Project Inspire Teacher Residency Making Strides In Teacher Diversity

  • Monday, August 21, 2023

Public Education Foundation and Project Inspire Teacher Residency announce that two thirds of the members of its 2023-24 cohort of future teachers are people of color. In recent years, Project Inspire Teacher Residency, which was created by Public Education Foundation, set a goal to recruit at least 50 percent teachers of color because recent compelling research has shown that a diverse teaching force benefits all students and especially students of color, said officials.

Recent studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and University of North Carolina have documented that black students who have at least one black teacher in grades K–3 are 13 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 19 percent more likely to enroll in college compared with black students who never had a black teacher. A 2021 Harvard University study confirmed a strong link between teachers of color and improved academic, socio-emotional, and behavioral outcomes for all students. In Hamilton County, students of color make up more than half the student population, while 18 percent of teachers self-identify as people of color.

“We are excited and proud of the extraordinary credentials, commitment, and diversity of this year’s cohort of aspiring teachers,” said Dr. Dan Challener, president of Public Education Foundation. “We are committed to increasing the number of outstanding teachers of color in Hamilton County Schools, teachers like Chandler Davenport, who is a graduate of Project Inspire and was Hamilton County's 2023 Secondary Teacher of the Year.”

The 13th Project Inspire Teacher Residency Cohort is comprised of 16 individuals who began their teaching residencies in local public schools last week. Ten out of 16 residents identify as people of color. 

 The residents and their school placements are as follows:

• Abril Lara, 6-12 ELA, The Howard School
• Allana Tate, 6-12 Math, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
• Alma Smith, 6-12 ELA, Tyner Middle Academy
• Amaya Rehling, 6-12 Science, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
• Ashlyn Thomas, 6-12 Math, Brainerd High School
• Asia Waldrop, 6-12 Math, Tyner Middle Academy
• Breaisia Montgomery, Exceptional Education, Woodmore Elementary School
• Claire Gilliland, 6-12 Math, Brainerd High School
• Cordell Sands, 6-8 Math, Howard Connect
• Dajhia Sangster, 6-12 ELA, Tyner Middle Academy
• DeKayla Brewer, 6-12 Math, Tyner Academy
• Kayla Cochran, 6-12 ELA, The Howard School
• Keichemriya Jones, Elementary, Hardy Elementary
• Megan Goode, Elementary, Calvin Donaldson Elementary
• Michelle Jenkins, 6-12 Chemistry, The Howard School
• Morgan Clemons, 6-12 ELA, The Howard School

“We are fortunate that with a large applicant pool, Project Inspire can be selective and diverse, so that Hamilton County students get new teachers eager to learn from mentors who get results and thrive in schools often considered challenging. Our residents want to be trained by those teachers and the district supports that,” said Dr. Edna Varner, senior advisor of Leading and Learning at PEF.

Project Inspire is committed to supporting Hamilton County Schools in their efforts to recruit “outstanding, diverse teachers (Opportunity 2030).”

“In supporting our just cause, where all children thrive and experience a future without limits, our continued partnership with Project Inspire helps us to provide high-quality teachers in our high-need schools,” said Zac Brown, chief talent officer at Hamilton County Schools. “One of the ways that we
honor our commitment to 'Every Employee Valued' is by engaging with innovative educator preparation programs like Project Inspire. HCS and Project Inspire stand together to ensure our residents feel valued, empowered, and supported.”


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