Clarksville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Education recently awarded Austin Peay State University four $100,000 grants to support the APSU Eriksson College of Education’s accelerated Grow Your Own Teacher Residency programs.
Working with area school districts, the programs provide recent high school graduates with a free path to become full-time teachers, and a guaranteed job in partner districts, in just three years.
“This work started two years ago with one college of education (Austin Peay State University) and one school district (Clarksville-Montgomery County School System),” Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the APSU Eriksson College of Education, said.
“Now this work has spread across Tennessee with seven colleges of education and 35 school districts engaged in this work. This is what authentic partnership work at the university, school district and state level looks like. And, it all started at Austin Peay and our College of Education,” stated Chandler.
The state grants will support Grow Your Own programs across Tennessee, with Austin Peay State University’s grants funding programs associated with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, the Robertson County School System and the Dickson County, Cheatham County and Hickman County school districts.
Through these programs, participants work in classrooms as assistants to some of the districts’ highest-performing teachers. This embedded student teaching model allows them to shadow and learn from expert teachers.
As teaching assistants, they also earn a full salary with benefits from the school systems. Then, in the evenings, they work first toward an associate degree through a community college and then toward an APSU Bachelor of Science in Education with a K-5 license. They can also add on a special education endorsement, making them more marketable.
“These programs are a great way to increase diversity within the workforce,” Dr. Lori Allen, APSU assistant professor of education, said.
“A lot of times, students are financially incapable of engaging in teacher prep in the traditional model. The Grow Your Own programs allow you to have financial stability across your entire education. Each participant is employed by the school district, and they earn their degrees at no cost. No cost for tuition, no cost for textbooks,” stated Allen.
Last year, Austin Peay State University launched the state’s first “Grow Your Own” program, when it partnered with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System on the Early Learning Tennessee Residency Program. That program provided 40 candidates with an accelerated, free path to become full-time CMCSS teachers in just three years.
The success of that program, which will provide the school district with more teachers during a national shortage, has led the school district to offer a second cohort of the program.
“This program is designed to alleviate or mitigate the national teacher shortage, including the high needs area special education,” Allen said. “I really have been encouraged by the opportunity I see with Grow Your Own programs. We’re going to provide these districts with more teachers.”
This year, Austin Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education, the Robertson County Schools System and Volunteer State Community College launched the Grow Your Own Rural Teachers Residency.
Next up is a consortium made up of three smaller school districts – Dickson County, Cheatham County and Hickman County. That program will begin next year, and as with all the Grow Your Own initiatives, the students will be guaranteed jobs in their districts once they graduate in three years.
“These grants, along with the support of several school districts, will allow Austin Peay to educate 106 students in the funded programs,” Dr. Chad Brooks, associate provost for research and dean of the APSU College of Graduate Studies, said.
“It is grants like these that highlight the great relationships Austin Peay State University has with school districts and community college partners. Also, it is grants like these that help Austin Peay recruit more students and fulfill one of its missions – to provide access to higher education to our region,” stated Brooks.