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Ellen McIntyre, Donde Plowman, David Cihak, and other stakeholders from the university stand together for a photo in front of the UT System's backdrop.

UT System Celebrates Formation of Tennessee Grow Your Own Center

Recently, The UT System celebrated the formation of the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center. The Grow Your Own Center is a partnership between local school districts, EPPs, U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), and the Tennessee Department of Education, to provide federal financial assistance to professional educator candidates. Penny Schwinn and Randy Boyd seated next to a panel of 4 people at the GYO Center press conferenceThe GYO Center will coordinate with all 146 local school districts and 43 Professional Educator Preparation Programs across Tennessee, ensuring that children have highly effective teachers and leaders from Pre-K to graduation. For far too long, cost has been a limiting factor to entering professional education due to the requirement for unpaid on-the-job training, the cost of multiple state assessments, in addition to the cost of tuition. High quality educator preparation has always relied on on-the-job training under the guidance and supervision of experienced mentors. However, the on-the-job training is all too often unpaid, and cooperating teachers are inconsistently compensated for their mentorship. The GYO Hub offers prospective teachers and leaders the opportunity to be paid for their on-the-job learning, similar to a medical residency and other professions.

Grant Collaborations between the Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher Education (Tara Moore, Cate Smith), the Department of Child & Family Studies (Lori Caudle, Melody Hobbs) and the CEHHS Office of Professional Licensure (David Cihak, Amelia Brown) served as the foundations for this work, which is now quickly growing into the national model for innovation and accessibility in high-quality educator preparation.

Huge thanks to the following folks who have gone above and beyond to support our current Grow Your Own candidates: Demetria Mells, Donna Alderman, MariBeth Coleman, Joshua Kenna, Gina Guinn, Joan Grim, and Ashlee Smethers. Of course, this work would also not be possible without our close relationships with our LEA partners (Knox, Memphis-Shelby, Alcoa, Blount, Maryville, and Monroe). Our experiences with our current Grow Your Own cohorts provided invaluable insights into this model of educator preparation which will be used by the Grow Your Own Center to scale up and improve Grow Your Own programs.

Through its eight departments and 12 centers, the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences enhances the quality of life for all through research, outreach, and practice. Find out more at

Find out More About the Grow Your Own Program

“Grow Your Own” programs are one way of becoming a licensed educator. “Grow Your Own” programs allow students to work in schools (and get paid) as Apprentice Teachers while completing requirements for teacher licensure. UTK’s current Grow Your Own programs are available to candidates with a bachelor’s degree and a desire to become a licensed educator. CEHHS will be holding an information session on September 21st from 5:30-6:30 PM regarding our Grow Your Own programs. This session will be vis Zoom and will be recorded if you are unavailable to attend “live.” If you would like to receive further information regarding Grow Your Own and our information session on the 21st, please fill out this form: Grow Your Own Program Interest Form