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Grants For Teachers

Getting Started
Teaching has long been considered a noble profession, and many teachers start their careers hoping to make a difference. In one survey, over 70% of responding teachers identified "love of my subject" or "inspired by my teacher(s) at school" as two of the primary reasons for entering the profession.[1]

Many teachers leave the profession, often for reasons connected to why they became teachers in the first place. 76% of the teachers who responded to a recent survey identified a "heavy workload" as the primary reason for leaving teaching or considering a new career. Even the love of the profession and subject matter and the inspiration from former teachers are not enough to keep individuals in the field. And indeed, that same joy often drives many teachers to take on more than they have to, leading to burnout.

Financial incentives can help retain good teachers, despite the many stresses that come with being in the classroom. American teachers are vastly underpaid. One New York Times article claims that American teachers work more hours in a year than teachers in any other industrialized nation in the survey while receiving some of the lowest pay.[2] Teachers can find a whole host of grants and other monetary opportunities that can help to offset the high cost of getting certified as a teacher and working within the profession.

Government Grants for Earning a Degree
The U.S. Department of Education regularly posts teacher shortage areas.[3] These areas of high need are routinely unmet across the country, year after year, for a variety of reasons. Those who have a desire to move into areas of teaching where shortages exist can find government grants that will subsidize the cost of earning a degree or even pay for it outright.

The TEACH Grant provides $4,000 per year for those agreeing to teach in a low-income school. TEACH is the federal government's largest grant program for prospective teachers, providing a very significant amount of money for college students majoring in education. The government requires that individuals who apply for the program agree to teach in a low-income school. The government defines "low-income" or a Title I school, as a school that has a high percentage of students on the free or reduced lunch program. These are often inner city schools more populated by minority students, but many of these schools are also in impoverished rural regions of the country. Future teachers who want to earn this grant must agree to teach in one of the "high-needs fields," which currently include: Bilingual Education, English Language Acquisition, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Reading Specialist, Science, Special Education, and Regionally-Specific Shortages (identified in this document).

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness for Those Already in the Classroom
Many college students accrue student loan debt while attending university. One study found that the average teacher is paying $429 a month toward student loans incurred during their undergraduate and graduate education. The federal government offers loan forgiveness for qualified teachers.

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which is not widely known or exploited, provides loan forgiveness for teachers who meet several specific qualifications. First, the teacher must have taught in a Title 1 school (where 30% of the students are considered "low-income") for at least five years. Applicants cannot be in default on any current student loans, and the loans must come from before the end of the five consecutive years. Finally, the school employing the teacher has to be in the Annual Directory of Designated Low-Income Schools for Teacher Cancellation Benefits. Applicants must meet several other conditions, including having at least a bachelor's degree and full teaching licensure in the state where they work.

All teachers who qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, regardless of their subject or grade level, will receive a $5,000 forgiveness of their loans. Teachers of math, science or Special Education will receive $17,500 toward their loans.

Some teachers may qualify for Loan Cancellation. Teachers who obtained their student loans through the Federal Perkins Loan program and are qualified for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program may be eligible for complete forgiveness. The amount to be forgiven each year ranges from 15% for the first two years, 20% for the 3rd and 4th year, and 30% for the 5th consecutive year of teaching in a qualifying Title 1 school.

Additional Grants for Teachers
While the federal government's grant programs can be fairly generous, they only apply to those whose teaching credentials meet the given criteria. For all others, there may be some hope for grants with private and public organizations. These include grants for teachers who want to innovate in the classroom in some way, for teachers who want to develop their skills and talents professionally, teachers looking to become leaders in the field and several other interest areas.

NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants provide $2,000 to $5,000 for teachers to fund professional development goals. The organization stipulates that the money cannot be used to earn a degree.

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program provides $7,000 a month for STEM teachers to participate in fellowship programs.

Target Field Trip Grants provide up to $700 for teachers who have a desire to take students on enriching field trips but lack the funds to do so.

The ING Unsung Heroes Program provides $2,000 grants to innovate teaching techniques and practices, with winners taking home up to $25,000 in award money for new and inventive ideas.

Teachers can find more potential grant opportunities on the Teach.com website, a great location for many different teaching resources. Competition for some grants can be fierce, while others, such as the federal grants, are guaranteed for those who meet the criteria. For teachers feeling the stress of long hours and limited appreciation, these opportunities can make the difference between staying in the profession and leaving it. Not all applicants will succeed, but there's nothing to lose by trying!