As much as she wanted to, Karol Harper hadn’t planned to go back to school to get her teaching license. With a full-time job and a family — she couldn’t afford it. It would have meant a loss of income and benefits.

Harper, a teacher’s aide in the special education department at Farragut Intermediate School in Knoxville, Tennessee, was interviewing a candidate for a position at her school when she learned about her state’s new teacher apprenticeship program.

The program enables participants to get licensed as teachers through an apprenticeship, instead of paying out of pocket for the degree. Many apprentices work in a school, gradually taking on more teaching responsibilities, while studying for an education degree at night. Other students, like high schoolers and college students, work as student teachers in their local districts, while taking working toward their bachelor’s degree. The tuition and fees are paid for through the program, but in addition student apprentices get tutoring and coaching.

“I started Googling and researching,” said Harper, “and contacted the folks at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and applied and was accepted.”

In January, Tennessee announced that it was expanding its “grow your own programs” to recruit and train teachers by developing the new apprenticeship model, which connects school districts and educator preparation programs. Tennessee’s department of education launched this program with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Austin-Peay State University, making it the first registered teaching apprenticeship program in the country. Two additional universities, and the University of Tennessee system, will join the effort this fall, said Tennessee education commissioner Penny Schwinn.

Schwinn said the program could help stem teacher shortages — a problem in Tennessee and around the country. Throughout the pandemic, she said, the state consistently had about 1,000 teacher vacancies, with urban school districts having the hardest time recruiting new teachers.

Read the full article about teacher apprenticeships by Javeria Salman at The Hechinger Report.