Tennessee Awards Over $5 Million in Grow Your Own Subgrants for Teacher Apprenticeship Programs

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 | 10:20am


Funding Supports Innovative, No-Cost Pathways to Strengthen Educator Pipeline 

Nashville, TN – Today, the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center announced over $5 million in subgrant funding has been awarded to five educator preparation providers (EPPs) to expand the Tennessee Teacher Apprenticeship programs to increase access and remove barriers to the educator profession, in alignment with the state’s Grow Your Own initiative.  

To further the statewide scale and reach, these subgrants have been awarded to five teacher apprenticeship EPPs: Austin Peay State University, Lincoln Memorial University, Arete Memphis Public Montessori, Lipscomb University, and the University of Memphis. The initial subgrant funding supports the program launch, candidate enrollment, and institutional costs.

"Since the department launched the Grow Your Own initiative in 2020, we are thrilled to see higher education partners and school districts come together in innovative ways to help more aspiring teachers enter the profession,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Our collaboration and shared commitment to create high-quality teacher apprenticeship programs will increase the number of qualified educators across the state serving students in our classrooms.”

In partnership with the department and University of Tennessee System, the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center is leading innovative teacher apprenticeship programs for educator credentialing, ensuring districts and candidates statewide have access to varied programs and degrees – at no cost.

Tennessee has 9 total approved EPP apprenticeship institutions, offering registered teacher apprenticeships to 30+ districts and serving 200+ candidates. Beginning in 2020, this builds on the nearly 650 candidates served through the initial 65 district and EPP partnerships. The new apprenticeship models that launched in spring 2023, spanning master’s, bachelor’s, and licensure-only pathways, bring additional opportunities for districts to strategically address staffing challenges through high-quality programs.

“The impact of the Grow Your Own Apprenticeship subgrants is seen in the expressions of excitement of our teacher candidates,” said Dr. Susan Wagner, Director and Associate Professor, Master of Education in Initial Teacher Licensure, Lincoln Memorial University. “When relieved of the financial burdens of tuition and textbooks and assured of a consistent and rising income while pursuing the dream of becoming a teacher in Tennessee, our teacher candidates at Lincoln Memorial University can focus their energies on applying knowledge in their clinical classroom settings. Rather than being a student of theory, they become co-practitioners under the supervision of experienced mentor teachers and Lincoln Memorial University faculty.”

“We are so grateful for the support of the TN Department of Education and the UT Grow Your Own Center,” said Dr. Lisa Barron, Associate Dean and Director of Teacher Education and Partnerships, Austin Peay State University. “This subgrant will allow us to continue the exciting apprenticeship work we are doing with our district partners – stemming the teacher shortage and supporting a more diverse teacher workforce.  

“The GYO subgrant will make a major difference in our program's ability to support apprentices, not only because we can completely cover all costs like licensing exams and textbooks, but because our partner district can reinvest what they would be paying in EPP tuition into higher wages for apprentices, allowing them to earn a more sustainable salary while completing training,” said Bob Nardo, Executive Director, Arete Memphis Montessori Residency. “This funding from the GYO center will have an immediate impact on our partner district's teacher pipeline, leading to more access for at-risk students in Tennessee to high quality teachers excellently prepared to provide them with a rich and rigorous public Montessori education.”

"The subgrant award allows our EPP to expand access for teacher assistants and paraprofessionals who might not otherwise be able to complete our teacher licensure programs. In addition to the obstacle of university tuition, the other costs of the degree program (e.g., textbooks, Praxis costs, computers) often prove to be barriers for students,” said Celia Anderson, Interim Assistant Dean, College of Education, University of Memphis. “We are thrilled that the subgrant will allow us to fund a truly no-cost program for teacher apprentices that will open up new opportunities to prepare excellent teachers."  

Tennessee was the first state to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to have Teacher Apprenticeship programs between school districts and EPPs, and Tennessee’s Teacher Apprenticeship models aligns leading practices in teacher preparation and development with the rigors of the nationally registered apprenticeship process. 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.

The Center will offer future competitive grant opportunities for EPPs approved to offer Tennessee Teacher Apprenticeship programs. Both the Center and the department continue to prioritize high-quality program delivery and EPP innovation, leveraging early program success, including competency-based programs, mentor training and creative staffing, high school Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TAP) pipelines and partnerships, and third-party partners for wraparound supports.

Through a strong partnership with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD), the department is excited to celebrate the Grow Your Own initiative with a special event next week, to ensure commitment that year after year, the state will continue to invest in high-quality, no-cost opportunities for Tennesseans to earn a degree and teacher’s license for free, while getting paid to do so. 

In addition to continuing to strengthen and sustain the educator profession, the department has strategically focused efforts on launching the Tennessee Teacher Retention Listening Tour, to hear directly from educators about their lived experiences in the classroom and is offering an opportunity to Tennessee teachers to contribute their input related to best practices or approaches to boost teacher retention across the state. 

For programmatic inquiries, contact GrowYourOwn@tn.gov. For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact Edu.MediaInquiries@tn.gov.