hawkins programs and are eager to begin this work in conjunction with our COE and Hawaiʻi Department of Education partners,” explained Wells.

The four-year project will supplement the existing COE special education teacher training programs that UH offers. It is co-directed by Associate Specialist Linda Oshita and Assistant Specialist Janet Kim.

The focus of this particular grant will be to help recruit, prepare, support, place and retain teachers in high-need areas who can support underserved students.

“Our diverse student population mirrors the multicultural profile of the state with 76 percent of teacher candidates being students of color,” Wells added. “Project Equal Access will address the disproportionately underrepresented Native Hawaiian, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander special educators within the teacher workforce.”

According to the College of education, the grant “will address five areas: reduction of inequity and inadequacy in resources and opportunities in teaching license programs; increase in the effective use of technology, instructional techniques, and strategies.

It is also meant to provide “preparation of teacher candidates to design and deliver instruction in ways that are engaging and provide opportunities to think critically and solve complex problems, apply learning in authentic and real-world settings, and communicate and collaborate effectively.”

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And it will help in “preparation of teacher candidates to build meaningful and trusting relationships with their students’ families and sustained and high-quality preservice clinical experiences and mentoring of teacher candidates by exemplary teachers.”