Lee News

Project Inspire Forms Partnership with Lee


Project Inspire, a teacher residency program serving Hamilton County public schools, announces a major expansion that includes training aspiring elementary teachers and a new partnership with Lee University. The expansion will double the number of pre-service teachers in the 2017 cohort, with plans to double again in 2018. This intensive program allows college graduates to earn a teaching degree and credential while learning alongside an experienced teacher in the classroom.

As the higher-education partner for Project Inspire, Lee University will offer a 14-month degree program specifically tailored for the needs of residents, culminating in a Masters of Arts in Teaching. Residents will benefit from mentoring both by Hamilton County Department of Education faculty members and Lee University supervisors. In the past five years, Lee University has recommended over 750 candidates to Tennessee for licensure in over 31 areas of teaching.

Dean Bill Estes, Ph.D. stated, “Lee University and the Helen DeVos College of Education have worked with the Hamilton County Department of Education for many years. We have also seen the development and impact of PEF programming throughout Chattanooga. We are so pleased to have a more formalized agreement such as this and to partner in this residency program.”

Project Inspire was developed in close partnership with Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to meet the specific needs of local students, and in alignment with the district’s strategic plan goals. Expanding Project Inspire to include elementary literacy will help address the need to build strong foundations to ensure that more students are reading on grade level by the third grade. Additionally, teacher mentors and their residents will explore innovative learning opportunities to engage all students through proven instructional strategies. Project Inspire is part of a comprehensive approach to attract and retain great teachers and leaders into Hamilton County priority schools in order to close the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.

Hamilton County Department of Education Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly is thrilled to announce the partnership with Lee University. “Project Inspire has supplied HCDE with some of our district’s strongest teachers,” Dr. Kelly said, “and we are thrilled this expansion of the program means soon even more of our students will benefit from an outstanding teacher in the classroom.”

Teacher residencies are receiving national attention for their ability to train individuals specifically to meet school district needs, as well as their ability to increase teacher retention. Project Inspire’s most recent 4-year retention rate for graduates is 80% and ongoing effectiveness studies show that graduates are outperforming traditionally trained teachers in similar, high-need settings.

Dan Challener, PEF President, noted, “At PEF we have always recognized that an effective teacher is the most important lever that can impact a student’s long-term success. Project Inspire honors the importance of this role by asking our schools and their strongest teachers to invest a full school year in training and developing the next generation of leaders for the profession. We are excited to offer this opportunity to more schools and aspiring educators as we work with our partners to strengthen teacher preparation.”

Mark Neal, director of Project Inspire, stated, “At its heart, the expansion of Project Inspire is about opportunity and access. By doubling our goals for recruitment and training for the upcoming year, we will increase our community’s access to a diverse stream of potential teachers, our schools’ access to playing a key role in teacher preparation, and our students’ access to committed, well-prepared educators.”

Individuals who are interested in earning a teaching license in elementary education or secondary math or science and are committed to making a difference in high-need Hamilton County schools are encouraged to apply by February 27, 2017. More information can be found at projectinspiretn.org

Project Inspire is a collaborative effort supported by generous funding from AmeriCorps/Volunteer Tennessee, National Science Foundation, Tucker Foundation, and Hamilton County Department of Education.

PEF is transforming public education. Our mission is to improve student achievement in public schools through highly effective teaching, strong leadership, and strategic partnerships so that all students succeed in learning and in life. For over 25 years, we have collaborated with Hamilton County and other districts in our region to provide training, research, and resources to students, teachers, principals, and schools. Learn more at pefchattanooga.org.

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