UT System Celebrates Formation of Tennessee Grow Your Own Center

by Rebekah Goode
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Ellen McIntyre, Donde Plowman, David Cihak, and other stakeholders from the university stand together for a photo in front of the UT System's backdrop.

Recently, The UT System celebrated the formation of the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center. The Grow Your Own Center is a partnership between local school districts, EPPs, U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), and the Tennessee Department of Education, to provide federal financial assistance to professional educator candidates. Penny Schwinn and Randy Boyd seated next to a panel of 4 people at the GYO Center press conferenceThe GYO Center will coordinate with all 146 local school districts and 43 Professional Educator Preparation Programs across Tennessee, ensuring that children have highly effective teachers and leaders from Pre-K to graduation. For far too long, cost has been a limiting factor to entering professional education due to the requirement for unpaid on-the-job training, the cost of multiple state assessments, in addition to the cost of tuition. High quality educator preparation has always relied on on-the-job training under the guidance and supervision of experienced mentors. However, the on-the-job training is all too often unpaid, and cooperating teachers are inconsistently compensated for their mentorship. The GYO Hub offers prospective teachers and leaders the opportunity to be paid for their on-the-job learning, similar to a medical residency and other professions.

Grant Collaborations between the Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education (Tara Moore, Cate Smith), the Department of Child & Family Studies (Lori Caudle, Melody Hobbs) and the CEHHS Office of Professional Licensure (David Cihak, Amelia Brown) served as the foundations for this work, which is now quickly growing into the national model for innovation and accessibility in high-quality educator preparation.

Huge thanks to the following folks who have gone above and beyond to support our current Grow Your Own candidates: Demetria Mells, Donna Alderman, MariBeth Coleman, Joshua Kenna, Gina Guinn, Joan Grim, and Ashlee Smethers. Of course, this work would also not be possible without our close relationships with our LEA partners (Knox, Memphis-Shelby, Alcoa, Blount, Maryville, and Monroe). Our experiences with our current Grow Your Own cohorts provided invaluable insights into this model of educator preparation which will be used by the Grow Your Own Center to scale up and improve Grow Your Own programs.

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