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New teacher apprenticeship program could help fill in gap for educators

Tennessee is the first state in the country to sponsor Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship programs between school districts and Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs).

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Many teachers are feeling burnt out at their jobs. There's a shortage of educators across the state, to begin with, but the pandemic made it worse.

Tennessee is trying to make it easier and cheaper to become a teacher. It's in hopes of filling in the gaps.

The Tennessee Department of Education announced it has pioneered a new way to develop teacher pipelines and is the first state to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a permanent Grow Your Own model.

The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Austin Peay State University's Teacher Residency program is the first registered apprenticeship program for teaching in the country. 

Tennessee is the first state in the country to sponsor Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship programs between school districts and Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs), which will further the state’s and nation’s efforts to extend the teacher pipeline and address teacher shortages.

Professional Educators of Tennessee executive director JC Bowman said it's clear there's a demand for teachers right now.

"It is inevitable that we're you're heading off the cliff with teacher shortage," Bowman said.

The teacher advocate said there are both pros and cons to the apprenticeship.

"The downside is, it's still going to be a very small number. I mean, you may get up to 1,000 people that can participate in this program," Bowman said.

The state said its been short 2,000 teachers the past several years. Bowman said the program has the potential to help in a lot of ways.

"This is one method to do it. It's a good method, we like it," Bowman said. "But, there's going to have to be other programs that come along beside of it to help address the teacher shortage."

Grow your own teacher programs are a hands-on way for future teachers to not only learn their craft but also get paid while doing it. The model is designed to recruit people from within communities and bring more diversity.

It's a no-cost pathway that could help bring many more leaders to the classroom across the board.