MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new plan is now in place at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) to help recruit and train more teachers. 

“The diversity of our teaching core in Tennessee doesn’t match the diversity of our student population,” said David Mansouri.

Mansouri is the president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), which has partnered with MTSU to launch the Tennessee Teach Back Initiative.

This new program will focus on recruiting high school students from high need and rural areas.

“One of the things we’re excited about is the prioritization on making sure that more black students, more Latino students are being recruited into teaching preparation programs and are being supported in those programs to then be able to be excellent teachers when they leave MTSU,” said Mansouri.

These students will train at MTSU’s College of Education, obtain their teaching license, and then return to teach in the communities they’re from.

“I think this initiative is needed,” said Neporcha Cone. “I’m very excited to support it, and I’m very excited about the partnerships we’re developing.”

Cone, who will be the new dean for the College of Education, said this initiative is not only about training prospective teachers, but also providing them the support they need.

“There are culture dynamics that they are going to experience when they enter the classroom that’s important for us to be there to support these first and second year teachers, because that’s when we see a lot of the attrition going on,” said Cone.

SCORE will provide a three-year, $300,000 grant that will help the university fund a new recruitment and engagement specialist.

In addition, SCORE will commit $90,000 for the first year with subsequent awards upon successful outcomes over the three year period.

The recruitment and engagement specialist will work with school districts to recruit students for this program.

“I’m excited for communities to see the work that we’re doing and that we care,” said Cone. “We are committed to them. We are committed to hearing their voice. We’re committed to not only hearing their voice, but integrating their voice in our curriculum.”

It’s a program SCORE believes will help tackle key issues impacting teachers across the state.

“I think this goal of saying not only do we want to prioritize this work, but we want to be one of the best teacher preparation programs in the country…I think that’s a lofty goal,” said Mansouri. “I think that’s a laudable goal, and I think it’s perfect timing and really important timing to be doing that work when we know many communities are facing teaching shortages.”

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Under this initiative, participating school districts would agree to fund remaining costs after scholarships and grants for their students to earn their initial teaching license at MTSU.

The university is hoping to have the recruitment and engagement specialist hired by the fall.