Grow Your Own program reaps positive benefits

State officials and local leaders are working on ways to keep teachers at home and those ways include “Grow Your Own” initiatives.

The Tennessee Department of Education announced that several school systems in the Lakeway Area are partnering with local colleges in order to educate and keep prospective teachers at home.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said the state’s program tries to target those who already have degrees, but may need certification.

“It’s a path for those who may already be in the school system,” he said.

Locally, this couples with Hamblen County’s own “Grow Your Own” program called “Tomorrow’s Teachers.”

Perry said school administrators are still working out details of the program, but it is set up to recruit, hire and retain quality teachers.

A pathway toward teaching could be a student enrolls in Walters State Community College and earns their associate degree. The prospective teacher may enroll in a college like Western Governor’s University and while working on their degree could be hired as a part-time teacher in Hamblen County, Perry said.

Hamblen County has an agreement with Western Governor’s University to pay for tuition, Perry said.

So, the state would pay for the first two years and Hamblen County pays for the last two years.

He said Hamblen County would guarantee a job to the prospective teachers once they graduate.

The state program has teamed up with Lincoln Memorial University and Tusculum University, locally, for its “Grow Your Own” program.

Lincoln Memorial University will cover Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins and Jefferson counties, while Tusculum will partner with Greene and Hawkins counties.

“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 state awarded $4.5 million in grants for a second round, totaling $100,000 to each participant.

The grant funds cover tuition, textbooks and fees for all selected participants and provides dual or initial licensures.