Educational grant gives Tennessee Tech education majors early teaching experience

COOKEVILLE – Students studying in the College of Education at Tennessee Tech University are getting a head start on their experience in the classroom thanks to a grant-funded tutoring partnership with Putnam County school system. These teachers-in-training worked with small groups of children in elementary classrooms this past spring.

“I chose to participate in the program because I wanted to gain more experience in a classroom setting,” said Megan Jennings of Cookeville, an education major. “I have a passion for working with children and I will do anything I can to do that more. The tutoring program sounded like the best of both worlds: more experience for me, enrichment for the students and a way to further my passion.” 

Jennings was one of the Tech students chosen to work with young children who were on the cusp of reading at their grade level, but were just needing a little extra help. Rebekah Garber of Jefferson City, another Tech education major, also spent her spring tutoring students in reading in a Putnam County elementary school.

“This was an eye-opening experience for me to see how students begin to learn how to read,” Garber said. “Now that I am aware of the basic skills and building blocks of reading, I will be able to use this wisdom for my future students who aren’t advanced in reading.”

The tutoring program was created using federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund through the TN ALL Corps, Tennessee’s initiative to incentivize tutoring partnerships. The intention was to help give young students a boost after the learning disruption caused by the pandemic between 2020-2021. 

Jennings said, “The lightbulb moment when I can see the students understand a new idea or piece together concepts is one of the reasons why I want to be a teacher. I truly believe that the time we have spent working on specific things has greatly improved their confidence and their abilities, and I am lucky to have this opportunity.”

Garber added, “Every time that one of my students smiles because they get an answer correct, I beam with excitement. Tutoring is so rewarding to me because I can clearly see the progress that my students make on a day-to-day basis.”

Both Jennings and Garber say they came to Tech because they’d been impressed with the reputation of the university’s College of Education and the surrounding Cookeville community. Now that they’ve been accepted into the new tutoring partnership, they are gaining experience in teaching early on in their educational career to complement their on-campus learning. 

“After earning my degree at Tech, I hope to become a middle school English teacher,” Garber said. “My goal is to be a positive influence for students, and I hope that each student in my classroom feels loved as we take on the challenging subject of English language arts.”

Jennings added, “I hope to have my very own classroom where I can showcase my philosophy that every child deserves the opportunity to find success. I hope that my love for teaching inspires children to have a love for learning.”

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