$2.3 Million Dollar Gift Launches New Program to Help Prepare Elementary Education & Special Education Teachers

Posted on August 31, 2018

Being a leader in the field of education means staying ahead of trends and needs, as well as forging partnerships who share our values. One of the largest challenges facing our community, state, and nation is the lack of an adequate supply of exceptional elementary school teachers who have developed the skills necessary have an immediate positive impact on the lives of students they teach.

In October 2016, UNCG’s School of Education received the largest gift in its history – $2.3 million from the Tom Haggai and Associates (THA) Foundation. This gift, combined with matching funds secured by UNCG, has been used to create a permanent endowment for the Haggai Academy and other programs in support of teacher preparation.

“Since its inception in 1891, UNCG has a proud tradition of producing premiere educators who impact the lives of their students across the state and around the world,” said UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. when the gift was first received. “We could not be more grateful for Dr. Tom Haggai and the Tom Haggai and Associates Foundation for their generosity to UNCG and its School of Education, ensuring its continued success for many years to come.”

Launched in 2018, the Haggai Academy provides financial and professional support to non-traditional students who are preparing to become licensed school teachers in of North Carolina through initial licensure pathways, and addresses the growing shortage of classroom teachers in middle and high school. It also includes a leadership component for these students – called Haggai Scholars – focusing on ethics, service learning and professional development.

Earlier this spring, after completing the Haggai Academy Scholars Application, candidates were contacted to schedule a video-recorded interview session where they were asked a number of questions, such as: What is the biggest issue facing teachers today, and what solution would you suggest for this issue? The videos of candidates were assessed by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services (Dr. Jewell Cooper), two staff members in the SOE’s Office of Student Services and Advising, and one former member of the Haggai Board.

Using reviewer feedback for each candidate, eight students were chosen to be Haggai Scholars. Including the two renewals from last year, this gives the academy 10 scholars for the 2018-2019 school year.

As a parallel to the University’s strategic plan, the Haggai Academy encourages interdepartmental work within the School of Education, reaching far beyond teacher preparation, and thus making the experience of the student participants even stronger. For example, the Department of Teacher Education and Specialized Education Services will provide national and state-approved teacher licensure courses.

“As schools nationwide are suffering from a shortage of teachers, Haggai Academy promises to produce exceptionally prepared and motivated classroom teachers who will have a profound impact on the thousands of students who pass through their classrooms,” said UNCG School of Education Dean Randy Penfield.

History of the Tom Haggai and Associates (THA) Foundation

Founded on the principle of enriching the lives of children through education and community programming, THA has invested millions into helping nontraditional college students across the Southeast achieve their goal of becoming classroom teachers. More than $1 million of that money has gone to 170 students in UNCG’s School of Education.

The foundation was founded by Tom Haggai, a philanthropist, businessman, minister and recognized speaker. A former president and CEO of IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance), he now serves as chairman emeritus for the company. He also served as personnel director for the Boy Scouts of America from 1975 to 1977. Haggai earned a bachelor’s degree from Furman University, and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky in 2013. In 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from UNCG. Learn more.