College of Education kicks off ‘Teachers Rock’ campaign

Exercise and physical wellness teacher-candidates Sydney Lenthall and Darrin Baker work with students in 2019. Both Lenthall and Baker are graduates of Tech’s College of Education.

COOKEVILLE – Leaders with Tennessee Tech’s College of Education are getting creative when it comes to recruiting teacher-candidates.

The result is a strategic recruitment and expedited pathways initiative called Teachers Rock, a grow-your-own campaign, something Gov. Bill Lee mentioned in his February 2020 State of the State address.

“This is a bold, fearless and confident way in getting people recruited (to the education field),” said Lisa Zagumny, dean of the College of Education. 

With new teacher numbers dropping across the state, Lee proposed a salary increase for teachers and the creation of an advanced placement education teaching course, launch of a new series of grants to support individual grow-your-own programs and the launch of the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship.

Individual grow-your-own initiatives are unique to each institution, but Tech’s is focused on rural areas.

“Eight of the 13 counties in this region are distressed, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission,” Zagumny said. “One of Gov. Lee’s first executive orders was to help rural areas, especially those distressed areas.”

School systems are oftentimes the largest employers in the county. 

“We want to work together with the districts to determine who would make great teachers,” said Associate Dean Julie Baker. 

Tech’s College of Education has great relationships with directors of the different systems in the Upper Cumberland and agreements with 52 districts across the state.

“That makes it flexible where teacher-candidates want to do their residency,” Baker said. “Those relationships result in us having the most placed teacher-candidates across the state.”

The Teachers Rock campaign has four components: add-on endorsements, early post-secondary opportunities, teachers as recruiters and collaborative residency opportunities.

Add-on Endorsements: One way to maximize current district resources is to offer expedited pathways for teachers to add endorsements in high-demand areas such as math, science, special education and English as a Second Language (ESL). The goal is to collaborate with our partner districts to identify high need areas in their schools and encourage strong teachers to add endorsements to help meet those needs.

Early post-secondary opportunities: Over the past few years, the College of Education has worked closely with its district partners to foster grow-your-own initiatives with a specific focus on early post-secondary opportunities, such as dual enrollment and dual credit. The college has also partnered with more than 20 schools across the state to visit ‘Teaching as a Profession’ classrooms as well as host those TAP students via campus visits to introduce them to the college classroom experience, campus resources and help build their knowledge and skills related to state curriculum standards and licensure requirements.

Teachers as recruiters: This campaign invites teachers to serve as recruiters for the teaching profession and help them understand the impact of their positive influence on secondary students. Middle school and high school teachers spend a significant amount of time with their students and they are in an ideal position to observe students’ skills and potential to become strong educators. 

Collaborative residency opportunities: Teacher assistants include a great pool of teacher potential, including individuals who have expressed interest and demonstrated experience in the profession. The plan is to help districts identify teacher assistants who are interested in pursuing initial licensure, then collaborate on financial and education support to help the teacher assistants reach that goal and ultimately fill unmet needs within their school systems.

Lee’s budget proposal also includes $8.5 million to support the launch of the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship, an initiative that will, in conjunction with Tennessee Promise, provide a college scholarship for more than 1,000 teacher-candidates as they train to become teachers.

The Tennessee Teacher and Leader Institute, another one of Lee’s projects, will solicit proposals from across the country to help launch a new initiative that will build the best educator preparation program in the nation.

He also proposed investing $4 million to support professional development opportunities for school leaders and innovative career advancement opportunities for the best-performing teachers.

For more information about the Teachers Rock campaign, visit

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