Mackenzie Savaiano, assistant professor of practice and coordinator of the graduate program in visual impairments, has been awarded a grant of nearly $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.
Working in collaboration with Malinda Eccarius, associate professor of practice and director of the deaf education program, Savaiano will use the personnel preparation grant to train at least 30 graduate students to teach children and youth with sensory disabilities. The Mid-Plains Professional Upgrade Partnership — Sensory Disabilities program will include collaborative coursework in both visual impairments and deafness to prepare teachers to work with individuals with dual sensory loss.
“We know that children who are visually impaired or deaf or hard of hearing have a strong likelihood of having additional disabilities, including some level of a second sensory disability, so we are very excited to offer our MPUP-SD program to provide teachers with training in both areas,” Savaiano said. “This region of the country, particularly Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, is in desperate need of highly qualified teachers to work with children who are visually impaired and deaf or hard of hearing.”
The grant will specifically target teachers in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, but the MPUP-SD program is open to educators from across the country who are interested in pursuing graduate coursework in sensory disabilities. Money from the grant will cover tuition costs, professional memberships and travel to Nebraska for in-person summer institutes and seminars for the program’s participants.
“The department has a long history of practitioner preparation in the area of sensory disabilities,” said Sherri Jones, chair of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders. “This funding sustains that tradition and enhances the preparation of teachers to work with children who have visual and hearing impairments.”
UNL, which is one of only 14 institutions in the United States that offers endorsements in both visual impairments and deaf education, was one of 15 programs to receive OSEP grant funding this year out of 57 applications.