THEC Grant to University of Memphis Program will Provide Professional Development
and Mentoring Support for Memphis Teachers
The only capacity-building grant this year from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission
(THEC) for its Improving Teacher Quality grant program was awarded to Dr. Sandra Cooley-Nichols
in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences at the University of Memphis.
Cooley-Nichols is an associate professor in the College’s Department of Instruction
and Curriculum Leadership.
The project, “Building Effective Practices in Reading, Mathematics and Writing: Professional
Development and Mentoring Support,” increases knowledge and skills related to inclusive
classroom practices for teachers who have students with disabilities in their classroom.
The $150,000 award will serve 30 teachers and 20 administrators from nine schools
in Memphis City Schools identified as not meeting annual yearly progress (AYP) requirements
where students with disabilities was a subgroup. Individuals’ participation is voluntary
and will be approved by school administrators and the school district leadership.
Each participant will be eligible to earn six semester hours of graduate credit at
the U of M College of Education, Health and Human Sciences in courses that focus on
instruction in mentoring strategies, collaboration, and co-teaching (general and special
education instructors working together in the classroom), as well as practical integration
of reality-based assignments in reading, mathematics and writing.
“Many teachers do not feel sufficiently prepared for the unique demands of working
in an inclusive classroom,” said Dr. Cooley-Nichols. “This grant will make it possible
to provide teachers with the training and support that is critical for ensuring that
the needs of all their students, especially those with special education needs, are
The participating administrators from Memphis City Schools will be trained through
the New Teacher Center at the University of Memphis. Dr. Vivian Morris, associate
dean of the College and director of its New Teacher Center, collaborated with Dr Cooley-Nichols
on the development of the grant and will oversee the mentor training component. The
goal of New Teacher Center training is to prepare administrators to mentor, support,
and supervise novice teachers.
The College of Education, Health and Human Sciences dates to 1912, when the U of M’s
predecessor, West Tennessee State Normal School, first opened for the education of
teachers. Today, the College enrolls more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students
in its nationally-accredited professional education programs. In the College’s four
departments, 57 degree programs prepare students for varied career paths in education.