From Strength to Strength

teacher materials, colored pencils, golden delicious apple and a globe

By Jane Hudson

The University of Tennessee System annually prepares hundreds of teachers to enter classrooms in all 95 counties in Tennessee as well as public and private schools across the nation.

To prepare teachers is to impact the future—and UT understands the importance of training them well.

David Haselkorn, the president of Recruiting New Teachers—a nonprofit group that promotes teaching as a profession—said, “Teaching is the essential profession, the one that makes all other professions possible.” Without teachers, there would be no future presidents, doctors, lawyers, counselors or law enforcement officers. Teachers equip their students with the necessary tools it takes to succeed and by doing so affect society’s future.

Despite the essential role teachers play, fewer graduates are choosing to enter the teaching profession in the United States. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), during the 2017-2018 school year, the country was estimated to be short more than 110,000 teachers—a figure that almost doubled in two years.

The UT System is working to further strengthen its education programs to meet the nation’s growing need and ensure teachers have the tools necessary for success in the classroom.

In September 2019, the UT System hosted the first Teacher Preparation Convening, bringing together faculty and administrators from the UT campuses, state and local education leaders, lawmakers and other key stakeholders to discuss ways that new innovations and collaborations could better meet state needs.

More than ever, it is imperative to prepare and strengthen teachers to take on the essential role of teaching for the country’s future, says Linda Martin, vice president for academic affairs and student success.

“When it comes to teacher preparation, UT’s goal is to be the very best. The people of Tennessee depend on the talent we develop, and convenings like this help us collaborate around new innovations and best practices, and collectively address the challenges facing our programs and the profession,” Martin says.

In speaking about their programs, campus leaders emphasized their commitment to effective educator training and highlighted best practices.

UT Chattanooga leaders highlighted collaborative recruitment efforts with its partner school districts to identify, recruit and support teacher candidates. UT Chattanooga sponsors the Institute for Teaching and Learning at the Tyner Teaching Academy, which prepares high school students for careers in teaching.

UT Knoxville leaders spoke of $200,000 awarded from the Tennessee General Assembly in 2019 to recruit, prepare and retain minority teachers. The UT Knoxville David T. Bailey Graduate School of Education produces the highest number of mathematics teachers in the state, and UT Knoxville is ranked among the top in the state in graduating special education and world languages teachers.

UT Martin was one of 24 U.S. institutions to receive a $3.3 million Teacher Quality Partnership Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Through this grant, UT Martin is developing partnerships among colleges and universities, local educational agencies and high-need schools to prepare teachers to teach in high-need schools, support them in their critical first years and increase the number of highly qualified STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers. UT Martin also offers the Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program, which recruits candidates from diverse backgrounds and prepares them to pursue successful careers in elementary and middle schools in Tennessee.