As Towson University’s Presidential Scholar for Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation, Dr. Nancy Grasmick has worked tirelessly to improve educational opportunities for our student educators, those they will instruct, and the greater community. 

She has done this by working collaboratively across the university and within the external community to fund, design, pilot, and assess innovative initiatives in education.

Some of these initiatives are possible because of well-funded national grants.  Others rely on seed funding from external donors.  Unlike prescriptive grants that require several years of continuing a preset plan, seed funding allows Dr. Grasmick to cost effectively design small pilot programs, then implement and evaluate them.   Successful pilots then become models for future learning communities and scaling.

Teacher Preparation programs

Innovation and Leadership in Special Education

A collaboration with Kennedy Krieger Institute has resulted in a sophisticated, interdisciplinary internship opportunity that graduates highly qualified leaders in special education and the neurosciences. These carefully selected fellows are receiving an intensive experience at Kennedy Krieger, which, along with Towson University courses, will result in an ADMIN I certificate. They also team teach the Introduction to Special Education course for the college of Education. Learn more about this program.

Professional Development in the Neurosciences

Fellows completing the Innovation and Leadership in Special Education Program are uniquely qualified to effectively translate neuroscience research into classroom application for student success.  As of  July, 2016, nine fellows have completed the program and are in a variety of education settings providing support to teachers. In addition, the Presidential Scholar has funded professional development opportunities for the teachers in the new LYNX School as well as those at Norwood Elementary and Holabird Middle.  These sessions give teachers an understanding of their students and their behaviors from a neurological perspective, as well as classroom tools to develop the students’ brains to enhance their readiness to learn.

All SySTEMs Go

All SySTEMs Go” is a coordinated, fully integrated, research-based approach to launching every Maryland student on a college and career pathway rich in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and boosting student competitiveness in the 21st century global marketplace. The “All SySTEMs Go” approach pulls together three Towson “firsts” and moves Maryland students through a successful trajectory from elementary school to college and career.

  • Towson University is offering the first Maryland STEM-certification for elementary school teachers, preparing them to give young students a strong foundation in critical STEM concepts.

  • Towson has implemented Maryland’s first UTeach model.

  • In partnership with the College Board, Towson is the first college in the nation to grant a diploma endorsement to its pre-service teachers completing a rigorous course of study in teaching Advanced Placement calculus.  As a service to local school systems, Towson also trains veteran classroom teachers to teach AP calculus, while working with local school systems to identify and directly support promising students in underrepresented populations to be successful in AP courses.  

The “All SySTEMs Go” approach creates a multiplier effect: more effective teachers produce highly successful students who are competitive in the global marketplace, or who return to the classroom to train the next generation of successful students.


The UTeach program at Towson University was inspired, in part, by Dr. Grasmick’s role as a board member of the National Math and Science Initiative. Through this initiative she learned of the need for highly qualified STEM teachers and how TU students could benefit by participating in such a program. Towson University is the first site in Maryland to receive a UTeach grant of over $2 million. This project enables TU to prepare highly qualified teachers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.  Dr. Grasmick has raised a significant amount of funding to support the UTeach program and remains highly involved in the UTeach program.

education community partnerships

Presidential Scholar Advisory Council

An Advisory Council composed of seven highly respected Marylanders representing a variety of businesses works with the Presidential Scholar to establish priorities, network across the state, and advise on important education topics.  The group has produced a white paper on the importance of collaboration between business and education.

 Re-invention of the Maryland Writing Project

The Presidential Scholar has funded the development, pilot, and two summer workshop years of a professional development program to strengthen the skills of teachers so they may effectively teach their students to be successful writers. She also funded a trip to New York for Baltimore County teacher participants in this program to receive additional professional development.   The partnership of Towson faculty with teachers in Baltimore County schools has provided the framework for the re-invention of the Maryland Writing Project on campus.

Restorative Justice Program

The Office of the Presidential Scholar as an exciting partnership with Norwood Elementary School in Baltimore County, Maryland.  This K-3 school has taken the lead in providing social and emotional learning activities in its classrooms.  A restorative justice program has been implemented where students are encouraged to participate in communication circles where students collectively talk about emotions, discuss inappropriate behavior, empathize with each other, and determine appropriate interventions.  The school’s writing program maximizes impact by integrating lessons between restorative justice vocabulary and issues and writing instruction.  The program has been so successful that teachers in Holabird Middle, the feeder system middle school, will be trained to continue this program.

Math in the Middle

The Office of the Presidential Scholar, the Fisher College Department of Mathematics, and Baltimore County Public schools are collaborating to provide a an on-going summer professional development workshop program for Baltimore County mathematics teachers. The purpose is to strengthen the transition from elementary to middle school by improve late elementary and middle school mathematics teacher instruction, while informing teacher preparation at TU.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Funded by the Presidential Scholar, a collaborative project with TU’s Department of Special Education, the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Baltimore County Public Schools is implementing UDL at a lab school.  This school provides a place where needs for teacher preparation are identified and addressed, and best practices addressing the needs can be taught and shared.

A separate project, also funded by the Presidential Scholar at two Baltimore County middle schools, serves to advance UDL.  Four fellows from four school systems are in training with TU faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Berquist to expand knowledge and strategies.  The National UDL Conference was held at TU in March, 2016, funded by the Presidential Scholar.

Campus initiatives

Presidential Scholar Signature Forum

“Preparing for Public Education in the 21st Century” is an ongoing speaker series that provides opportunities for community and educator stakeholders to access cutting-edge research. The speaker series also offers perspective on key topics presented by national experts like Dr. Ben Carson, Frederick Bealefeld, Daniel Pink, Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan, and Dr. Rebecca Landa, Elizabeth Green, Wes Moore and Jason Botel.

Special Education and the Neurosciences

Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick was the State Superintendent of Maryland Public Schools for 20 years—from 1991 until 2011—serving 24 districts, 1,424 schools and 869,113 students. She was both the first female superintendent in Maryland history and the longest-serving appointed superintendent in U.S. history.

Throughout her career, which began as a classroom teacher at the William S. Baer School for the Deaf in Baltimore City, Dr. Grasmick has been guided by the belief that every child deserves an exceptional education. She has fought to establish high expectations for teaching and learning in every Maryland classroom, pioneering bold policies and reforms to ensure success and implementing strong accountability structures to measure it.

As a result, expectations and performance for adults, schools and children significantly improved—for five years in a row, Maryland was ranked #1 in the country by Education Week.

In 2012, Dr. Grasmick was named the Presidential Scholar for Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation at her alma mater, Towson University, where she collaborates with national experts and practitioners to transform the way that teachers deliver classroom instruction and engage students in learning.

She is Vice President of the Board and a faculty member at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, co-directing an innovative fellowship program to prepare administrators as leaders in special education; and serves as the President of the Carson Scholars Foundation.

Dr. Grasmick received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Towson University, her master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University, and her doctoral degree in communicative sciences from Johns Hopkins University.