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White House eyes Austin Peay State University’s Grow Your Own program for addressing National Teacher Shortage

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Late last month, the Joe Biden Administration announced an innovative new plan aimed at tackling the national teacher shortage, and a key component of that plan – teacher apprenticeship programs – was originally developed at Austin Peay State University (APSU).

“Our work is being discussed nationally because it provides a solution to these persistent problems facing our field,” Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the APSU Eriksson College of Education, said.

“Rather than talking about these issues, we have decided to act. This program is the model for solving these problems. Every student in our schools deserves a great teacher. We are making that a reality,” stated Chandler.
 
In 2019, Dr. Sean Impeartrice, chief academic officer for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, met with Chandler and Dr. Lisa Barron, APSU director of teacher education and partnerships, to discuss the growing teacher shortage in this area.
 
That meeting, and the resulting partnership, led to the creation of Tennessee’s first education residency program. The first-of-its-kind program provided 20 recent high school graduates and 20 CMCSS teacher’s aides with an accelerated, free path to become full-time teachers in local schools.
 
“Our work with the local school system in developing the first Grow Your Own program in Tennessee laid the groundwork for us being named as the first federally registered teaching apprenticeship in the nation,” Barron said. “Our organizations focused on how to strengthen our partnership to solve national problems in teacher education—the teacher shortage, an overall lack of diversity in teaching, and ensuring a teacher pipeline in high-needs, difficult to staff areas.”
 
In recent years, CBS News and other media outlets have called the teacher shortage “an educational crisis.” With enrollment in teacher preparation programs declining drastically over the last decade at colleges across the country, the White House needed a proven strategy to get this vital educational pipeline back up and running.        
 
“There are so many … future educators out there who want to teach but decide against it or decide to leave because so many obstacles stand in their way, and we’ve seen that this summer,” First Lady Jill Biden said in an EducationWeek article about the new plan.
 
That day in Washington D.C., President Joe Biden and two cabinet secretaries unveiled the White House’s plan which drew heavily from the Grow Your Own framework developed at Austin Peay State University.
 
“There’s no reason we can’t have successful apprenticeships in the United States of America; they do it in Europe all day long,” U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in the EducationWeek article.



 
The program is working in Clarksville. On August 5th, 2022, about 40 members of Austin Peay State University’s inaugural teacher apprenticeship cohort earned their bachelor’s degrees. One of the students picking up his diploma that day was Malachi Johnson. He’d graduated high school only three years earlier.
 
For Johnson, the program provided exactly what he was looking for – a college education and a guaranteed job. The day he graduated from Austin Peay State University, he also began his career as a teacher at Byrns Darden Elementary School.
 
“It’s crazy because the night of graduation, I go to work for an open house so I can meet my students,” Johnson said. “I am jumping right into it and can’t wait.”
 
For more information about APSU’s Eriksson College of Education and its Grow Your Own program, visit https://www.apsu.edu/education/.

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