Special Education Scholarship aids UW-River Falls teacher education students

May 16, 2016 -- Two University of Wisconsin-River Falls Teacher Education students have received a scholarship established to honor alumni with a passion for special-needs children.

Elizabeth Tomala, an elementary education major from Pierz, Minn., and Rachel Wilson, a biology and broad field science education major from Eau Claire, each received $3,000 as part of the Mickey McDermott Special Education Scholarship.

The scholarship was established with the mission of financially supporting students with an interest in special education. McDermott was a longtime resident of New Richmond. She taught special education for 30 years and pioneered a teaching program that was a model for schools around the state.

Wilson said the scholarship will allow her to focus on her studies without the stress of worrying about funding her tuition.

"I immediately felt relieved knowing that I would not have to take out another student loan," Wilson said.

It's the same for Tomala, who said the scholarship will help pay for living expenses and tuition while she's student teaching. Pursuing a license to teach special education is a lifelong goal for Tomala, who has worked with children and adults with disabilities since high school.

"I felt honored that I was awarded this scholarship, not just for the money, but also because of what the scholarship stood for," Tomala said.

For more information, contact Larry Solberg, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, at 715-425-3774 or

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