Kevin Jackson decided he wanted to be a teacher after watching his mom.
“My mom used to be a preschool teacher and just seeing people she used to teach and grew up and still remember her because of the impact she left, it really hit home for me. I thought, ‘I would like to do that as well,’” said Jackson, a student at Tyner Academy.
Only a ninth grader, he’s already taking steps in that direction.
Jackson is one of about 80 students enrolled in the UTC Teaching and Learning Institute at Tyner. The four-year program—which is open to all Tyner high school students—is designed to help them prepare for a teaching career.
The institute is one of three such programs at Tyner and includes the EPB Institute of Technology and Networking and Institute of Health Sciences. All three are part of the Future Ready Institutes in Hamilton County Schools, which were established in 13 high schools in 2018 and are designed to offer students insight and education into careers that, among others, include teaching, engineering, technology, health, tourism and business.
On Tuesday, Frank Brogan, assistant secretary in the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, part of the U.S. Department of Education, toured the Tyner institutes to get a better picture of how they operate and their success.
“It’s spectacular. It really is. I wish this was around when I was their age,” said Brogan, who has spent decades in education, including stints as the chancellor of the university systems in Florida and Pennsylvania. But “the best job I ever had,” he said, were his years as a fifth-grade teacher.
In his mind, the Teaching and Learning Institute is a two-pronged approach to helping students.
“One, it will help prepare those who do go on to a career in education, but two, it will also give people a chance to see how the other half live in education and maybe decide it’s not a career path for them,” he said.
“Lots of the skills in teaching translate to the world of work, no question about it, but there’s something also something to be said in giving young people a chance to step into a career to test the waters, to see if they like it.”
Valerie Rutledge, dean of the UTC College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, said Brogan’s visit is a testament to the hard work of everyone affiliated with the Institute of Teaching and Learning.
“It’s recognition of the efforts that are being put forth to try to increase the diversity in the teaching population and ultimately, I think, it becomes a great pipeline,” she says. “As these students go through and begin understanding what a teaching career looks like, then the people coming along behind say, ‘Hmm, how about that?’
Students in Teaching and Learning are not only given classroom lessons, they also visit elementary school classrooms to observe and are given prep work before taking the ACT exam. In the summer, they can spend a week living on campus at UTC.
On Tuesday, the Tyner students were working on a project focusing on methods for teaching special-needs students, including how to design a lesson plan that meets the students’ educational goals.
“That is so cool,” Brogan said to three students working on the project in the institute classroom.
Jennifer Ellis, who is on the UTC School of Education’s Executive Advisory Board, said it allows students to experience the realities of day-to-day teaching while giving them a clear idea of the path they need to take to become a teacher.
“I think has enhanced them and really gotten them excited about the opportunities for teaching,” she said.
Tyner sophomore Kaylea Moore says the institute has solidified her plan to become a teacher. “It’s a dream come true.”
“I love just learning about how to teach as a whole and all the different aspects and ways and everything about how it is to be a teacher,” she said. “And the experiences and the relationships throughout the classroom are just a different mindset from high school. It’s like a different school.”