Even before I officially began my position as the Director of the School of Education at UTC, I was invited to participate in a Chattanooga 2.0 community meeting at Normal Park. I remember thinking how impressed I was with the representation of individuals who gathered to discuss education. Those in attendance were leaders in the community who were determined to improve education with a focus on the children of this community. While I accepted the position of director in January 2016, I didn’t officially start my position until July. While not yet in Chattanooga, I was still able to participate in Chattanooga 2.0 and its important work. I remember being impressed with how a community this size was so engaged in making a difference in the lives of children all over Hamilton County. Since my arrival, the work has been ongoing.
Chattanooga 2.0 aligns with my goal of developing a strong pipeline of new teachers through UTC’s School of Education. The School of Education has multiple staff serving on various Chatt 2.0 action teams such as Early Matters and the Inclusive Education and Opportunities action team, in order to guide the work that we do in our preparation programs. The involvement of representatives from the School of Education ensures our programs prepare teacher candidates who will be ready for the classroom on day one.
One of the primary goals of my work within the UTC School of Education is to strengthen and build upon the partnership with Hamilton County Department of Education. HCDE serves as one of our primary partners and hires approximately 60% of our graduates. Cultivating a stronger and more intentional partnership is essential for our success in the School of Education and will have a direct benefit to HCDE. A recent result of this partnership was the collaborative redesign of clinical experiences for our teacher candidates to ensure they were able to spend significant time within classrooms where highly effective teaching takes place. These important clinical experiences have direct and positive impacts for our teacher candidates. A strong partnership allows for the opportunity of candid conversation, discussions, and review of provider impact data in order to support the professional growth of our teacher candidates. Building a culture where local stakeholders participate in helping to guide change regarding curriculum, clinical experiences, recruitment, selectivity, and program enhancements, defines a strong relationship between UTC’s School of Education and HCDE.
Recently, the work with Chattanooga 2.0 has afforded us the opportunity to develop new initiatives, such as the Chattanooga Teaching Fellows. This scholarship supports the efforts to recruit effective teacher candidates who are committed to work with HCDE after the completion of our preparation program. The Chattanooga Teaching Fellows will directly impact the teacher pipeline needs in Hamilton County.
UTC’s School of Education must stay involved in Chattanooga 2.0 in order to maintain our trajectory of growth. The work we do within the School of Education, directly impacts the goals of Chattanooga 2.0. We plan to continue to involve local stakeholders to guide our work and mold our focus to ensure all of our completers are ready to positively impact all children in the PK-12 classroom. The opportunities for multiple stakeholders to come together and brainstorm ways to improve preparation, induction, recruitment and retention are boundless. The ongoing conversations among stakeholders ensures our work aligns to the goals established by Chattanooga 2.0.
The future is bright for Hamilton County, UTC’s School of Education and the ongoing partnership development. I envision this partnership only getting better and stronger as we continue to work together to solve problems, establish new goals and fight to ensure all children have the best teacher in every classroom.
Dr. Renee Murley is the Director of the School of Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and volunteers on Chattanooga 2.0’s Great Teachers Great Leaders action team.