TDOE Awards $4.5 Million Grow Your Own Grants to Create Pathways to Become a Teacher for Free

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | 02:08pm


$6.5M Total Awarded to Strengthen Teacher Pipeline in Tennessee


Nashville, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced $4.5 million in Grow Your Own grants has been awarded to establish partnerships between Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) and local school districts and create innovative pathways to becoming a teacher in Tennessee for free. 

This second round of Grow Your Own grants awards 45 grants of $100,000 each to 13 EPPs in Tennessee to form or expand state recognized Grow Your Own partnerships with more than 50 school districts across the state. Building upon the momentum of the initial $2 million investment in the initiative, this latest round of grants from the department significantly expands the Grow Your Own program, totaling a $6.5 million investment in 65 partnerships between 14 EPPs and 63 school districts-- enabling over 650 future educators to become a Tennessee teacher for free.

"The department is thrilled to see Grow Your Own partnerships flourishing across the state to further boost the state’s teacher talent pipeline to provide all our students with a high-quality education,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “This investment provides individuals with the opportunity to become a teacher for free and will continue to make Tennessee the best state to become and be a teacher. We are excited to continue to see the success of this program impact the state for years to come.”

The Grow Your Own competitive grants are designed to foster partnerships between EPPs and districts to provide innovative, no-cost pathways to the teaching profession by increasing EPP enrollment and growing the supply of qualified teachers. These grant funds will remove barriers to the teaching profession by providing funds to entirely cover tuition, textbooks, and fees for all selected participants, while providing dual licensure or initial licensure opportunities with an additional endorsement.

2021 Grow Your Own Partnership Competitive Grant Awardees
EPP Grant Awardees LEA Partners
Austin Peay State University

Cheatham County Schools 

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System 

Dickson County Schools 

Hickman County Schools 

Robertson County School

Freed-Hardeman University Fayette County Public Schools
Lincoln Memorial University 

Alcoa City Schools 

Anderson County Schools 

Blount County Schools 

Campbell County Schools 

Clinton City Schools 

Hamblen County Schools 

Hancock County Schools 

Hawkins County Schools 

Jefferson County Schools 

Lenoir City Schools 

Knox County Schools 

Monroe County Schools 

Oak Ridge Schools

Lipscomb University 

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System 

Hamilton County Schools 

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools 

Williamson County Schools

Milligan University Elizabethton City Schools
Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro City Schools
Nashville Teacher Residency Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Relay Graduate School of Education

Tennessee Public Charter School Commission 

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools 

Shelby County Schools

Tennessee Technological University

Clay County Schools 

Dekalb County Schools 

Hawkins County Schools 

Morgan County Schools 

Oneida Special School District 

Roane County Schools 

Union County Schools

Tennessee State University 

Bedford County Schools 

Cheatham County Schools

Clay County Schools 

Decatur County Schools 

Fayetteville City Schools 

Frayser Community Schools 

Germantown Municipal Schools 

Greeneville City Schools 

Marshall County Schools 

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools 

Moore County Schools 

Purpose Prep Academy 

Rutherford County Schools 

Shelby County Schools 

Sumner County Schools 

Tipton County Schools 

Williamson County Schools

Wilson County Schools

Tusculum University

Greene County Schools 

Hawkins County Schools

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Blount County Schools 

Knox County Schools 

Monroe County Schools 

Shelby County Schools

University of Tennessee at Martin

Benton County Schools 

Dyer County Schools 

Dyersburg City Schools 

Haywood County Schools 

Lauderdale County Schools 

McKenzie Special District 

Obion County Schools 

Paris Special School District 

Weakley County School

District leaders, education preparation program leaders, and education chairmen for the Tennessee General Assembly commented on the importance of this program and grant funding to further support the teaching profession across the state.

“The Grow Your Own Program provides needed support to build a successful educator workforce focusing on our existing talent pool of future teachers,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey. “These grants will help prepare incredible teachers, strong schools and connected communities. It is a win-win for Tennessee.”

“Grow Your Own builds deliberate pathways from the community to the classroom and from within our classified staff,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, Director of Schools, Hamilton County Schools. “It also creates more access to teaching for candidates with varied experiences and diverse candidates whose perspectives can help our children thrive.”

“Milligan University is pleased to partner with Elizabethton City Schools on the Grow Your Own grant opportunity,” said Dr. Angela Hilton-Prillhart, Associate Dean School of Social Sciences and Education, Milligan University. “It is rewarding to be part of an initiative that will offer scholarships to individuals who are already working with children who want to become teachers.”

“The Grow Your Own program has been incredibly successful by providing additional learning opportunities and advancing career pathways for local candidates to join the teaching profession,” said House Education Instruction Subcommittee Chairman Scott Cepicky. “We are excited to see this program expanding to other Tennessee communities and know they will benefit from these additional resources.”

“We are looking forward to working with Tennessee State University as part of the Grow Your Own Partnership Grant sponsored by the TDOE,” said Dr. John Combs, Director of Schools, Tipton County Schools. “This opportunity will allow us to address areas of need in our district by increasing the availability of certified teachers in special education and ESL, while utilizing our outstanding educational assistants whose goal it is to become teachers for Tipton County Schools.”

“Thanks to the continued investment by the Tennessee Department of Education in these essential partnerships, APSU has the opportunity to strategically invest and strengthen our teacher pipeline,” said Dr. Prentice Chandler, Dean of the Eriksson College of Education, Austin Peay State University. “This work matters, and we appreciate the state’s commitment to ensuring all our students will have access to high-quality teachers.”

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. 

Funding for the Grow Your Own competitive grant is available through federal COVID-19 stimulus funding. 

To read more about our existing Grow Your Own partnerships in Tennessee and to see a full list of Grow Your Own grant awardees, click here.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact