Project Inspire’s Largest Class Is Showing Up For Kids

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Project Inspire teacher residency, a program operated by the staff at the Public Education Foundation, is training its largest class during the 2021-22 school year. Twenty-six teacher residents comprise the 11th class of teacher-residents recruited and trained by Project Inspire.

"This class of residents also represents Project Inspire’s highest ever share of diverse residents, with 30 percent of these residents identifying as teachers of color,: officials said. "This new class of residents reflects Project Inspire’s commitment to diversity, with an array of experience, background, culture and, most importantly, talent.

"Project Inspire recruits nationally each year, and this year’s group includes residents from Kentucky, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois. About two-thirds of this group are career-changers, with three or more years of post-college work experience. These residents hold a wide range of degrees, from architecture and engineering to psychology and dance, from institutions like M.I.T., Wake Forest, Sewanee, Centre College and Purdue. Local talent is also a key pipeline for Project Inspire, with more than a fourth of this group of residents graduating from local partners UT-Chattanooga and Lee University.

"This past August, after a summer of coursework and training, the first day of school arrived, and each of the Project Inspire residents began a full-year apprenticeship alongside an experienced teacher-leader in a Hamilton County school."

At a recent seminar, residents shared reflections on the impact of serving in that full-year apprenticeship, experiencing what it feels like to be ready from day one.

“Being a resident means showing up for kids and teaching them how to represent themselves well,” said Project Inspire resident Corey Dillard, who will be completing his residency at East Lake Elementary during the upcoming year.

“Being a resident means showing up as one of those teachers who can provide support for other teachers, whether on my team, my grade level or my hallway, and doing whatever that needs to look like,” said Allison Swinford, elementary resident at Woodmore Elementary, highlighting the
importance of residents spending a full year wearing the identity of teacher.

Throughout this school year, Project Inspire residents will be serving at 14 different host
sites, mostly concentrated within the Midtown and Missionary Ridge learning communities,
with the mission of providing historically marginalized students with more consistent and
equitable access to effective teachers. Those host sites have completed an application and
selection process, led by the school principal, and each resident will be matched with a specially
trained clinical instructor, an experienced Hamilton County teacher who hosts and coaches the
resident throughout a full-year apprenticeship.

Officials said, "This year, nearly a fourth of the individuals serving as clinical instructors are Project Inspire alumni, showing great progress toward the program’s goal of developing its graduates as teacher-leaders."

Aubrey Daniel is a former Project Inspire who is now serving as Project Inspire clinical instructor at East Ridge High School, where she teaches Biology and is also a lead-teacher for the Future Ready Institute. “I want a resident to be able to see the connections between loving our students and our high expectations for them,” she said.

Anthony Zermeno, also a Project Inspire alum and clinical instructor, adds: “I want a resident to be the teacher who actively tries to understand students’ social, emotional and academic status. This shows students that we are invested beyond the classroom.”

"Project Inspire is one of multiple initiatives operated by the Public Education Foundation in support of student success in learning and life, and PEF is a longstanding member of a national network responsible for the teacher residency model as we know it," officials said.

As a senior leader at PEF and member of the Project Inspire staff, Dr. Edna Varner underscores PEF’s commitment to solutions that meet critical needs within the public education landscape. “The
greatest need in any school, particularly in a ‘high need’ school, is access to great teachers.
Each of these Project Inspire host classrooms will have two talented adults, a resident and a
host clinical instructor, working together to make that access possible,” Dr. Varner said.


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