Studying to become a teacher is no less costly than becoming an accountant, and yet starting salaries for teachers are almost 20 percent less and grow slower over time.
Because we know that fact isn't stopping idealistic future teachers from pursuing their dreams, and in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11, 2012), we've uncovered five great scholarship opportunities that can help put a dent in your college costs.
1. Teaching American history / government: For graduate students who are aspiring teachers or experienced secondary school teachers (grades 7-12) of American history, American government, or social studies, the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation funds up to $24,000 of each fellow's course of study toward a master's degree, which includes a concentration of courses on the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Fifty-seven fellows are selected annually from applicants from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the nation's island and trust territories.
[Check out the Best Education Schools rankings.]
2. Teaching physics: We don't believe the old axiom, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." We know that those who can, teach well—when property trained. If your love of physics is leading you down the teaching path, look no further for scholarship opportunities than the American Association of Physics Teachers.
AAPT awards scholarships of $2,000 annually—for up to four years—to high school seniors and undergraduate students who are enrolled or planning to enroll in physics teacher preparation courses.
3. Teaching math: It doesn't take a math major to understand the value of this scholarship opportunity, but you can't apply if you're not studying to be a math teacher: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics awards one $10,000 scholarship to a current college sophomore preparing to teach secondary school mathematics.
The deadline for this scholarship award—which is disbursed in two equal payments, one during the student's junior year and the other during the senior year—has just passed for the 2012-2013 school year, but we encourage math whizzes to check back next year for this incredible opportunity.
[Read about programs taming education grad students' costs.]
4. Teaching early childhood education: If you're more into the younger crowd of students and considering early childhood education for your future career, check out Bright Horizons Family Solutions. Bright Horizons offers scholarships ranging from $250 to $2,500 to full-time students pursuing degrees in early childhood education or a related field.
Qualified applicants will have completed either 30 credits of their associate degree program or 60 credits of their bachelor's degree program at an accredited U.S. college or university.
[Read more about job prospects for elementary school teachers.]
5. Teaching in the Montessori style: The American Montessori Society's Teacher Education Scholarships are awarded to aspiring Montessori teachers who have been accepted, are in the process of being accepted, or have already enrolled in an AMS-affiliated teacher education program.
Applicants are considered on the basis of financial need, a compelling personal statement, letters of recommendation, and official verification of acceptance into an AMS-affiliated program. In 2011, AMS awarded $37,000 to 16 students.
While future teachers have a wide variety of available scholarship opportunities, including those listed above (a simple online search using the keywords "scholarships for teachers" will bring hundreds of results), the awards likely won't make up the difference between tuition and future salary. For those who need more, another resource to tap is the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO; their funding database includes classroom donation opportunities, grants and awards, and even loan forgiveness programs.
One final note: The author wishes to thank her teachers, from kindergarten through grad school, for encouraging her to work hard and use her talents. She also wishes to thank her daughters' teachers for doing the same for them. We need you! Salut!
Janine Fugate joined Scholarship America in 2002. She is an alumna of the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minn., and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Fugate is the recipient of numerous scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate level.