Special Education graduate student joins efforts to combat teacher shortage
- Author: Lauren Weitlauf
- Author: Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Franklin native and teacher Charley Jo Allen is pursuing her master’s degree in special education through WKU’s Project PREP initiative. The program, which stands for “Preparing Rural Educators and Professionals for Students with High-Intensity Needs” welcomed its first cohort of Speech Language Pathologists and Special Education teachers in the fall of 2020.
These students will collaborate on combined graduate coursework and field experiences to serve K-12 students with high-intensity needs. This initiative, first announced in January of 2020, comes in light of the national special education teacher shortage – a critical issue that Allen knows personally.
“I have experienced budget cuts that resulted in special education assistants being laid off,” Allen said. “Due to this critical shortage, teachers are often hired for special education positions without appropriate certification. When this happens, teachers are without the necessary skill-set required to teach and make appropriate decisions for the students they service.”
Allen, who is a special education teacher in Simpson County, Kentucky, is already extremely well-versed in efforts and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of students of all abilities. “As an undergraduate, I was the Vice President of the Student Council for Exception Children at WKU,” Allen said. “I am [also] a graduate of the TopPrep program and hold dual certifications in Special Education: Learning Behavior Disorders and Elementary Education.”
When it comes to providing quality education for her students, Allen describes herself as extremely passionate. “I have really enjoyed teaching for the past two years, and I am always seeking ways to grow in my profession,” Allen said. “It takes so much more than a good heart to be an MSD [multiple severe disorders] teacher…strategies, interventions, resources all need to be second nature and tucked right away in the back pocket.”
Allen had not considered receiving her master’s degree until one of her undergraduate professors and PREP program director, Dr. Christina Noel, contacted her and encouraged her to apply. “I was immediately interested in the program and knew that it would be a good experience,” Allen said.
Upon graduating in 2022, Allen hopes for a setting where she can use the knowledge she gained from all three of her certifications to benefit her students. She is also looking forward to a classroom that is both inclusive and collaborative. In the interim, Allen will continue teaching at Simpson County schools while she participates in her online Project PREP curriculum.
Those interested in furthering their knowledge on WKU’s Project PREP initiative may visit the included site: https://www.wku.edu/projectprep/. For specific inquiries, please contact program director, Dr. Christina Noel, at email@example.com.