When It Comes to Education, “Grow Your Own”

Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced that, throughout the month of May, Tennessee will spotlight the state’s Grow Your Own initiative, which is inspiring the next generation of future teachers so that every student has access to a high-quality educator in their classroom.  

As a part of the department’s Best for All strategic plan, the Grow Your Own initiative aims to set a new path for the educator profession and for Tennessee to be the top state in which to become and remain a teacher and leader for all. For anyone who has dreamed of becoming a teacher or inspiring a young learner, the Tennessee Teacher Apprenticeship offers the pathway to become a teacher for free and is designed to recruit candidates from the community and for the community while addressing teacher shortages.

“Since the department first launched our Grow Your Own work in 2019, we have continued to pursue innovative opportunities and remove barriers for aspiring educators to enter the profession,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Throughout May, we are excited to announce additional investments to scale the work statewide, share supporting resources for leveraging the Tennessee Teacher Apprenticeship model, and continue to inspire the next generation of future classroom leaders to accelerate students’ outcomes and opportunities.” 

Launched in March 2020, the Grow Your Initiative has 65 partnerships, which are between school districts and educator preparation programs at colleges or universities across Tennessee that offer free opportunities to become a teacher. Building on this foundation, the state pioneered a new way to develop teacher pipelines as the first state to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a permanent Grow Your Own model. Tennessee was the first state in the country to sponsor Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship programs between school districts and Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs), with Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Austin Peay State University’s program becoming the first registered apprenticeship program for teaching in the country.

Tennessee’s Teacher Apprenticeship provides a path to becoming an educator for participants spanning experience, background, and age.  

  • High School Students – Students can enroll in an apprenticeship starting at age 16 and earn dual-enrollment credit through sequential Teaching as a Profession (TAP) classes. This helps candidates progress towards their bachelor’s degree while student teaching in a local school district.  
  • College Students – Students enrolled in education majors at a college or university can pivot to an apprenticeship program that offers job-embedded opportunities, increasing wages, and an accelerated degree. Ultimately, they can complete their degree and program in three years or less, with no associated costs.  
  • School-Staff Professionals – Paraprofessionals, instructional assistants, or other support staff based in a school can seamlessly become licensed teachers. Apprentices remain in the classroom, teaching in the district where they will get their degree – receiving increased pay and job-embedded support – all in three years or less.  
  • Career Changers and Retirees – Community members may have an interest in teaching but do not want to take on the associated costs or time with returning to college. Instead, apprentices can complete outstanding coursework, meet required on-the-job hours, earn a living wage, and transition to the classroom full time. 

Many helpful resources for state and district leaders, education stakeholders and community members to create partnerships and get involved are available here including: