Thousands of teachers in the Wyoming school system prepare students for their future lives as state leaders and professionals, and the University of Wyoming is working to ensure educators are ready for the challenge.

The UW Board of Trustees Education Initiative reached a major milestone recently with the reception of a $5 million grant from the Daniels Fund, a foundation dedicated to providing grants, scholarships and other programs to people and organizations in the Rocky Mountain region.

Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund, explained what set UW apart from other institutions during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“We work with education reform in four states, and you see a lot of proposals and a lot of ideas about different ways to improve education and keep up with times,” she said. “Nothing has been as gutsy and as big of an idea as what you are undertaking.”

Created in November 2014, the initiative is meant to elevate the UW College of Education to one of the top schools in the country, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said.

“We want the rest of the nation to look at the University of Wyoming College of Education teacher preparation program and say, ‘How did you do that in Wyoming, and how can we do that?’”

The initiative is meant to raise the program to new heights, Education Dean Ray Reutzel said, by transforming it “… to an educator preparation program that reflects the best evidence-based practices in the field and among the most highly recognized educator preparation programs anywhere in the nation. In short, the College of Education programs will go from what is good to what will be great.”

While a preeminent collegiate program is a great goal, the Trustee Education Initiative is just as important to Wyoming residents, UW Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee said.

“(The initiative will) turn out the very best prepared teachers in the country,” he said. “So, what are we going to do with those teachers? They’re going to go into our K-12 system, and our K-12 students are going to have the benefit of these highly prepared teachers. And these K-12 students are going to graduate from high school having had that benefit, and they’ll be the best prepared K-12 students in the country. And they’re going to go our economy and our culture, and they’re going to lead our economy and our culture in the futures.”

The grant marks the start of a long-term process, UW President Dick McGinity said. The initiative will not take a year or two to complete and integrate into the college.

“This is a very long-term relationship,” he said. “This is a major milestone in that relationship. The state of Wyoming and the university are privileged to have this relationship with the Daniels Fund.”

The next step of the process, creating a Trustees Education Initiative Board, should be done during an upcoming Trustee meeting, and the search for an executive director for the program is ongoing, Palmerlee said.

Before implementing any new ideas in the college, they first need to identify innovative teaching strategies elsewhere. College of Education faculty members, board members and education experts will travel the nation in search for the best practices and programs in school districts and other institutions, perhaps taking two years.

The trustees will take a step back during this process, Palmerlee said.

“It will be governed by the TEI Board, with the ultimate approval being the Board of Trustees,” he said.

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