Because she will be the first graduate of UNO’s teacher an innovative program that establishes a career pipeline between high-achieving students from across the state to classrooms in the Omaha metro area – her diploma will be more of a baton that is passed on to a long line of teachers that will follow her in addressing the state’s teacher workforce needs.
“I’m going to be so nervous that I think I’ll trip and fall,” Vaughan, a Papillion native, and daughter of a second-grade teacher, said through a laugh.
Her kind spirit and caring nature in the face of a great responsibility will make her an outstanding teacher in the near future, according to Teacher Scholars Academy Director Dr. Gerry Huber. She has developed a strong bond with Vaughan and the members of the program’s inaugural cohort who came to UNO as freshmen in 2019. The scholars will have what it takes to make an impact.
“These students have gone through a COVID experience and demonstrated tenacity, grit, resilience, and grace while pursuing their education goals,” Huber said. “They’re going to use the strategies they’ve learned to enrich their future classrooms.”
The Teacher Scholars Academy launched in 2019 with a select group of high-achieving teacher candidates from across the state and Omaha metro area with a mission to prepare students to teach in diverse settings, and strengthen their strong leadership and collaboration skills through experiential learning experiences, special projects, and seminars. Thanks to the generosity of donors, each teacher scholar receives up to 120 credits of in-state tuition per year in addition to partial coverage of room and board, books, and fees. The fourth cohort of 2022 continues the scholarship program thanks to a partnership with the Omaha Public Schools district. The 2022 scholars have committed to employment with the OPS district upon graduation.
“The students tell me the scholarship portion of the program is awesome – having their college education paid for,” Huber said. “But the benefit is that sense of community, support, and networking they have through their cohort experience.”
The program is designed to keep all new teacher scholars together as a cohort in many learning and development activities through their freshman and half of their sophomore years before moving out into their major plans of study in elementary, secondary, and special education. Thanks to support from across the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS) from faculty, academic advisors, and CADRE associates, teacher scholars have posted an astounding 91 percent retention rate across four cohorts.
What’s next for Vaughan sheds light on another effort to assist Omaha Public and other metro area school districts in their teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
Once she graduates with her undergraduate degree, she will enter the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences cadre project – an accelerated, 14-month master’s program that places UNO masters students into full-time teaching roles in the classrooms of participating school districts as they work toward their degree. She will teach in an elementary classroom in the Omaha area – likely Papillion – where she will make an impact on the lives of young students close to home.
The spotlight on graduation day will be shining extra bright on Teagan as she wears a special teacher scholars stole over her graduation gown and fulfills her duties as student marshal for CEHHS.
Because of the Teacher Scholars Academy, whatever challenges and opportunities the teaching profession presents to Teagan, she will be ready.
“Going through TSA, you get a deeper understanding of the career field,” she said. “I’m proud of taking on a challenge like this. Education can be hard, but it’s definitely worth it.”