Season 2, Episode 2: Homegrown Leaders
Developing leaders within the school and community.
Host Jonathan Santos Silva speaks with leaders and educators from Nashville Teacher Residency (NTR). NTR is a one-year program focused on rebuilding the teacher pipeline using Tennessee’s “Grow Your Own” model. By sourcing teacher candidates already working within local schools, the program provides financial resources to help residents transition into the education field and earn their teaching licenses. With support from highly effective mentor teachers, NTR positions passionate teachers with diverse professional experiences to become high-performing full-time educators who enrich the lives of the students they are already committed to.
When I was teaching high school math at Little Wound School in Little Wound, South Dakota, I met an incredible paraprofessional.
Dawn stuck out not only because she loved math, but because she was from the community in which we taught. She didn't just know the content, she knew our kids. She knew their names, she knew their parents, she knew their grandparents. And when a child was struggling, she knew how to leverage those relationships to help get them to the finish line.
I often thought that Dawn be a better math teacher than me, but there was one problem.
Unfortunately, she ran into barriers like retaking costly certification exams and without some help to get those exams paid for, Dawn had to find another way to impact kids and never became the math teacher I knew she could be.
Today’s episode features an organization that is working to remove those barriers and highlights how we don’t always have to look too far to find the next generation of teachers.
Sometimes, the best people for the job are already in our own backyard (or in this case, already in our classrooms) and all it takes is a helping hand to get them to the finish line.
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YOLANDA BIVINS, GUEST:
What we're doing is we're finding the people who are already in our schools, that already know our kids, they already love our kids, they've already committed to our kids, and we're just helping them get across the finish line to become certified teachers.
From Teach For America’s One Day Studio, you’re listening to Changing Course. I’m Jonathan Santos Silva, a 2010 Teach For America alum on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and since leaving the classroom, I haven’t stopped partnering with educators, students, and communities to reimagine education.
This season, we’re talking to innovative nonprofits from across the country that are committed to attracting, training, and retaining BIPOC educators and providing opportunities where they can flourish.
We have so much to learn from leaders across America moving education in a new direction, and a change in course will happen one school at a time.
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Nashville, Tennessee, also known as the Birthplace of Country Music, is often thought of as a city with bright lights where dreams come true.
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But our guests today remind us that despite its rich history, Nashville is also a city of unmet promises. Segregation devastated local public schools, stripping away resources and creating a clear division of opportunity for students across race and class lines.
MATT CHEEK, GUEST:
Education has always been important to me and my family.
Meet Matt Cheek, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships at Nashville Teacher Residency.
Nashville Teacher Residency, or N-T-R, was launched in 2016 to restore middle and high schools in traditionally underserved communities in Middle Tennessee. The program recruits teacher candidates (also known as residents) who are already working inside local schools. This might include cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, or behavior interventionists. NTR believes that residents who already know and love their students have the potential to be the most impactful leaders.
The NTR team pairs teaching candidates with mentors as they work toward earning their teaching licenses. After one year of rigorous pedagogy, and practical hands-on training, residents walk away as high-performing full-time teachers, poised to have a meaningful impact on their students from day one of their educational careers.
Today, we’ll examine how the next generation of teachers may already work in our schools. We’ll explore how NTR is leveraging existing relationships to enrich the lives of the students they are already committed to.
So I always knew I wanted to be a teacher at least since I was a freshman or sophomore in high school and decided about my junior year in college that I was going to do Teach For America. And so I was in this rural town called Lake City.
That’s Lake City, South Carolina. Go Panthers!
It is my favorite place in the world. It is just a community that's just really strong.
I met my wife there. We both were teachers, both doing Teach For America so “teach for a love story” or whatever they call it. I followed her to Knoxville, Tennessee and became an instructional coach there in Gifted and Talented. And then moved to Nashville in 2019 and joined NTR and I love the work, I love our team. It's just great that we have a team that is so excited about the work but we also really care deeply about one another.
Dr. Diarese George, Former Director of Recruitment for Nashville Teacher Residency, helped paint the picture of what it could be like for Matt to work for NTR, and it’s the community of people and the mission of NTR that have kept Matt in Nashville.
I love the way that the mission has continued to evolve. It's not just something that lives on our website. The mission of Nashville Teacher Residency is to develop and license teachers from diverse backgrounds and experiences who honor the dignity of every student. That is not just something I have memorized. That's like truly our heartbeat and it's fun to fight for that every single day with our team.
So, you and I both were TFA alumni, which in its own right has a sort of kind of like an alternative pathway for folks to get into the classroom. And now, you're doing this NTR work. First of all, how if at all did your experience as a corps member prepare you for this work? And then, are there any broad connections between the work that you're doing now and with maybe local or even the national Teach For America organization?
Yeah. I think TFA has played an instrumental role in my life. One of the things that I've learned the most from Teach For America is that my impact is not only in the classroom. And so, I had these opportunities to take on other things and to lead things and to learn things and to attend conferences and professional development and build this community of teachers. Community makes life so much easier. We can't do life alone.
Matt’s impact expands beyond the classroom as he now serves as the alumni Board Chair for Teach for America’s Nashville-Chattanooga region.
We have just under a thousand Teach For America alums here in Nashville. And so, it's a great network. It's also an untapped network. We're still trying to figure out how do we best leverage the community that's here and make Nashville feel a little bit smaller for folks because that's really important.
Mmm, that's beautiful. I definitely echo what you're saying. Not just the initial placement in my school as being the TFA impact on my career in my life, but the ongoing, you know, resources, connections, friendships-
You know, that have come through being a part of this community. The TFA community have been so instrumental.
The Tennessee department of education has established a new way to build the teacher pipeline through a “Grow Your Own” model. The essence of the program is built on the idea that addressing the needs of education can start right at home with leaders who are already in your community.
Can you tell us a little bit about how that model operates in actuality? Like how do you identify these great candidates? How do you support them? And how do they end up in the classroom full time?
Yeah. That has been really critical to our work since we were founded. There is existing talent in schools who just need some real training and some practice and feedback and all of those pieces, but they're going to be great teachers.
We have a lot of initiatives but again, it's been critical to, what we've done and like why does that work. And I think it begins with like, I can teach somebody how to teach math. I can teach somebody like the pedagogy of how to ask really great questions and to how to engage students, but I can't teach somebody how to love kids. No matter how hard I try I can teach you how to do relationship building, I can teach you how to do those things but the foundation of loving kids, I cannot teach that to somebody. I wish I could because then we'd have, you know, an influx of teachers.
But when we look at the folks who were already in schools, whether it's a behavior interventionist or a cafeteria worker, or a manager, or paraprofessionals, the one thing, the one underlying like theme, thread that connects them all is like they all love kids and they love kids deeply.
One of those stellar paraprofessionals that caught Matt’s eye was Nate Hunter. Formerly a behavior interventionist teaching martial arts in Nashville’s West End, Nate later joined Nashville Teacher Residency’s sixth cohort. We’ll meet him in the second half of the show.
Like I remember I met Nate back in 2019 when we had a resident placed at the school he was at. And I just watched kids flock to Nate. And it was like mind-blowing because I was working on relationship building with my residents like, "Go watch Nate." He's doing it so well. Kids just gravitate towards him. And he just had this presence and it was inspiring.
And, there's great people in schools who just need a shot but it's not hard to recruit, folks like that, because you walk into the school and you see 15 kids around the Nate Hunter and you're like, "Yeah, there's something special about him.” They're not usually hidden in schools. They're doing something that makes them such a value add to a campus. So, it's pretty easy to see them and then say like, "Hey, you know, you spend a year with us, we can get you trained up to become a really exceptional teacher."
When I'm talking with people, who are interested in our program, that's one of the fears that they have is like, "Well, how am I going to learn this?" And I'm like, "No, like, we take a hands-on approach to it. We care for you all the way through. We want to make sure that you're successful in knowing your content." So, there's that piece, right? It’s the content development and making sure that people are supported.
For the folks that don't know much about NTR, what are those early conversations like to first speak words of life in him like, "Hey, man, I see you surrounded by 15 kids, I know you got it. How do we get you in the class full time?" But then also to get him to think like, "Yeah, this is going to be worth the effort. It's going to be hard but we have all of the supports here to ensure that you succeed." How do you start that conversation now?
Nate and I, we had added each other on social media and every once in a while like as soon as we open up our application, I'd be like, "Nate, hey, man. Let's talk about this. I think you can do it. I think you can do it." And, really just building that relationship.
Was he resisting you actively?
That's gonna be a Nate question of just being-
I want to know what happened between that year because I knew he was going to be successful. I knew it the moment I saw him in, the hallway at his school, but I think it, it took a while for him to believe that about himself.
NTR not only helps its residents feel confident enough to step into the classroom, but they also provide the means necessary for achieving their career goals.
I think about one of our residents in particular who went to college to study education. When she got to that final semester, she said, "Oh, I can't do this anymore." And then they switched her from an education career to a general studies career. And so, she was going to graduate unlicensed with the general education studies and she can't go work in a school. And so she looks for all these other things. And, I think had worked in a daycare and maybe somewhere else and eventually found us. We have seen the success. And I think why people are hesitant or why this is such a fight is because it's expensive. We got to put our money where our mouth is, if we're going to do this especially around teachers of color. The training and support, like we’ve run the numbers. It's somewhere around $40,000 of our work per resident. And our resident tuition is $7,000.
So, again, we're taking that tuition off of our residents. And so, we've got to find people who are excited about making that investment in our residents because it's worth it. And I think we used to skirt around this idea of like, "Oh, well, let's figure out how to do this cheaply." No, it takes money. It takes money to do it and we can't be afraid to say that. When we remove as many of these financial barriers that we can to the profession or whatever barrier, it could be test anxiety…when we remove these barriers like and there's so much potential in folks and they just need a shot. Like they just need a shot to be in front of kids and allow them to do the work. At NTR like we're really fortunate to have some incredible funders who believe in that, who are likeminded and want to see it through.
Finances and certifications aren’t the only barriers to getting and keeping these teachers in the classroom. Another major barrier is culture. Especially for BIPOC leaders.
I've worked in places of work that are asking and demanding more teachers of color and then they turn through them. They don't do the work to analyze the way that culture and policy and different practices make schools inhospitable, not just to the adults of color but also to the students. But the adults have the choice to leave. What is it between the supports that NTR provides as well as the schools where your residents are finding greatest success? What is it that those schools and the communities around the schools are doing to support teachers of color and all teachers really, but in particular teachers of color that is allowing them to find success, take root and stay in the classroom, to have that multi-year impact that we know is so valuable for kids?
I tell our residents probably a hundred times in the year that teaching is hard, but teaching alone is impossible and I think we've got to build a community first.
I also think it's just really critical that we have to listen. We have to create a space where, our teachers of color can share their experiences and not be afraid to share them.
And, I don't think that like, you know, a principal could say, "All right, well, I'm gonna get my teachers of color together and I'm gonna have them share their experiences." And I don't think that's going to work, because of the power dynamic there.
One of the ways schools have begun addressing these issues in light of the power dynamic is by providing focus groups facilitated by people outside the organization who can sit down and listen and then share with white school leaders what’s really happening in their schools.
"Here's what we're hearing. I'm not attaching a name to this. Here's what the teachers in your building are saying." And we did that with our own residents.
We've got to be able to listen and then say, "All right, this is true." No matter of like what my intentions were like this is how someone perceives my action and I've gotta commit to being better and to repair the harm. And so, I think about like our, Director of Equity and Programming Lindsey Hamilton who has transformed the way that we are even thinking and about having those conversations. And then the conversation that we can have with school leaders of like, "We're no longer gonna put our residents in places of harm."
And we ask ourselves this in this journey of anti-racism, there's this question that we come back to a lot of times, "Well, what are we willing to risk?" Sometimes that means not partnering with the school and saying, you know, "They've caused harm, to our residents of color. That they are just not a place where a resident or resident of color can thrive as a human and become a great teacher." And we've had to say, "You know what? We're not going to partner there."
For us, that's a money decision that we're making but like we're not going to put people in places of harm. That's an intentional shift that we've made.
We don't expect schools to be perfect because we're not a perfect organization, but like we're going to try our best to make the pushes that we can and have hard conversations and give feedback.
Like in any relationship, it’s all about safety and accountability and that goes not just for the teachers but for students as well.
Kids want to know that you're gonna continue to show up for them, and so I think like the impact is you have people who want to be at your school, who know your kids, know your community and can bring that knowledge into the classroom. Relationships to student achievement? Like there's that connection right there.
You ask any educational theorist, any person who's ever spent time in a classroom, "Well, what's the first thing that a teacher needs to focus on?" It's relationships. And knowing your community.
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Honoring the dignity of every student is a key value at Nashville Teacher Residency. Not only are educators challenged to place love and empathy above test scores and short-term outcomes, but administrators are careful to model this value in how they show up for their residents.
After the break, we’ll continue our conversation with two more leaders from Nashville Teacher Residency, but first, we wanted to ensure you hear from students across the country who are being impacted by teachers who share their identities. Throughout this season, we’ll be lifting up the voices of students of color as they reflect on their experiences.
Here’s Briana Johnson, a junior at Henderson Collegiate in Vance County, North Carolina.
BRIANA JOHNSON, GUEST:
I just feel like I'm able to connect with my teacher way more if we can share the same struggles. Having a teacher who can just relate is very life changing because you just feel like that's an outlet for you and it's somebody you can really talk to.
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As we mentioned earlier, Nashville Teachers Residency pairs its residents with highly effective mentor teachers who provide coaching as residents work toward their certification. Our next guests serve as coach and resident, respectively.
First, here’s Yolanda Bivins, Manager of Resident Development at Nashville Teacher Residency.
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I am Yolanda Bivins. I am here by way of Texas (laughs). My spouse got a really amazing job offer and we could not turn it down and I started looking for a really great place to work. I wanted to continue to do really passionate work. Education is my first love and literacy being my second. Working with teachers was something I was doing in Houston, so I wanted to continue that work in Nashville.
I found Nashville Teacher Residency just by Googling (laughs). My family teased me because I only applied at one place and I was like, "I don't wanna work anywhere else. This is where I wanna work." I found NTR, fell in love with the program, dared them not to hire me and here I am (laughs).
I've been so blessed and so fortunate to meet some really great, amazing educators and Nathan Hunter is just one of them, and so I feel like it's a true blessing that we were paired together. He probably impacted my life as much as he thinks I impacted his.
NATE HUNTER, GUEST:
My name is Nate Hunter, it's my honor to serve here. In the District Six, but teaching here is my first year. My people here feel this, born on the third tier. Educator, motivator, mission is so clear. No kids, grow kids, listen like cochlear. Respect the differences 'cause middle schoolers are so weird. Collaborate with my peers teaching’s a team thing. Systems intervention, level up is my dream thing. Vision I can supply or get behind yours. Relationships are key to open up our minds’ doors.
I had no idea why I wrote that until now (laughs). Wasn't planning on using it, but when you said you can introduce in any way possible, I was like, what is only good for one year?
Nate Hunter is a Nashville native. He was also one of the residents at NTR.
I started teaching martial arts about 17 years ago and that's when I realized I love teaching. And from there, it was a long and winding road to becoming a teacher in an official academic capacity, thanks very much, the end of my road was the fairy godmother, Queen Yolanda Bivins to help me through Nashville Teacher Residency, which is an amazing licensure program. This has been an amazing journey. The last year or so, especially last couple of years moving toward this goal I've had for a very long time. So I'm excited to be here.
At NTR, there are several pairing processes. First, they pair potential candidates with schools. Then, schools select candidates that they believe will work well with the kids in their community. Finally, the team pairs teacher candidates with their site manager or NTR mentor.
Nate Hunter was added to my list (laughs). And I'm telling you, it was the perfect match. We got matched together. We connected probably at our first professional development. He was just this amazing ray of light, that big smile he has on his face it’s always there and the first time that I saw him engage with kids, I knew we had made a really great choice. And so I was just excited and optimistic that kids are going to have him as a full-time certified teacher that next year. I claimed it that first day because I knew it was gonna happen.
So we were linked up as site manager and mentee and immediately, I realized that she exudes this beauty of spirit. Just her energy is calming and encouraging, and I gravitate toward that personally. I respond very well to familiar-like relationship ties. Relationships are where teaching is at, I think we all kind of know that, but I could tell that she was a master at dealing with people and being like, authentic and encouraging.
And I was nervous getting into the program. It had been a while since I was in the academic arena for performance reasons and so I was relieved to be paired with Yolanda.
My journey in education, a lot more circumspect than Miss Bivins’ for sure. It was never on my radar partially because of my relationship with academics in the classroom…my performance in school was always questionable. I always loved school, I liked the social aspect and I enjoyed learning but there was some organizational and self-management aspects of it that always gave it a bit of a bitter taste.
Before finding NTR, Nate first discovered his love for teaching as a martial artist doing restorative justice work with young Black boys. It was there he learned how to create an atmosphere where everyone could learn but also heal the harm caused by punitive disciplinary approaches.
I worked as a restorative practices assistant for three or four years. At that point, my focus had changed, I wanted to be a teacher in the classroom but I saw also what teachers had to do, everything that was on their plate, and I saw this need with our boys, and so I kind of put the teaching thing on the back burner and I was like, “Here's where I wanna be. I wanna be on the front line. I wanna be with my guys and girls every day and I want to help them build those social and emotional skills they need to be successful. I wanna help our school and our district to be more equitable with discipline and community building.”
And I did that for a while and then I realized, while I might not have the same breadth of influence in my school if I were doing something different, if I were teaching, the depth that I could have, because I saw good teachers at work and I realized that, yes, I see these kids in their toughest times, and I help them through that and I help bridge the gap between teachers and students with communication and help restore relationships around the school and build community, but I wanted the level of impact on students that I saw teachers having and I thought that's where I could really help.
NTR helped him gain the confidence to take his skills to the classroom and they made sure he had support from his mentor Yolanda.
It was really one of the biggest reasons I succeeded in the program. All of our site manager directors are great but being paired with her specifically, it’s a blessing.
But Yolanda says the transition to becoming a mentor initially came with some hesitation.
My principal came into my classroom and she said, "Hey, next year, I want you to be a coach. I want you to coach and train other teachers." and I said, "No, I really like kids," (laughs) “Kids are easy. They do what you ask them to do. Grownups are a little more difficult to work with (laughs).
And I was really afraid of being able to lose the ability to impact kids and she assured me that I was going to impact even more students by being a coach. And so I started coaching and I fell in love with it. She was right. I was impacting so many more students. And then I moved into a role working for the district as a teacher development specialist. In that role, I went to historically low performing schools and did what we all know as ‘turnaround work,’ getting kids to be successful, getting teachers to be successful.
And I've gone a few different avenues in education. I have worked as a behavior interventionist, a reading specialist, but I keep coming back to this love of training, and coaching, and preparing teachers, and so finding NTR was just the perfect fit. I got to continue doing what I loved even though I was in a new state where I didn't know anyone. My team has been like a family. They've welcomed me. They've taken care of me (laughs) and I'm just really thankful.
For the average teacher-in-training, here’s how their experience goes. They graduate with a degree in education and a semester’s worth of student teaching with minimal interaction with their site supervisor. And most trainings are unpaid, a “luxury” that many teacher candidates cannot afford.
So the difference, I think between that pathway and a residency is that our residents are employed by the districts during their residency. So they're paired with a mentor teacher, same as I was, but they're actually on the payroll, and they are there part-time as a student teacher and then serving part-time as a paraprofessional, still supporting other classrooms and supporting students individually and in small groups as well.
During that year, they receive coaching. We have coaching meetings every other week. They receive observations from us where we observe them and then we send them feedback and tools to help them grow. They also have classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and this is really important because a lot of our residents, come to us having already tried to pass Praxis or pass the NTPA assessment unsuccessfully, and so this is our opportunity to bring those pieces together and provide them with the tools to be successful on their certification exam.
It's a very intense experience and I likened it to bootcamp before (laughing). So it immediately helps you to get familiar with the school and everything. You're kind of in there. I was fortunate and I had a lot of experience in the school, so some things were familiar to me, but seeing teaching up close and then our watchwords were practice and feedback. So always be able to bounce it off somebody, whether it be your mentor, teacher, your site manager, or the people in your cohort. And we were so busy, honestly, that it made us bond. We had each other and we were going through something very unique, that was moving very fast, and so we clung to each other and we clung to our site managers and directors in the program who constantly assured us and proved that they were there for us.
So with me and Yolanda, we matched well because we both work from a relationship space. She was also pursuing her postgraduate degree, so she was amongst a bunch of amazing site managers in a position to uniquely feel where we were at the moment, in terms of going through a lot with a rigorous schedule and so she had a very good combination of being understanding and meeting us where we were, but also that loving demand of the intensity of the situation (laughs), like, there was a lot of work to be done. And I guess one of the things I appreciated about her the most was, dealing with me with the same dignity that the program and life teaches us we should deal with our students with which is when there were problems and hiccups, there was no blaming, there was no shaming. She was very solution-oriented and if this solution doesn't work, we'll try the next, but she would lovingly coach through it and she helped me to see that she felt where I was coming from. She shared her life. Some people respond well to a very drill sergeant, hard coaching thing. I am all about personal responsibility and accountability, but I respond best to a place of you knowing me and allowing me to know you and being coached, but also coached with love and empathy.
Everybody in the NTR Residency was amazing at that. I think that's the key to just working through a digital space, but also just between her and me, she might be the best at it that I've known. And I love the fact that I had that experience of her right before I became a teacher. If I'm tempted to get frustrated or impatient (laughs) with a student, I'm like, what would Yolanda do?
Sometimes it can be overwhelming as a new teacher to know that you are the education experience for these people, you and your team, on this year, and it's the biggest factor pushing me to be ready. It helps to stop me when I get frustrated, which can happen in the middle school quite often, and pull me back into, “All right, well, what's the answer?” Not what's exactly the emotional response? Because there's time for that on my dime, but how do I help the student? And how do I let them know I'm here to help them?
And so taking notes from that, but also knowing that I'm they're link to their future, it motivates me, it pushes me. Teaching's a hard job (laughs) and I'm realizing this year, a lot of work goes into it, but like Yolanda said, I never thought I'd be okay waking up at 05:30 in the morning. I never in my life. I came through a non-traditional route that had a lot of night jobs and late days and now I'm fine waking up to get ready and I'm fine staying late.
It's a drive, but that's what pushes me, is knowing that, this is an awesome responsibility and it's an awesome opportunity. It's the impact I've been looking for.
And that impact is something that will continue to be felt. We all remember that one teacher who changed the game for us.
And you're probably thinking, "Oh, well, he teaches eighth grade, what does it have to do with how they're gonna perform in 12th grade?" It's gonna make a difference. He's the person they're gonna reach out to when they're struggling with algebra in (laughs) 10th grade. He's the voice that they're gonna hear when they're really having a hard time in college. And so it may seem like, “oh, this is just one year and one person,” but I'm telling you, the way that Nate builds relationships with students, they're always gonna be his.
And so I know that there are young Black males out there who've never had a teacher that looked like them in their entire educational career, and so when they open that classroom door and he is standing there, it checks a lot of boxes: “I can be successful”, “I can grow up to be (laughs) a professional person who gets a salary, who's respected by their community.”
And so it just brings me joy to know that our kids have that and I'm thankful every day that he chose this path and that he keeps showing up every day, 'cause I know middle schoolers are a challenge (laughs), but he keeps coming back and that's what it's about. So it brings me immense joy. It helps me sleep at night knowing that kids have good teachers like Nate, that if they're thinking about harming themselves or harming someone else, they're gonna come to him.
I know that because I saw it happen before he was a teacher. Kids were coming to him that were facing really, really difficult life circumstances and decisions and they were coming to him for guidance, and so it brings me immense joy and gives me a lot of faith in our future, it makes me optimistic about the state of our country and that is a really big weight (laughs) for Nate to carry, but it's true. It's the impact that he's having. It's the impact that he's gonna have. It reminds me of why I do this work and why I'll continue to do it because we're making a difference.
Many obstacles make it difficult for BIPOC teachers to enter or remain in the field of education. And unfortunately, several things will need to change to remove those obstacles, but we challenged our leaders today to dream anyway. We asked them to share ONE thing they would change if they had a magic wand.
Here are Matt, Yolanda, and Nate with some final thoughts:
I think if I was waving around this magic wand, I would ask to be granted more wishes (laughs), so I can change multiple things.
No wishing for more wishes! Isn't that what the genie told Aladdin? (laughs)
(Laughs). I need more but it comes back to this idea of valuing. Life here in Nashville is incredibly expensive and so, we've got to be able to pay people for their time.
There are a lot of opportunities (laughs) to make our Black and Brown educators, feel valued, because they're so valuable. What Nate does, everybody can't come in and do. He's special and it should be treated as such. He should be compensated as such. He should be respected as such.
If there was one thing I could do, that would be it. To just make sure that school leaders, and districts, and the government understands what valuable assets our educators are, and how all of the things that they want to accomplish in this country and in our world can be done through teachers. We're spending quite a few hours with kids and we have an opportunity to make an impact, so provide us with the tools and the resources to be able to make that happen.
I like what Yolanda was talking about with recognition and appreciation, but also what NTR helped us find was collaboration. One of the missions of NTR is to build a network, a community of collaborative teachers. So just through NTR, because of the pandemic, I became close to my cohort and we still talk. Like I said, that's a small community, but then NTR is a bigger community and as I meet more educators of color, a community organically forms.
We have really big hearts in education. And as a result, we tell people, "Well, this is your life's calling. And because it's your life calling, well, you got to put your life on the line for this." And that's not true. You should be able to thrive as a teacher but more importantly thrive as a person.
The last year that I was a full-time teacher, I ended up in the hospital because I wasn't taking care of myself. I'm a Type 1 diabetic. I was sick. And I laid on the couch in the Counselor's Office. And I told her, I said, "I think I'm dying." And I really was. Like my body was revolting. And thriving was me taking care of myself. And so I wasn't doing that. And I really struggled. We've got to be able to take care of the teachers and show them that they're valued.
In the medical field, the word “residency” refers to specialized, hands-on training med students embark on before becoming full-blown doctors. At NTR, that terminology rings true for their certification program. Although teacher candidates may not be using stethoscopes, scalpels, or defibrillators, every day, they set foot in the classroom expertly equipped with the tools to listen closely to the hearts of their students and methodically dissect and detect their students’ needs. Every day, they work hard to revitalize students and ensure they have everything they need to reach their full potential.
Teachers spend countless hours pouring into and building up the next generation of our nation’s leaders, so why aren’t we as a society investing in them the same way?
Nashville Teacher Residency is a case study of what that kind of investment in our educators can look like. Caring for our educators in this way not only impacts our teachers but has a ripple effect that impacts the communities they serve as well. That’s an investment well worth making.
(THEME MUSIC FADE IN)
That’s it for this week. Thank you so much for listening to Changing Course, from Teach For America’s One Day Studio. I’m Jonathan Santos Silva. Peace.
(SOUNDBITE: SCHOOL BELL)
Next time on Changing Course, we’re taking you to Kansas City, Missouri, where we’ll look at how to make teaching a sustainable career for Black men.
JULIAN JOHNSON-MARSHALL, GUEST:
“As we saw other people taking off, I think BLOC found us. And was like, "Hey, you want a jet pack? 'cause we can go too.” I was in the school system my first year teaching in Kansas City that really beat me down emotionally and mentally. And I did not feel competent or worthy to stand in front of kids. If it weren't for BLOC, I wouldn't still be teaching.
That’s next time on Changing Course. And if you loved the podcast, be sure to rate, review and follow ‘Changing Course’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Changing Course is produced by Teach For America’s One Day Studio in partnership with Pod People. Special thanks to the baddest man on the planet, Michael Kress, Craig Hunter, Georgia Davis, Stephanie Garcia, and Akande Simons from Teach for America, and the production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Aimee Machado, Bryan Rivers, Danielle Roth, my one-two punch Chris Jacobs and Shaneez Tyndall, and Morgane Fouse.
Special thanks to our featured student Briana Johnson, and Rachel Tompkins from Teach for America’s Nashville regional team, who connected us to Nashville Teacher Residency. And last but certainly not least, thank you to the leaders at NTR who shared their time and experience to help us make this episode: Matt Cheek, Yolanda Bivins, and Nate Hunter. I’m Jonathan Santos Silva. Peace.
(THEME MUSIC OUT)
Copyright © 2022 Pod People. All rights reserved.
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About The Show
Host Jonathan Santos Silva (South Dakota ‘10) will sit down with innovative nonprofits from across the country that are committed to attracting, training, and retaining BIPOC educators. Each episode will feature thoughtful conversations about how organizations are investing in and providing careers where BIPOC staff can flourish.
Jonathan Santos Silva (South Dakota ‘10)
Jonathan Santos Silva is the Founding Executive Director of The Liber Institute and creator and host of The Bored of Ed, a podcast that amplifies the voices of inspiring BIPOC educators who are changing the face of education. He has provided technical support to South Dakota’s Native American Achievement Schools and has served as a school founder and principal, instructional coach, and education consultant.
Matt Cheek, Executive Director of the Nashville Teacher Residency (South Carolina ‘14)
As Executive Director, Matt is primarily responsible for managing the organization and quality of the residency program, emphasizing strategic planning, vision-setting, organizational management, operations, external partnerships, and fundraising. He approaches the work with creativity and joy, using these passions to bring together a coalition of supporters to NTR.
Matt began his career as a Teach for America corps member in Lake City, SC, where he taught middle school social studies. After leaving Lake City, Matt (and his wife, also a TFA corps member) transitioned to Knoxville, TN, where he worked as a Gifted and Talented Instructional Coach for Knox County Schools, supporting teachers to meet the diverse needs of gifted students. During this time, Matt advocated for increased access to gifted programming for students of color and other historically underrepresented groups.
Yolanda Bivins, Manager of Resident Development for Nashville Teacher Residency
As a Manager of Resident Development for Nashville Teacher Residency, Yolanda coaches and trains aspiring Teacher Residents and Mentor Teachers on campuses across Middle Tennessee. Prior to this position, Yolanda worked for Houston Independent School District, where she served as a Teacher Development Specialist transforming historically low-performing Title I Campuses. Yolanda holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TX, and a Master’s Degree in Education from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN. In her spare time, Yolanda serves as President of the Board for Excel Retreat Ministries and enjoys traveling with her wife.
Nate Hunter, Nashville native, educator, martial artist, and performer
A graduate of Hume-Fogg Academic HS, he began his undergraduate journey at Florida A&M University and finished the long and winding road to his bachelor's degree in English Literature at Tennessee State University. After over a decade of teaching martial arts and fitness, Nate recently studied with Nashville Teacher Residency and reached his dream of becoming a certified English teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
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