New Wisconsin Idea grants venture into diverse territory

Brian Mattmiller, University Communications

The Waisman Center’s Early Childhood program was recently awarded a Wisconsin Idea Grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Endowment.  Joan Ershler, PhD, with the Waisman Center and Carol Keintz with the Dane County Parent Council will lead the project, named Teachers TeachingTeachers.  State records indicate that only about half of all Head Start teachers have an early childhood degree, yet they work with a highly needy population. This project will use a professional development model that will pair experienced staff from the Waisman Center’s Early Childhood Program with teachers from Dane County Head Start.  WECP staff will provide an intensive mentoring program, working side-by-side with Head Start teachers in their classrooms helping them with strategies to facilitate classroom management, children’s self-regulation and positive social interaction. Designed as a three-year project, it is intended also to train Head Start teachers to be mentors themselves to other teachers so that the program may extend beyond the funding period.

Just under $500,000 in grants were allocated to eight projects through the 2006-2008 Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment. The Baldwins generously funded the endowment in 2002 to provide a steady stream of support for projects that enhance Wisconsin’s people, culture and way of life.

“This endowment gives us an opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise and create partnerships with many different people around the state,” says Virginia Sapiro, interim provost. “The Baldwins believe that the strength of the university is its people and their connection to society. This program helps us build new relationships every year.”

The eight winners were chosen from more than 80 submitted proposals in 2005, a number that continues to grow with each funding cycle. “The large number of proposals indicates that our faculty, staff and students really care about becoming engaged and using their expertise to make a difference in the community,” Sapiro says.