Tennessee Tech hopes a new grant could produce math and ESL teachers for six participating school systems.
If the grants are approved, Tech will recruit 30 people currently employed in school systems to fully fund a teaching career. The candidates would be hired as teaching assistants while completing coursework at Tech.
“Those teacher candidates will earn their degree and their license with that adult endorsement and ESL and, you know, head out into the workforce as the teacher of record in 30 different classrooms across the Upper Cumberland,” Tech Associate Dean Of Education Dr. Julie Baker said. “It’s really exciting.”
Baker said the candidates could join the teaching ranks at no expense.
“What is not covered will be covered by Tennessee Tech,” Baker said. “And so we’ve worked with a couple of units here at Tech. We’ve even met with President Oldham. He’s very invested in this and is extremely excited to see us work on a project that will put math teachers into the upper Cumberland schools. And so, you know, we will definitely cover what is whatever is not covered by the grant and then the scholarships and other aid.”
Putnam, White, Warren, Overton, Jackson, and Grundy Counties would each receive teachers if the grant program is approved. Baker said several of the school systems actually reached out to Tennessee Tech before the university asked about their interest.
Baker said the grant program will begin with students already on their way to a teaching degree.
“We’re recruiting current teacher assistants or other other members of the community in these particular districts who have a little bit of college under their belt,” Baker said. “And so we didn’t want to start from scratch. We didn’t want it to be a four- or five-year pipeline. You know, we wanted to see the product and have the teachers in the classroom a little bit sooner than that.”
State leaders expect a teacher shortage in the coming years because fewer teenagers are interested in a career in education. Negativity surrounding the profession has impacted the career track in recent years. Local leaders are working with Tennessee Tech officials to address the problem.
“It’s a great opportunity for the district to really invest in teacher candidates,” Baker said. “And so by hiring them for two years, they really get to know those teacher candidates. The teacher candidates get to know their schools and that they you know, they’re already really begin working with other teachers in the schools and learning from those those more experienced teachers. And that two years that when they’re working as a teacher assistant that serves as a residency, you know, a two-year field experience, which for us and Ed prep, there’s nothing better than that. You know, we do everything we can to get as much experience in the classroom for our teacher candidates.”
Baker said officials hope to hear about the grant in the next several weeks.