Tennessee recruiting teachers with fast-growing program

‘Grow Your Own’ program uses apprentice-style teaching to attract future teachers.
‘Grow Your Own’ program uses apprentice-style teaching to attract future teachers
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:51 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee loses thousands of teachers every year, and there aren’t enough new teachers to replace them. But, an expanding apprentice-style program is aiming to change that.

The CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee, JC Bowman, said educators were skipping school for retirement or other professions, leaving a hole in the classroom.

“We lose great numbers. 10,000 to 12,000 a year leave,” Bowman said.

Bowman said that number was growing because of an aging teaching population, and thought the state would have to replace 40,000 teachers in the next eight years.

“Teacher tradition is at a crisis in Tennessee,” Bowman said.

A partial solution could be the state’s ‘Grow Your Own’ initiative.

On Tuesday, the state announced an expansion of the program with two schools in Memphis, and it partnered with the University of Tennessee last year.

“Just like what you would think of apprentices in traditional vocational fields, like welding or carpentry, where someone is learning on the job,” Erin Crisp said, Executive Director for UT’s Grow Your Own Center. “Teacher occupation apprentices are learning on the job while they work within classrooms.”

Crisp said more than 200 students enrolled in the program, which is in its first semester at UT. And, they expect to grow quickly.

“Our goal for the Grow Your Own Center is to have 2,000 new teachers in the pipeline by the end of 2024,” Crisp said.

She said a lot of the enrolled students this semester are teacher’s aids, looking for a path to become a teacher.

Plus, Bowman believes it’s putting the state on a path towards avoiding a teacher shortage.

“You’ve got to have many pathways to do it. This is one pathway,” Bowman said.

While many of the people enrolled are teacher’s aids, Crisp said they do want to get to the point where the program attracts kids coming out of high school too.