Grow Your Own Highlight
Posted on 12/28/2023
Grow Your Own Highlight

Hamilton County Schools continues to expand pathways and programs to support staff and retain excellent teachers. One pathway HCS offers is Grow Your Own (GYO), a pathway that grows staff members into certified teachers, diversifies the district staff, and closes opportunity gaps for students.

Launched in 2018 with fifteen candidates and two university partners, GYO has since expanded, collaborating with four universities and currently supporting 70 individuals on their journey toward teacher licensure, making the HCS GYO program one of the biggest in Tennessee.

“Hamilton County Schools remains committed to the Grow Your Own programs,” said Jesse Gray, Director of Talent Acquisition. “Our community’s commitment to our children is shown in their response to the programs. We are excited to continue to offer pathways to teaching to the people that know our students the best.” 

In 2023, GYO expanded its reach and introduced the first K-5 cohort in partnership with and collaborated with the English as a New Language (ENL) department to develop an add-on endorsement opportunity. This partnership supports teachers with existing teaching certifications by adding an ENL Certification, thereby enriching the learning experience for English language learners.

Recognizing that students thrive when they see themselves represented in their leaders, GYO leads to an increase in educator diversity in keeping with community and board priorities. Currently, over 40% of our students are students of color, while only 12% of our teachers reflect this diversity. GYO is dedicated to training, hiring, and supporting more teachers of color to align with our student population.

GYO opens doors to teacher licensure for passionate individuals, ensuring they receive support every step of the way. Almost 50% of GYO candidates focus on exceptional education, 25% concentrate on elementary education, and another 25% focus on secondary education. 

Each GYO applicant follows a unique route, and the programs ensure they receive tailored resources to accommodate their needs and interests. From the initial application process to continual check-ins and coaching, GYO provides unwavering support throughout the journey to program completion.

The GYO program is just one of the multiple HCS invested career development opportunities. The GYO initiative stands as a testament to the district’s commitment to Every Employee Valued. Together, Hamilton County is building a community of teachers who are passionate, diverse, and dedicated to helping students succeed.