University of New England sophomore Mackenzie Bates works with a student at the Biddeford Primary School. Courtesy photo

The University of New England recently received a $159,000 grant from the Maine Department of Education to offer scholarships to students who work as educational technicians, or ed techs, in Maine schools.

Ed techs work in schools providing support services to teachers. Right now, there is a great demand for ed techs in schools throughout Maine.

Two UNE students are currently working in Biddeford Schools as ed techs, including sophomore Mackenzie Bates.

“I am in the functional life skills classroom at Biddeford Primary School, working with special needs students,” Bates explained. “I am normally working one-on-one with them, going through their day and working on skills. I am there to support them in both their special education classroom setting and in their general ed setting.”

Students can earn from $1,000 to $5,000 in scholarship money per semester, depending on how many hours they put in. The students also get paid by the school department they work for.

“It is definitely a win-win situation any time we can partner with our local universities and get pre-serviced teachers or educational technicians into our buildings,” stated Mandy Cyr, Biddeford’s assistant superintendent of instruction.


The announcement of the grant was timely for students at UNE, which began offering special education as a major this fall.

“The teacher shortage is a national problem, and Maine is no exception,” stated Audrey Bartholomew, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator of special education programs. “One area that is impacted greatly is special education. It has always been an area identified in Maine as having a shortage. UNE has just started a major that leads students to certification in special education. We will be actually graduating our first student in May.”

Bates says she fell in love with the work of ed techs when she visited the Biddeford Primary School last year as part of her Intro to Teaching class.

“I feel it is really important to support all of these students who have higher support needs,” she commented. “They otherwise may not be getting the help they need either at school or at home. It gives you a boost of confidence that what you are doing actually does matter.”

The grant runs through December 2024.