St. Thomas Students Volunteer at Christ is Risen dual language Catholic School
Mark Brown / University of St. Thomas

A $6.8M SEED Grant Funds St. Thomas Education Students

The School of Education has received a $6.8 million federal SEED grant to recruit and train over 300 special education and elementary teachers in Minnesota. St. Thomas is a leader in "grow your own" pathways to teaching, as evident by receiving several federal and foundation grants to reduce barriers to teaching and to support teacher pathways.

Over the next three years, the grant will provide 120 scholarships annually ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to School of Education graduate students earning a special education or elementary education license at St. Thomas. Additionally, the grant will provide much-needed financial support for undergraduate Dougherty Family College students to complete their unpaid internships in schools during their required training experiences.

Brendon Sackey works with a group of students
Brendon Sackey works with a group of students as part of his student teaching placement at University Avenue Elementary School.
Abraham Swee / University of St. Thomas

"The teacher shortage in Minnesota and throughout the United States is at a critical stage. This grant will help us to increase the number of well-prepared educators across the state, including those from diverse communities, to teach in underserved schools with high need for special education professionals," said co-project director Dr. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan, a School of Education professor. 

“This grant leverages district and school partnerships in our Work and Learn and Teacher Residency pathways,” co-project director Associate Professor Dr. Shelley Neilsen Gatti said. “And it acknowledges the importance of collaborative and embedded teacher preparation.”

University of St. Thomas and Dougherty Family College students volunteer in a 5th grade class at Christ is Risen Catholic School in South Minneapolis on April 12, 2023. Pictured: Alejandra Soria, DFC

Additionally, the grant supports a pilot program with Dougherty Family College students who express an early interest in teaching but consider other paths when they compare student loan payments against a typical teacher's starting salary.

"The generous SEED grant will motivate more diverse, first-generation college students to pursue their teaching dreams without incurring student loan debts," said DFC Dean Buffy Smith. "The grant will allow scholars who have a heart to teach to follow their calling without sacrificing the financial well-being of themselves and their families. This grant is a real investment and commitment to preparing, retaining, and diversifying talented teachers."

The grant was written and submitted by Stansberry Brusnahan, Neilsen Gatti, and Dr. Todd Busch, special education department chair.

Visit the School of Education for more information about these community partnerships and unique pathways to becoming a teacher.