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How We Prepare Future Educators of Tennessee

Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 09:00am

By Lillian Hartgrove, Chair of the Tennessee State Board of Education

A better Tennessee starts with strong teachers.

Teachers impact every other profession in our state by developing people — equipping students with the critical knowledge, tools, and skills they need to succeed in post-secondary education, careers and beyond. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we have the finest teachers in Tennessee’s classrooms.

Tennessee seeks to enter the top half of all states on student outcomes by 2020, so we must continue to implement the highest academic standards and commit to our mission of providing quality education to all students. By employing the best and the brightest teachers, we can better ensure we are truly preparing the children of Tennessee for success after high school.

But our state, like the nation, faces a challenge in attracting enough students to the profession of teaching. There is a teacher shortage across the country, and it is crucial that we in Tennessee find solutions collectively and in collaboration with each other. The State Board of Education is committed to establishing and maintaining policies intended to help build and strengthen pipelines of high-caliber educators. Similarly, educator preparation providers, current educators, and our communities across the state can and are playing big roles in recruiting, developing, and training a strong teacher workforce.

Education preparation providers (EPPs) refer to the programs at more than 40 colleges, universities, and alternative certification pathways around the state that attract, enroll, prepare, and graduate the students who will become highly effective teachers. The State Board of Education ensures high academic standards for these programs, and since EPPs deliver the first professional training to future teachers, they have a great responsibility and are critical partners in this work.

However, due to the teacher shortage, enrollment has markedly declined in EPPs. Earlier this year, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reported that from 2007 to 2016, there was a 23 percent decline in the number of teacher preparation program completers across the United States. To get more highly effective educators into our classrooms across the state, we must do more, earlier, to encourage more students to pursue a career in teaching.

Now is the time to shine a brighter light on the education profession as a gratifying career opportunity for students and high school seniors who are considering their next steps.

Teachers, school, and district leaders have a huge part to play in inspiring our future educators. We need more teachers in diverse subjects, grades, and communities. Teachers who talk to their students about their careers and do their best in the classroom each day are excellent role models for our students, and for the profession itself.

Every Tennessean can play a role by recognizing the merit of the teaching profession and encouraging more students to become an educator. Valuing the profession comes in many forms. Parents, family members, coaches, and community members who are interacting with students can share stories of the teachers who inspired them, and demonstrate respect and support for the teachers in a student’s life.

Strong educator preparation programs, and more and more Tennesseans helping encourage students to pursue this rewarding career, will shape the education landscape of our great state for years to come. 

We will make Tennessee an even better state for teachers and students alike by putting the best and brightest educators in every classroom and rewarding teachers for their contributions to our society. We can do this if we all work together. Let’s do it for our future generations and for the future of Tennessee.