Grant for B.R.I.D.G.E Project approved: How it will help SLU students and future teachers


Samantha Sims

The Charles E. Cate Teacher Education Center building standing tall on General Pershing Street.

The College of Education was awarded a $5 million grant to aid in the employment of recent college graduates and the promotion of diversity in the teaching profession through an initiative known as the B.R.I.D.G.E. project. 

The B.R.I.D.G.E. Project stands for Building Rigorous Induction and Development for Growing all Educators. New teachers participating in the program will work with a mentor at a school site and a faculty member from Southeastern during their first two years on the job, receiving support that is meant to keep the teacher in the profession.

The program will start with the May 2023 undergraduate class and continue for the next five years. Each year $1 million dollars will be put toward the progression of the project. 

Paula Calderon, the Dean of the College of Education, explained the progression of the project. 

“Currently our partner districts are Tangipahoa Parish for the first year, St. Charles Parish for the second year, and then we will add parishes for the third and fourth year,” Calderon said. 

One of the main reasons for the establishment of this program is that Louisiana does not have an induction program.

“Thirty one states require a full induction program and an additional 10 require induction or mentoring for a year,” said Cherissa Vitter, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. 

Calderon explained teachers are thrown into difficult situations and expected to know how to handle them their first year as a teacher. The hope is the program assists teachers through mentorship during difficult periods. Mentors will also give feedback to the new teachers on how to handle various aspects of being in the classroom. 

It’s just that there is so much that goes into teaching if you don’t have someone helping you navigate you can get lost in trying to figure out the platform,”Vitter stated. 

The grant will fund various positions to further the project. One role will include data monitoring and collection, along with close collaboration with the district. This will also help in the recruitment aspect of the project.

Recruitment of teachers from underrepresented populations is one of the major goals of the project. Calderon explained the teacher population does not match the student population.

Diversifying the teacher population and diversifying Southeastern’s teacher population, meaning our Southeastern students,” is the goal, she said. 

This was an ambition that began as long ago as the 2008 budget cuts. Before the budget cuts, universities were able to dispatch faculty members to assist new teachers. This has been a pipe dream,” Calderon said, “But now that we have money behind it, we are able to put it in motion.” 

After the five years, Calderon and Vitter hope that the B.R.I.D.G.E Project will go statewide and partner with neighboring states. Vitter noted Southeastern cares about their students, so faculty want to ensure new teachers are taken care of even after they graduate. However, the main group benefitting from the project will be the new teacher’s students. I know we did this for the teachers, but ultimately the benefits of this are the K-12 students. Because we are supporting teachers so that they can better teach in the classroom,” Vitter said.