By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Teaching is a dream job for Darian Wilson.
“I’ve always enjoyed the concept of learning and learning itself,” she said. “The idea of getting to raise the next generation and being a part of so many people’s lives really inspires me.”
To achieve that dream, the Alliance High School graduate set her sights on the University of Nebraska at Kearney and its top-notch teacher education program.
She knew she wanted to be a Loper, but tuition costs and her ability to repay student loans after graduation were a concern.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be financially feasible,” said Wilson, who wondered whether community college would be a better option.
Wilson applied to UNK, where 77% of freshmen receive scholarship or grant awards averaging more than $9,000 annually, then started her search for financial aid. That’s when she learned about the new Teachers Scholars Academies announced in December.
The learning academies, offered at UNK, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha, provide full-tuition scholarships and academic support for incoming freshmen majoring in education. They’re designed to make college more affordable for prospective educators and increase the number of qualified teacher candidates available for Nebraska school districts.
For Wilson, the program was a no-brainer.
She was one of 180 students who applied for a spot in UNK’s inaugural Teachers Scholars Academy class. Of those applicants, 96 who met the academic requirements and other prerequisites were interviewed by members of an admission and scholarship committee.
Then they waited.
Wilson was sitting in class at Alliance High School, where she was involved in theater, speech and show choir, when the email arrived. She was selected for the 40-member cohort joining UNK’s Teachers Scholars Academy this fall.
“I literally screamed,” Wilson said. “I was just so happy. I told all my family after that. It was awesome.”
The 18-year-old plans to study secondary education with a language arts endorsement, at no cost to her or her family.
Each student selected for the Teachers Scholars Academy receives a scholarship funded by the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation that covers their full tuition – up to 120 credit hours – plus $8,000 annually for education expenses such as housing, books and food. At today’s tuition per credit hour at UNK, the scholarship package is worth roughly $56,000 over four years.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Wilson said. “I don’t have to worry about student debt, which is something that’s always plagued me. This is such an incredible opportunity.”
UNK’s Teachers Scholars Academy includes 40 students from 25 communities in Nebraska and one in Kansas. Their average ACT score is 25.4 and their average high school GPA was 3.93.
“It’s exciting how many young people across the state of Nebraska are wanting to become teachers,” said Sheryl Feinstein, dean of UNK’s College of Education. “We’re bringing in high-quality, well-rounded students who will be preparing our youth and future community members.”
The academy is fashioned as a learning community, with students taking certain classes together, sharing common experiences and working alongside each other. A final research project or capstone experience will also be collaborative, with students working in teams to present at a conference, seminar or workshop. Other enrichment activities include guest lectures, volunteer work and mentorships.
Feinstein believes the academy will produce quality teachers and strong leaders ready to move the state forward.
“Whether it be at the local, state or national levels, we’re hoping these students are well-prepared to go out and take on leadership roles in education,” she said.
More information on UNK’s Teachers Scholars Academy can be found at unk.edu/futureteachers.
UNK TEACHERS SCHOLARS ACADEMY
The following students, listed by hometown, were selected for UNK’s Teachers Scholars Academy:
Alliance – Darian Wilson
Anselmo – Mattie Bumgarner
Aurora – Aubrie Noriega-Waldemar
Bellevue – Dylan Hicks
Columbus – Britney Kouma, Emma Benck, Halla Paschold, Isaac McPhillips and Kaitlynn Meyer
Cozad – Carissa Jensen
David City – Ashley Roemmich
Goddard, Kansas – Sarah Brittain
Gothenburg – Lauren Waskowiak
Grand Island – Arianna Elstermeier, Aryanna Warner, Ashlyn Sutherland and Timothy Sikes
Gretna – Kati Harmon
Harvard – Jayleesa Wilkerson
Hastings – Bailey Kopisch and Sarah Waite
Imperial – Karsen Klooz
Juniata – Camryn Rasmussen and Hannah Krabel
Kearney – Shelby Pocock
Lincoln – Kylie Miller
Milford – Andrew Pierce
North Platte – Emily Ady and Mollie Combs
Omaha – Annalisa Hekl, Catherine Boyce, Isabelle Short, Sarah Collins and Zoe Sanders
St. Paul – Noah Thede
Sargent – Tristian Oxford
Spencer – Emma Stahlecker
Springfield – Jordan Harre
West Point – Gabrielle Goeden
Wood River – Jocelyn Rauert