UNLV College of Education Awarded $1 Million to Establish Highly-Selective Program to Recruit Promising Future Educators

Governor Sandoval’s “Top Gun” Initiative—the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation (NITEP)—seeks to prepare the “best and brightest” teachers to serve in Nevada schools; names its first cohort of Fellows

Spurring a program designed specifically to train high-potential candidates to become future teachers, the Nevada Department of Education awarded the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas a $1 million grant to initiate the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation (NITEP/Institute) at its board meeting on August 30.

NITEP, originally created during the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session via Senate Bill 548, will 1) Establish a highly selective program within the UNLV College of Education for the education and training of teachers; 2) Conduct innovative and extensive research to identify promising methods used to train educators and teach pupils; and 3) Continually evaluate, develop and disseminate the best identified approaches to teaching that address the varied settings in which students in Nevada are educated.

Noting a charge of the Institute is to add personnel to the teacher pipeline to fill necessary vacancies, Nevada State Senator (District 5) Joyce Woodhouse said, “we wanted to use this opportunity to develop an elite, rigorous program that recruits the best and brightest to Nevada. We intend for the students who participate in this program to be the example of the highly qualified teachers we want in our classrooms in front of our students.”

The State Board of Education selected the UNLV College of Education as the home institution for NITEP at its November 2017 meeting, allowing the College to spend the last nine months building the infrastructure, systems and programming for the Institute. As of September 26, the College has awarded the first cohort of 10 NITEP Fellows to begin their work at the start of the fall 2018 semester. Five fellows—Sara Del Mastro (Early Childhood Education), Jessica Gonzalez (Special Education), Ilyssa McBride (Elementary), Olaya Perez (Secondary Math) and Makenzi Solis (Special Education)—were selected as incoming freshmen, and an additional five—Zuleima Aguilar-Ramirez (Elementary), Jesus Basulto (Secondary  Social Studies), April Beardsley (Elementary), Caroline Farah (Secondary English) and Brooke Lantz (Elementary)—were identified as high-achieving full-majors already enrolled in teacher education programs within the COE.

Students identified as NITEP Fellows will receive differentiated instruction and have opportunities to participate in research that seeks to transform teacher preparation, providing increasing autonomy and professional responsibility for educator candidates during their college careers. Fellows will work on special projects and assume unique leadership roles in education; in future years, with the addition of supplementary, larger NITEP cohorts, there will be a steady stream of exceptional educators entering Nevada classrooms with the capacity to lead and expand their expertise. Participating students will also form a specialized improvement network, serving as mentors to future NITEP Fellows and connecting across schools to engage with the most challenging issues in education.

A key component of NITEP is ensuring that research findings are disseminated to both state agencies and national education stakeholders, allowing the most promising approaches to educator preparation to be broadly understood and implemented, resulting in highly effective classroom leaders. The College of Education will build upon its numerous existing partnerships, both inside and outside of Nevada, to explore new methods of engaging with educators and other colleagues in teacher preparation, ensuring the work of NITEP will have ongoing and far reaching impact in schools.

“The College of Education is committed to systematically studying and refining the best practices in educator preparation to ensure that we are preparing high-quality teachers to effectively educate the next generation of Nevadans,” said College of Education Dean Kim Metcalf. “We intend for NITEP to be a model program to challenge the status quo and build leaders poised to make an impact for generations to come. We are grateful for the support of the Nevada Department of Education and the vision of our state’s leadership to create this forward-thinking institution that will not only broaden opportunities for participating fellows, but help develop transferable and scalable processes to benefit all educators.”