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Grant Aiding Future Teachers Will Benefit LCO College Through Shared Resources

For more info: Dr. Kelli Chelberg,

KESHENA, WI – The College of Menominee Nation (CMN) is one of six U.S. institutions of higher education to be selected for grants from the Early Educator Investment Collaborative (EEIC). CMN, which will receive $674,000, is the only awardee from a Midwestern state and the only tribal college to be chosen.

Funds will support initiatives for students preparing for work in the field of Education, one of the most popular career paths for those enrolled in CMN’s Associate Degree program. At the baccalaureate level, more than 70 percent of all CMN graduates hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

Two other Wisconsin colleges are benefiting from the grant through shared resources and providing multiple pathways and opportunities for students. Madison’s Edgewood College is collaborating with CMN in offering its Advanced Certification in Elementary Education. Students at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in Hayward will be eligible for scholarship assistance and support innovations as a result of the grant. The Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) provided grant application support and is partnering with CMN in providing scholarship and professional development opportunities for students of all three of the partner colleges.

Along with the award to CMN, this year’s EEIC grants are going to California State University, Sacramento; University of Colorado, Denver; Georgia State University; North Seattle College; and University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

EEIC funding comes from an alliance of eight major U.S. foundations that support the EEIC vision of “a country where there is no opportunity gap among children, (and) where every child makes lasting gains in cognitive, social, and emotional development through their early care and education experience.”

Through the combined $10.4 million in grants being awarded in 2021, the Collaborative aims “to elevate the early care and education workforce, break down systemic barriers in higher education for early educator students of color, and promote professional compensation for a workforce frequently paid unjust wages.”

"I was actually speechless when news came that the Collaborative had selected the College of Menominee Nation,” says Dr. Kelli Chelberg, CMN faculty member and author of the competitive-grant application. “This award benefits not only our teacher education students, but ultimately will have a significant impact on the children who our graduates are going to serve in our schools and in our broader community, on and off the reservation.”

The Collaborative’s goal of helping educators who are just entering the field aligns well with CMN faculty goals. “Beginning that first classroom assignment is an exciting and stressful time for new Education graduates,” Chelberg says. “If we can help make it a smooth transition through coaching and mentoring, the new educator will navigate the year more successfully, start a pattern of effective teaching, and provide the greatest benefit to his or her students.”

The award, which provides funds through May 2023, will support CMN’s plans for innovative changes in teacher preparation. Key among these will be development of a continuum of culturally responsive educational pathways to success for CMN students and multiple layers of support for graduates in the first year of their teaching careers.

A significant percentage of the Education program’s students at CMN are tribal members or descendants, with many living on Wisconsin reservations, and almost all preparing for work in communities having a significant number of American Indian families, as well as other ethnic groups.

“Many of our students have personally experienced cultural barriers and trauma,” Chelberg says. “They see the impact on children in their community, and we hear from them over and over again how they want to help make a difference by becoming teachers. They have tremendous hope and potential for being change agents, but are weighed heavily by economics, family responsibilities, the demands of school, and the need for mentoring.”

Chelberg adds, “We have always worked hard at making incremental advancements in our teacher education processes. Now, being able to simultaneously invest in adapting our delivery system to address challenges of low-income working/parenting students while building on the teaching-lodge model and other support systems, is going to be giant step forward for our program. I am thankful for the Collaborative’s help in creating more viable, effective, and culturally relevant pathways for the future educators who want to work with our youngest and most vulnerable assets, our children.”

In announcing the year’s grants, the Collaborative noted that “People of color, primarily women, make up nearly half of the ECE (early care and education) workforce and yet are not provided equal access to higher education, ongoing professional development, or professional compensation, especially in comparison to their peers in K-12 and despite the inherent complexity of their profession. They face a patchwork of federal, state, and local programs that vary in purpose, funding, and quality. These structural insufficiencies affect the workforce overall and affect early childhood educators of color disproportionately. And this has a direct impact on the learning outcomes of our nation’s children.”

“We must support the professionalization of our ECE workforce,” said Dr. Rebecca Gomez, Program Officer at the Heising-Simons Foundation and co-chair of the Collaborative. “We need to attract, retain, and financially support students who bring racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity to a field that educates and cares for our equally diverse young people.”

The College of Menominee Nation is an accredited tribal college chartered by the Menominee People. CMN offers Bachelor Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Associate degrees, as well as technical diplomas in a number of fields. Its Early Childhood/Elementary Education baccalaureate program is approved by the Wisconsin Department of Education.

The College began offering classes on the Menominee Reservation in January 1993 and opened on its current 52-acre site in Keshena in 1994. Classes are also available at CMN’s urban facilities in Ashwaubenon and online. While enrollment is open to all, about 70 percent of all students and a similar percentage of all alumni are enrolled members or descendants of American Indian tribes.


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