CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — More than $1 million was granted to Coastal Carolina University for a new training program to help with the early childhood special education teacher shortage.

The federal grant was given to CCU in September and will fund the program for the next five years.

Rhonda Miller, the associate professor of special education at CCU, says early childhood and special education are both demanding professions and can cause burnout quickly.

“Providing instruction to children with disabilities in those modalities became very difficult in trying to maintain all of the accommodations and modifications that needs to be done,” she said.

Miller hopes the grant will help draw interest to the career through the program “project bicycles.”

“I love the name ‘bicycles; because it’s symbolic to me,” she said. “A bicycle has two tires. Well, it’s early childhood plus special education, and you have to balance your bicycle when you ride it, right? So, we’re balancing these two programs to serve these kids.”

The program will allow for 28 people. The first year of the grant will be used for planning and recruiting.

They’re currently looking to recruit 18 CCU undergraduates who are interested in getting their teaching degree and 10 in service teachers.

Miller said that through the program, CCU grads working to get their bachelors will receive a license in early childhood special education and those who are already teaching can add the certification to their license.

“We’re going to be providing partnerships with supporting organizations, we’re going to have a multitiered system of supports where we’re going to monitor the students’ progress and provide intervention when they seem to falter to support them so that they can complete the program,” she said.

The program will also offer a well being component. Miller said if the teachers feel better, then their students will feel better and vice versa. She said the hybrid class will meet once per week and they hope to start the program this summer.

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Jackie LiBrizzi is a multimedia journalist at News13. Jackie is originally from Hamilton, New Jersey, and was raised in Piedmont, South Carolina. Jackie joined the News13 team in June 2023 after she graduated as a student-athlete from the University of South Carolina in May 2023. Follow Jackie on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and read more of her work here.