A local teacher residency program has expanded in several ways to target an identified community need.

Project Inspire is a local teacher residency program that was originally oriented toward training its students to be secondary math and science teachers. Now, the program offers a chance for its residents to learnhow to teach literacy skills.

In December 2015, Chattanooga 2.0 reported that 60 percent of third-graders in Hamilton County could not read on grade level. Project Inspire recognized this issue and has expanded its own programming to help address the problem.

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Leaders at Project Inspire hope that the new, more accessible degree program will pull in prospective teachers who could make a great impact in Hamilton County’s problem areas.

“It’s seen as a method of filling some vacancies,” Mark Neal, director of the Project Inspire program, said. “It’s also a way to attract some really great talent.”

Project Inspire has also worked out a deal with Lee University to pull in some of its students with a 14-month Master of the Arts teaching program. Residents enrolled in this program will not only receive mentorship from professors at Lee University, but will also get help from the teacher who takes in the resident.

The students enrolled in the Project Inspire program who want to teach literacy skills will become a full part of the Hamilton County Department of Education, beginning in 2018-2019.

The program is tuition-free, and students are paid between $12,000 and $16,000 for their work. Funding is provided by AmeriCorps and the Tucker Foundation.

The application deadline for the next year is Feb. 27. Students who are accepted into the program will begin in June.

Project Inspire was brought to Hamilton County in 2011 through a partnership with the Public Education Foundation.

The program works by taking students who want to teach, regardless of their major, and putting them straight into a classroom setting.

The students have a planning orientation and a few warmup days during which they meet the teachers they’ll be working with. As time goes on, students pick up more responsibilities before they take over the classroom altogether.

For more information about Project Inspire, click hereor here.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is also currently attending UTC, where she is the news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo.

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