TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover, College of Education Dean Dr. Jerri Haynes, and U.S. Sec. of Education Miguel Cardona speak to the media on the importance of educating the student teachers. (Photo: TSU Twitter)

U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, hosted a roundtable discussion at Tennessee State University on Friday, Feb. 18, to address teacher shortages and other educational needs.

The highlight of the conversation was TSU’s Grow Your Own teacher pipeline initiative in the College of Education. TSU is the number one HBCU for producing teachers and a top institution in the field.

TSU graduate and undergraduate students from the Grow Your Own program, faculty and local educational leaders participated in the dialog that allowed them to talk openly about issues impacting their lives and work environment, including diversity and the pandemic.

“This has been so amazing to have the Secretary of Education visit the campus of TSU and have such engaging discussions with our faculty and students,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“TSU has a proud legacy of producing quality teachers who are committed to the profession and for providing them the tools to succeed, ultimately resulting in student success. We are glad to share the success and impact of our Grow Your Own program with Secretary Cardona and look forward to his next visit.”

Cardona told reporters after the event that he was proud of what he saw at TSU.

“We want to see more of this across the country. We know that with the American Rescue Plan funds, and what we’re pushing with Build Back Better, there’s going to be more support for this. It takes seeing programs like this to keep us pushing really hard because we know they work.”

Cardona said TSU is “not only a place where you’re going to see great programs … but you’re going to see an environment that’s welcoming and nurturing to all students.”

TSU has more than 50 participants in its GYO programs. Tanisha Morrow, a paraprofessional at a local Nashville high school, is among them.

“This is paving the way for me to obtain a master’s degree in special education, and also allows me to get an endorsement in ESL,” said Morrow, who participated in the roundtable.

“But more than anything, I’ll be able to better serve kids in our community. That’s important to me because our classrooms are so diverse. I need to be able to reach all learners.”

Education officials say initiatives such as GYO are necessary to address teacher shortages, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of education job openings overall surged by nearly 75 percent this fall compared to the same period last year.

And teacher shortages, in particular, are expected to linger when the pandemic wanes, experts say.

TSU and its Grow Your Own initiative is doing its part to make sure school districts are supplied with enough qualified teachers, said Dr. Jerri Haynes, dean of TSU’s College of Education.

“Some schools are starting without teachers, some have interim subs,” said Haynes, who was part of the roundtable. “So, we want to make sure that all students get a fair chance at the beginning of school with a highly qualified teacher in their classroom.”

Trev’on Hayes, Memphis native and future educator, speaks to media on the importance of teachers in today’s society. (Photo: TSU Twitter)

Junior Tre’veon Hayes, an elementary school major from Memphis, said the visit by the Education Secretary and what he heard about programs such as Grow Your Own, were motivational.

“I like where we’re heading with the education vision,” said Hayes, a roundtable participant. “I believe we have a strong plan to really encourage more students to get involved in education.”

Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools and a TSU alumna, was also part of the roundtable.

“It takes these types of conversations to make things happen,” said Battle. “I commend all of you for what you do.”

U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal was also a part of the visit to TSU.

(To learn more about TSU’s College of Education, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/coe/. For more information about the state’s Grow Your Own initiative, visit https://bit.ly/36oIgKN.)