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Preparing Future Teachers to Change Lives Inside and Outside the Classroom

This column originally appeared in Chatanoogan.com and is reposted with permission.

With education on the forefront of conversations in our community, it is now more urgent than ever that we send passionate teachers into the classroom with the knowledge, resources, and drive to lead our schools through this transformation.

As director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Education, I am charged with providing our students with a high-quality education and preparing them for the classroom. Our program trains and prepares the bulk of teachers entering Hamilton County Schools from high school to their own classrooms and beyond.

We begin by reaching the students before they enter college. Each summer, as part of the Tennessee Governor’s School for Prospective Teachers, we welcome approximately 25 high school students who have an interest in a teaching career to prepare them for collegiate and career success. Throughout their four weeks on campus, students take our Foundations of Education course and receive college credit. By creating and teaching lesson plans to children in local summer camps, students gain first-hand experience of the preparation and hard work teachers pour into the classroom every day.

Governor’s School participants also spend time in our labs and interact with faculty from different departments. We encourage students to think about different content areas they might wish to explore, specifically promoting STEM-related fields to fill the growing need in our local schools. These efforts give our future teachers a strong foundation and strengthen our teaching talent pipeline, supporting the ongoing work of Chattanooga 2.0 and other community partners to ensure our graduates are workforce ready.

Once on campus and enrolled in the UTC College of Education, we are implementing a full year of student teaching in place of the traditional semester-only term in order to better prepare our future teachers. Working in partnership with Hamilton and Marion County schools, UTC education students are now being placed for a full-year with teachers deemed as “highly-effective” by school and district leadership. This gives students a more realistic glimpse into the daily grind and challenges of teaching, from the beginning of the school year to the end. Students also gain a mentor and role-model inside our local schools, who is impassioned, committed, and successful.

We capped the first year of this new student teaching model in May and, while transitions come with challenges, our students, their mentor teachers, and school leaders have all praised the experience and look forward to another round of student teachers in the fall.

Our students are also receiving a head-start through our early implementation of edTPA standards. This Teacher Performance Assessment program is similar to a national board certification and is aligned with state and national standards. edTPA guides the development of our curriculum and practices to ensure our teachers enter the classroom able to teach each student effectively and improve student achievement.

Through this certification, our students are required to pass a subject-specific assessment, develop full lesson plans, videotape lessons, and complete other requirements to demonstrate their teaching ability and effectiveness. Beginning in January 2019, Tennessee will begin requiring passage of edTPA for all teacher licensure. UTC students are now entering the workforce with this qualification already in hand.

But our work does not stop in the classroom.

Beginning this fall, UTC is launching Chattanooga Teaching Fellows, a partnership with Lee University and Hamilton County initiated through the work of Chattanooga 2.0 and funded by the Smart City Venture Fund. In return for guaranteed job placement and a $20,000 stipend, Teaching Fellows will serve their teaching residencies in urban Title I schools, participate in additional targeted trainings in the summer, and commit to serving in Hamilton County’s highest need schools for four years after graduation.

We are excited to work hand-in-hand with Hamilton County Schools to meet the demand for effective teachers in these classrooms with highly-qualified candidates prepared to make a real impact in our neighborhood schools.

Teaching is one of the most prestigious professions in our society. The call to train and prepare our future teachers is not one that I take lightly. We are confronting the demand for a qualified, impassioned, diverse pool of teachers through aggressive strategies to recruit, train, and continue developing the best leaders for our students.

Education is an extremely demanding and challenging line of work, but the job perk of changing lives every day is like no other.

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Renee Murley

Director of the School of Education at UTC

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So mark your calendars and get ready for an exciting week to come!

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