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ROGERSVILLE — Tusculum University is partnering with the Hawkins County and Greene County school systems to support teaching assistants as they pursue a license to teach a high school subject in special education.

The Tusculum College of Education recently earned two $100,000 Grow Your Own grants from the Tennessee Department of Education, which will enable Tusculum to cover the cost for tuition, books and fees for 16 master’s degree students. These students will simultaneously work for either the Greene County or Hawkins County school system as a teaching assistant.

“This outstanding initiative will help us increase the number of teachers in these important roles and expand our connections with school systems in East Tennessee,” said Dr. Miriam Stroder, associate dean of teacher education for the College of Education.

“We are excited to support our students as they achieve academic dreams and prepare to transform lives in the classroom. We are also grateful to the state and longtime colleagues in Greene County and Hawkins County for making this opportunity possible.”

Students for whom this program is intended are teaching assistants in Greene and Hawkins counties who are performing duties such as planning for instruction, co-teaching and grading and are supervised by a highly qualified mentor teacher in secondary content area or special education classrooms.

The first group of eight students who enroll in this 54-credit hour program, called SPEDReady, will start in fall 2021 and finish in May 2023, including taking classes in summer 2022. The second group of eight will begin their studies in fall 2022 and finish their coursework in May 2024, including classes in summer 2023. Students will take the classes either via the Zoom platform or in an online format.

Students who enroll through this program will be on a pathway for a Master of Arts in teaching and can specialize in a wide range of secondary content areas. Students will also earn endorsements for special education comprehensive K-12 and special education interventionist K-8. Once they complete the program, they will be eligible to take all necessary licensure examinations, and Tusculum will cover the cost of the first attempt.

Among the courses students will take are Assessing Students with Special Needs, Communication and Developmental Aspects of Learning, Technology, Lesson Planning, Content Methods for Teaching in the Secondary Classroom and Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Those who enroll will also participate in a two credit hour Student Teaching Seminar and an eight credit hour Enhanced Student Teaching.

“This tremendous program will positively impact the quality of education and help us in the recruitment of excellent teachers to serve our students,” said Matt Hixson, director of Hawkins County Schools. “We welcome the opportunity to assist this initiative by employing the students as teaching assistants. The knowledge they gain from their coursework will benefit our students and teachers and enhance learning in our classrooms.”

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Anyone interested in SPEDReady can email Dr. Stroder at [email protected].