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TTU News

Tennessee Tech University’s Special Education Institute has some unlikely beneficiaries — the community’s elementary school children in grades kindergarten through sixth.

The program, which is designed to help special educators teaching on temporary alternative licenses, waivers or permits receive the endorsement they need to become fully licensed, offers a practicum during its accelerated summer session that provides math and reading tutorials to any child in that age range who wants to participate.

This is the second year the practicum has been included among the nine courses offered during the accelerated, 15-day summer session, and it requires participating teachers to provide instruction on both group and individual bases.

“It provides experience to our institute participants that they just can’t get during the school year, and it’s an excellent way for kids to make the transition from summer break to school session,” said Helen Dainty, an instructor of curriculum and instruction at TTU. “What’s more, it’s free for any child in those grades who chooses to participate.”

Tom Willis, director of TTU’s Special Education Institute agreed, saying, “The practicum is an opportunity for us to provide a wonderful community service, and it’s open to both special and general education students, so it becomes a heterogeneous group similar to those that would be found in any classroom.”

For special educators participating in the institute, the 15-day summer session gives them an opportunity to take several accelerated courses that will be applied toward helping them earn their full special education teacher license.

Tennessee had a shortage last year of about 860 special educators, which means each of those vacancies had to be filled by people teaching on temporary alternative licenses, waivers or permits and the need exists in the state for at least that many fully licensed special educators.

Most public universities in Tennessee and many private institutions offer Special Education Institutes with federal flow-through grant money administered by the Tennessee Department of Education.

Each university offering the year-round program can create its own course schedule, depending on the specific needs of its students. For instance, some other institutions may, like TTU, offer an accelerated summer session while others don’t.

Most do offer two different program strands — one for special educators of young children and another for K-12 special educators — and one even offers an academy geared specifically toward teaching gifted students.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide good teachers for every child, and TTU’s program has done so much to achieve that,” said Jennifer Nix, a representative of the Tennessee Department of Education’s special education division.

“Dr. Willis and his colleagues are always so helpful at every level, and they have the caring to find the resources to accommodate the needs of all students,” she concluded.

For more information about TTU’s Special Education Institute or next year’s summer session, call 931/372-3181 or go online to