Grow Your Own

Grow Your Own Program Helps MNPS Support Staff Become Teachers
Posted on 08/23/2022
Dr. Battle with teachers in Grow Your Own cohort

Not all teachers find the same path to the classroom. Some MNPS support employees have blazed a new trail there with the help of the district’s Grow Your Own initiative. Dr. Battle with Grow Your Own teachers

Grow Your Own, a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education and four teacher training programs, allows current MNPS support staff to receive a no-cost education preparing them to become a teacher in an MNPS school. The first cohort of employees started in 2021-22, and many of them are now job-embedded teachers throughout the district, while a new cohort has gotten started this month as paraprofessionals.

Jared Freihoefer, a member of the first cohort and now a first-year special education teacher at Harris-Hillman School, said the Grow Your Own program gave him access to the education he needed to achieve his goal.

“I came into the field as a substitute teacher and then as a paraprofessional but felt I had reached the threshold of what I could accomplish in the support capacity,” Freihoefer said. “Being awarded a scholarship to pursue a master's degree in special education was a game-changer for me for two distinct reasons.

“First, the GYO program provided me with a compass by which I was able to chart out and successfully navigate a clear pathway to licensure, a task that seemed daunting as an individual with no support. Second, the GYO program allowed me to access a quality program at Lipscomb that would have been out of reach for me financially.

“Being awarded the scholarship has opened doors I could not have opened on my own and has also supported my ability to access new opportunities. I will forever be grateful to MNPS for guiding and supporting me in realizing my dreams to become a special education teacher.”

MNPS partners with four educator preparation providers in various hard-to-staff content areas to help participants earn a master’s degree and dual certification: Lipscomb University, Nashville Teacher Residency, Relay Graduate School of Education and Tennessee State University. All selected cohort participants must be current MNPS employees who do not hold a valid teaching license and are seeking a pathway toward teacher licensure.

Each Grow Your Own cohort participant must work as a paraprofessional during their first year in the master’s program. After successfully completing year one of coursework and passing praxis exams, cohort participants are to be hired as job-embedded teachers in years 2-4. Upon graduation from their program, cohort participants must agree to teach for at least three additional years with MNPS in one of the high-needs areas in which they receive dual certification.

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle met Freihoefer and several other members of the first Grow Your Own cohort after she spoke at an orientation session for the district’s new teachers in July.

“Good teachers come our way every year in a number of different ways, but it’s important that we not only recruit them but also help to develop them ourselves from the ranks of our support staff,” Dr. Battle said. “I’m so happy to see this first Grow Your Own cohort moving into our schools across the city to help our students grow and thrive, and I’m looking forward to seeing their impact in our schools as the next cohort continues to prepare to become teachers.”

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