TDOE Announces “Grow Your Own” Partnership between Knox County Schools and the University of Tennessee

Tuesday, March 03, 2020 | 10:22am

Monday, March 2, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT:  Victoria Robinson


TDOE Announces “Grow Your Own” Partnership between Knox County Schools and the University of Tennessee - Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, TN— The Tennessee Department of Education today announced a new “Grow Your Own” partnership between Knox County Schools and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT Knoxville) to encourage more aspiring educators to pursue the profession and develop a local pipeline of well-qualified teachers who are ready for the classroom.

The Department also announced today $1 million dollars will be made available for teachers across the state to get their special education endorsement, at no cost to them, to grow the capacity of current teachers serving the needs of students with exceptionalities.

“We are thrilled Knox County Schools and UT Knoxville are launching a Grow Your Own partnership to encourage aspiring teachers to pursue the profession,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. “All students deserve a highly-effective teacher in their classrooms, and this new Grow Your Own partnership will help ensure Knoxville has a strong local pipeline of future educators.”

The Department’s “Grow Your Own” initiative seeks to increase access to and success in the teaching profession as part of the Best for All strategic plan, which sets a vision for Tennessee to be the top state to become and remain a teacher and leader.

“At the heart of student learning is our teachers and we must ensure that there is a qualified workforce to educate the children of Knox County,” said Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas. “We appreciate our partnership with the state of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee and applaud them for recognizing this need. We’re excited to be part of an initiative that we believe will help remove barriers and motivate more young people to pursue teaching as a profession.”

The Knoxville partnership will launch its first phase in the fall of 2020, with Knox County Schools committing to hire 10-15 current UT Knoxville students as paraprofessionals for their internship year for the 2020-21 school year. These UT Knoxville students, referred to as an Aspiring Teacher cohort, will receive a salary and healthcare as well as earn years towards retirement— eliminating critical barriers for those who could not afford to accept unpaid teaching assignments.

Additionally, Knox County will offer this cohort positions as teachers of record and signing bonuses for the 2021-22 school year, pending good standing as a paraprofessional, completing their degree, and earning appropriate licensure.

“This program supports the teacher pipeline problem we see in parts of the state,” Ellen McIntyre, dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville said.  “But more than that, we are assured that the new teachers will be well prepared.  Knox County Schools and UT Knoxville have designed an outstanding program to meet this need.”

The Aspiring Teacher cohort students, who are also eligible for UT Knoxville scholarships, are currently in a K-5/special education dual certification program and will earn their master’s degree by summer 2021 pending good standing in their program.

“Innovative programs such as “Grow Your Own” have the potential to transform the important profession of teaching and I am excited for UT Knoxville to support and grow this program,” said University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman.

UT Knoxville joins Austin Peay and Lipscomb Universities as the third higher education institution to form a Grow Your Own partnership, and the Department is continuing explore options to expand the initiative across the state.

The Department also announced $1 million will be made available for teachers across the state to get a special education endorsement. The Department will contract with educator preparation programs to offer this endorsement to current teachers, and the funds will pay for teacher tuition. Districts will be allowed to submit a teacher(s) to get the endorsement at no cost to them.

For any media questions, please contact: SEE PHOTOS HERE.