Project Inspire Introduces 12th Cohort Of Future Teachers

Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Hillary Hodgkins
Hillary Hodgkins

Thanks to Project Inspire, Public Education Foundation’s Teacher Residency program, 19 future teachers will spend the 2022-23 school year apprenticing with mentor teachers and supporting the learning of students in high-need Hamilton County schools.  More than 100 graduates of Project Inspire already work in Hamilton County.

This year’s aspiring teachers will work in Dalewood Middle School, East Ridge High School, East Ridge Middle School, Hardy Elementary School, The Howard School, Orchard Knob Elementary School, Orchard Knob Middle School, and two charter schools: Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Montessori Elementary at Highland Park.

PEF launched Project Inspire in 2011, in partnership with Hamilton County Schools. The teacher residency program recruits and trains college graduates who want to become full-time teachers in economically disadvantaged schools. The aspiring teachers spend a full year teaching alongside an outstanding mentor teacher, learning what highly effective teachers do.  The future teachers also earn a Master’s degree from either Lee University or University of Tennessee- Knoxville and a teaching license from the state of Tennessee. They are paid a living stipend thanks to a partnership with AmeriCorps and support from Lyndhurst Foundation and National Center for Teacher Residencies.

“We are delighted with this year’s cohort of future teachers,” said Dr. Dan Challener, president of the Public Education Foundation.  “They come from across the United States and have distinguished themselves as undergraduates and, in many cases, in the world of work.  Each of our residents is committed to making a difference for our students, and they will do that thanks to the terrific training they get from the mentor teachers they work with all year, the academic courses and guidance they get from our university partners, and the coaching they get from Project Inspire staff members Erica Kelley and Dr. Edna Varner.” 

Project Inspire recruits nationwide for talented individuals who are passionate about making a difference in the lives of underserved students. The program’s selection process identifies candidates with teaching and leadership potential and vets them with school district and community leaders during a series of selection activities. 

Project Inspire often recruits candidates who are interested in changing careers.  One of this year’s residents, Hilary Hodgkins, joined Project Inspire after a 20-year career as a criminal defense attorney. 

“Central to my role as a criminal defense attorney has been building relationships with my clients,” says Ms. Hodgkins. “So many of my clients had challenging experiences in school and dropped out for one reason or another. I began to wonder if there was an ideal window in these kids’ lives where they could be supported to make different choices for their lives. Project Inspire has allowed me a way to become a different kind of advocate, an advocate in the classroom.”

“I appreciate the residency model of Project Inspire. I’ve been paired with an outstanding clinical instructor,” says Ms. Hodgkins, who will be teaching English Language Arts with Ginny Jackson, an experienced clinical instructor and highly effective teacher-leader at East Ridge High School. Hamilton

County Schools partners with Project Inspire by identifying exceptional teachers who are thriving in “hard-to-staff” schools as clinical instructors for the residency. Their mentorship and leadership are key to ensuring Project Inspire teachers are ready from day one.

Data from the National Center for Teacher Residency shows that Project Inspire consistently outperforms the national average for residency programs in resident preparedness, resident effectiveness, and leadership development. 

In the Harvard-based Tripod Student Perception Survey which asks students to evaluate their teachers on factors such as engagement, motivation, achievement and mindsets, Project Inspire teacher-residents consistently score 10-15 percent above the national average. 

“Project Inspire values the voice of students, especially those living in communities that have been historically marginalized.” said PEF’s Mark Neal, who has served as program director of Project Inspire since 2012. “This is a matter of justice, and we celebrate the great work being done by Project Inspire residents and graduates to empower students as learners and leaders.” 

This year’s residents include:  

Blake Baggott, East Ridge High School
Sean Carrigan, Hardy Elementary School
Hope Chapman, Dalewood Middle School
Mikayla Curry, The Howard School
Hilary Hodgkins, East Ridge High School
Daniel Holley, Dalewood Middle School
Taylor Jefferson, Montessori Elementary at Highland Park 
Kat Kendall, Hardy Elementary School
Anna Kholod, Orchard Knob Middle School
Anna Lee, Montessori Elementary at Highland Park
Stephaney Long, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
Kara Matassino, The Howard School
Amber McLemore, The Howard School
Jesse McNutt, Orchard Knob Middle School
Morgan Phillips, Orchard Knob Middle School
Amanda Shaw, Hardy Elementary School
Ophelia Thornton, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
Trevor Wilson, East Ridge High School
Lindsey Long, Orchard Knob Middle School 



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