CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Middle Tennessee grows, the student population grows along with it, prompting, in the meantime, a teacher shortage.

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System is addressing their teacher shortage with their Grow Your Own program– cutting what would be 70 teacher shortages to just 20.

They’re hoping a new initiative, Early Learning Teacher Residency or ELTR helps reduce teacher shortages even more.

“There is such a teacher shortage,” Jessica Harris, Director of Elementary Schools at Clarksville Montgomery County said. “This is our district’s way of growing our own.”

It may sound silly, but the district is essentially growing its own teachers through ELTR and at the end of a three year period they will have 40 new faces eligible and ready for teaching jobs within the district. The program provides 20 recent high school graduates and 20 teachers aides the opportunity to become full-time teachers in just three years for free.

You read that right. The program comes at no cost to the participant. Books, tuition, and tutoring are all free.

​”As a team, we get to work together to ensure every student’s needs are met​,” first-grade teacher, Kelly Hall said.

ELTR works through teams; you have team teachers and teacher residents. The team teachers are full-time teachers that act as mentors to the teacher residents.

Residents work in schools during the day as educational assistance and by night they are full-time college students at Austin Peay State University​.

“It’s my role to support them through whatever means necessary to make sure that effective learning is taking place in every classroom​,” Hall said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for anybody who’s thinking about being a teacher​,” Katina Ivey said, a teacher aid who has worked in the district for 15 years. “I’m able to work and I get paid doing what I was already doing while going to school for free.”

The goal is to help at-risk students, specifically, by getting more diverse teachers into a school that needs more teachers.

In their research, Harris says they identified the most academically at-risk students were more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers.

​”When I think about a brand new teacher a lot of times their level of expertise of knowledge, it doesn’t always meet the level of need of students, it’s just the reality,” Harris said.

Data shows ELTR is decreasing the number of at-risk students.

Altogether, the district says it’s decreasing the student/teacher ratio, supporting the district’s recruiting and setting struggling students up for success.

​”If they are able to graduate from this program they are guaranteed a job,” Harris said. ​

A meeting will be held Thursday, January 23rd at 5:30 at 621 Gracey Ave if you’d like to learn more about the application process for ELTR.

More information on that event is posted here.