LMU Knoxville program turns people with degrees into teachers

They are taking adults with bachelor’s degrees and transforming them into Kindergarten through 12th grade school teachers.
Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 8:48 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A former pediatrician, journalist and Dollywood worker have something in common. They’re aspiring teachers.

”I’m definitely called to work with kids and their families, particularly children that are in poverty, and I just really felt like I wanted something that would involve me more than just a 10 minute office visit,” said Daphne McColl.

For 20 years, Daphne McColl has been a pediatrician. Now she wants a do-over in her career choice, not because she hasn’t enjoyed it, but because she wants to do something different.

”This is sort of my second dream; it was time for a new adventure you could say,” said McColl.

John McCook is the Program Director for the Masters in Education Initial Teacher Licensure at Lincoln Memorial University’s Knoxville campus.

“What we are doing is teaching how to teach,” said McCook.

They are taking adults with bachelor’s degrees and transforming them into kindergarten through 12th grade school teachers.

“They are here because they want to be here. And that makes a huge motivational difference,” said McCook.

At 49-years-old, McColl will be leaving behind medicine to work with the next generation.

“I wanted to be able to build more relationships with families and with kids,” said McColl.

”With the COVID situation the projections are that there may be 20% fewer teachers coming back into teaching this coming year because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen and so forth,” explained McCook. According to a poll by USA Today, 1 in 5 teachers said they were unlikely to go back to school in the fall of 2020.

Student Corey Puckett told WVLT News that after college he was unsure of where to go or what to do.

“I’ve always loved learning. I’m very interested in studying everything. So much so I didn’t really have a plan of what I wanted to do for a career,” said Puckett. Being an usher at Dollywood didn’t feel like the right path for him.

”I wanted to do something that made a difference, and it’s one of those things where you don’t see what’s right in front of your face,” said Puckett.

He’s planning to use his skills as an economics teacher in Sevier County when school opens this fall.

Another student, Katie Fernandez, left journalism behind after three years of working at a newspaper. She followed her new dream of working with high school English students who are in special education.

“It is not an easy career path, but it was where I needed to be,” said Fernandez.

Daphne plans to start working in Loudon County at a title one elementary school after graduation in December.

“I really feel like a good education is just a person’s opportunity for the rest of their lives., and I think if you can get that good foundation in elementary school it just opens the door to so many possibilities for kids in their future,” said McColl.

The program can be completed between one to two years.

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