FORT WAYNE — Before the outbreak of COVID-19 rocked the world, special education teachers were in high demand. As traditional teaching methods are drastically changing due to the pandemic, the region needs specialized teachers now more than ever.
Questa Education Foundation and AWS Foundation are partnering to meet this need, offering fully forgivable loans to individuals pursuing their special education licensure, provided they work in Northeast Indiana public schools in special education for five years after receiving their license.
Since beginning the partnership in 2019, 25 Questa Scholars have been accepted to the program and the first three graduates received their special education licenses this year. All of these graduates are teaching in special education classrooms in the Northeast Indiana region.
One Questa Scholar in the program is currently pursuing her special education licensure with a focus on moderate and intense interventions.
“It was not my intention to teach special education, but I was offered a position in a life skills special education class and I began to love teaching these kids. I knew this school year would be crazy, but it’s a blessing to be back in school and in-person with my students,” says Sarah Schmucker. Schmucker currently teaches in Fairfield Community Schools in Elkhart County and will graduate in 2021 with her special education license.
Scholars are eligible to receive up to $5,000 a year toward earning their licensure. Renewed funding support from AWS Foundation serves a critical need.
“The shortage of special education teachers creates an urgent need to support students pursuing this field,” said Elizabeth Bushnell, executive director of Questa Education Foundation. “AWS Foundation has the vision and commitment to provide funding that helps us accelerate the licensure of special education teachers in our schools.”
“We celebrate the talent and passion of special education teachers and recognize the pivotal role they play in preparing students with disabilities for full and meaningful lives,” said Patti Hays, CRO of AWS Foundation. “The cost of certification should not be the barrier for ensuring qualified special education teachers in our public schools.”
Many Questa Scholars pursuing education are optimistic about getting back in the classroom despite the pandemic and are excited to be back with their students this year.
“I want to improve our education system, better our schools and impact the lives of countless individuals. Because of the Questa program, I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree debt-free, said Nicole Winans, Questa Scholar.
Students currently pursuing their special education licensure can apply for funding support at www.questafoundation.org.