As the University of Arkansas at Little Rock strives to enhance its teacher education program to become a "premier provider" of teachers in Arkansas, the Windgate Foundation has stepped up to assist with a $3.5 million grant.
The grant to endow a directorship of UALR's School of Education will help make sure graduates are ready to teach on Day One, which can ameliorate the state's teacher shortage, according to Angie Faller, UALR news director. "Primary goals will be strengthening partnerships with K-12 schools and state school districts, increasing enrollment, supporting curricular innovation and meaningful assessment, raising awareness of the program and raising funds to support teacher preparation efforts."
Chancellor Christina Drale and Sarah Beth Estes, dean of UALR's College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, both expressed their gratitude for the grant.
"High quality teacher education has never been more important," Drale said in a news release from the university. "This funding will help us sustain strong leadership for the program and will make possible further investment in innovative teacher preparation at UA Little Rock."
The Windgate Foundation, established in 1993 and based in Little Rock, is a private foundation that provides grants in the areas of contemporary craft, visual arts in education, and Arkansas education, health, and community.
The Windgate Foundation is a longtime "friend" to both UALR generally and the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education specifically, Estes stated in the university's release. "Their commitment to improving teacher preparation efforts will not only impact students at UA Little Rock, but it will pay dividends for children in Arkansas for generations to come."
In the fall of 2022, UALR's School of Education had 151 undergraduate majors, a figure that does not include secondary education minors, Faller said.
Those at the foundation were "impressed" by the work of the chancellor and the education leadership team "in articulating their vision and plan to transform teacher education," Pat Forgy, executive director of Windgate Foundation, said in the release. "These critical improvements will allow UA Little Rock to provide a clear pathway for classroom-ready teachers in Arkansas. It is our honor to support this effort, and we look forward to seeing the impact it will have in the years ahead."
Since 2021, UALR has received more than $550,000 from Forward Arkansas to develop an innovative model focused on reimagining teacher education, and "the generous support from the Windgate Foundation allows the university to strengthen its transformative work by launching a national search for the first Windgate Director of the School of Education," according to Faller. The search will begin this fall with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2024, for the Windgate Endowed Director of the School of Education.
"Our faculty have worked incredibly hard to develop an innovative approach to how we approach teacher education and preparation," Estes said in the release. "The new Windgate Director of the School of Education will play a critical role in expanding that work so that by the time our students graduate they will be fully prepared for a rewarding career that will help build positive learning environments for K-12 students throughout Arkansas schools."