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UT is helping to expand educational opportunities for deaf youngsters in the Southeast and rural Appalachia.

The UT Center on Deafness has received a $1.25 million federal grant to increase the number of deaf education teachers in the region. The program, the Tennessee Education of the Deaf Personnel Preparation Project, is now accepting applicants with coursework to begin in January.

The program is designed to address the shortage of certified teachers for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, said David H. Smith, associate professor and director of the UT Center on Deafness.

“It’s pretty well known that retention is not the issue for deaf teachers,” he said. “They love their job. It’s that there are not enough of them.”

The grant provides up to five years of funding for teacher education, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees and licensure. In exchange, participants must commit at least two years of service for every year of support received.

UT was one of fourteen entities nationwide to receive the grant. Vanderbilt University is the only other institution in the state to get funding.

Deaf education training programs are closing across the United States because they don’t have enough students or because the faculty members who train those students are retiring, said Kimberly Wolbers, associate professor of deaf education. UT’s program participants will be equipped to serve students from pre-K to age 22 and help reduce the language achievement gaps of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, she said.

The training also will open multiple career paths for the students, whether in local school systems or around the country, she said.

Some of the participants will likely be from rural Appalachia and the program will prepare them to go back and serve in their communities, Wolbers said.

This is not UT’s first foray into addressing deaf education.

“UT has a rich history related to the profession of working with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing since it began working with Tennessee School for the Deaf in 1937 to train teachers,” Smith said.

The program is housed in the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education, based in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. It is a collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee School for the Deaf, the Tennessee Office of Teacher Licensing, and local school systems.

To learn more about the UT Center on Deafness, visit the website.

Learn more about the Education of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teacher Preparation Program online.



Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

David H. Smith (865-974-0607,