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Winston-Salem State University receives $1.17M grant to help prepare special education teachers

The Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) Department of Education was awarded $1,172,722 by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to recruit, prepare and support special education teachers. The funding will help WSSU continue the development and improvement of an alternative teacher preparation program.

The proposed teacher residency and apprenticeship program, named R.A.M.S.E.S (Residency and Apprentice Model: Supporting Equity in Schools), is designed to include two alternative pathways for preparing special education teachers.

Pathway One will support qualified individuals holding the North Carolina residency license and serving as teachers of record in public schools. These scholars will receive instructional and coaching mentoring support while completing the North Carolina Initial Licensure through an 18-month Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.

Pathway Two will serve as a pathway for undergraduates that encompasses four years plus one additional year in a teacher apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship model allows students – called residents – to work in a classroom alongside a mentor for a full year while completing the MAT coursework.

Dr. Cynthia Williams Brown, WSSU interim associate dean of Education, Quality Assurance and Community Engagement, and Dr. April Whitehurst, special education program coordinator, will serve as co-principal investigators on the grant. Mary Wilkerson, Educator Preparation Program assessment coordinator, is a co-investigator on the project and will provide evaluation and assessment support.

“We are thrilled to receive this generous grant from OSEP,” Brown said. “The apprenticeship model will provide a unique opportunity for aspiring teachers to gain hands-on experience, mentorship, and comprehensive training within a supportive and collaborative environment. This innovative program is specifically designed to enhance the quality of education for future generations and address the critical need for highly skilled educators in our community with a focus on special education.”

Most of the funds will be used to provide tuition and other financial support to aspiring special education teachers, she added.

Whitehurst agrees that “by providing support, flexibility and rigorous instruction, this program eliminates barriers that often stand in the way of qualified individuals who want to become teachers.”

Through the R.A.M.S.E.S. program, WSSU is dedicated to forging strong partnerships with local school districts, ensuring that aspiring teachers can work and learn alongside experienced educators. By immersing themselves in real classroom settings, participants will gain invaluable practical experience while receiving ongoing guidance and mentorship from seasoned professionals.

This immersive approach will allow aspiring teachers to develop a deep understanding of the challenges and rewards of the teaching profession, Brown said.

To help further the goals of R.A.M.S.E.S., Jeffrey Barnes was recently hired to serve as program coordinator. A graduate of Winston-Salem State University, he is returning with more than 20 years of experience working with youth and in the field of education.

WSSU’s Educator Preparation Program is committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. The program will not only benefit aspiring teachers but also contribute to the improvement of education in the region by equipping educators with the tools they need to support diverse learners and foster equity in schools.

For more information about R.A.M.S.E.S. and how to get involved, contact Jeffrey Barnes at (336) 750-2090 or via email at

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