Tennessee residency program trains new teachers and fights shortages

As the nation deals with severe shortage of teachers, a new residency program in Tennessee could be a potential solution to the crisis. The one-of-a-kind program allows teacher candidates to work full-time in the classroom while continuing their education – a win for future teachers and schools.

One such teacher is Demetrius Winn, who works at Kenwood Middle School, an hour north of Nashville. Two years ago, the 42-year-old father of four spent his days cleaning floors as a school caretaker.

“It’s definitely been a game changer,” Winn told CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver.

He said teaching was “a calling.”

“It was something I wanted to do. I just didn’t know how it was going to be,” Winn said.

The Clarksville Montgomery School District in Tennessee launched the innovative program in 2018 after facing a lack of diversity and a growing shortage of teachers. Without the program, the district would be short of about 150 teachers today, said Sean Impeartrice, director of studies for the district.

The program reduces a four-year degree to three. If teacher candidates commit to working in the district, evening classes are free. They co-teach during the day with a mentor and earn up to $27,000 per year. When they graduate, their salary nearly doubles.

Winn said the program will open up many opportunities.

“I have grandchildren. And it gives me the opportunity to be there, not only financially, but also physically,” he said.

The program is funded by the school district’s regular budget and with the help of federal and state grants. In 2021, Tennessee committed $6.5 million over two years to support the program, which now operates in 63 school districts across the state.

With 80 teachers expected to graduate this year, Impeartrice said the shortage may soon be over.

“Sometimes with the shortage it gets worse, doesn’t it? So if it stays the same as this year, next year will be fine,” he said.

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