Back to School: The Public Education Foundation places future teachers in disadvantaged schools

The Public Education Foundation (PEF) in Chattanooga is placing future teachers in our economically disadvantaged schools. 

On this first day back to school, the program ‘Project Inspire’ is placing future teachers in our schools that typically have a low teacher retention rate. The program offers individuals who already have a Bachelor’s Degree an alternative way of getting teaching credentials. 

Erica Kelley a residency coach for the Project Inspire program. She said she also took the non traditional path to teaching

“Our teacher candidates are people who have already had a career, usually successful ones, and have decided to transition into teaching. That was my own story. I had a full career and I didn’t have my own classroom until I was 40,” said Kelley. “I think the ideal candidate for Project inspires one who wants to make a difference in students lives.”

Education experts have said the alternative path to teaching provided by PEF will essential to helping the teacher shortage

“I don’t think it solves the teacher shortage. I certainly think it helps. I think that there are a number of ways that people can come into teaching. I think ours is a very unique path,” said Kelley.


Dr. Edna Varner with PEF said the shortage is just important finding teachers that will stay as it is finding teachers to apply.

“We draw teachers from all over the United States, most of the teachers are from right here at home. That’s great, but we’re still attracting teachers from all across the United States,” said Dr. Varner.

Last school year the county retained almost 90% of new teachers.

More than 100 graduates of Project Inspire already work in Hamilton County. 


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