Lt. Gov Jacqueline Coleman and Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass present 10 Grow-Your-Own program grants to districts throughout the Commonwealth during a press conference on Aug. 16.

Lt. Gov Jacqueline Coleman and Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass present 10 Grow-Your-Own program grants to districts throughout the Commonwealth during a press conference on Aug. 16. (Photo by Jacob Perkins)

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) announced 10 Grow-Your-Own (GYO) program grant recipients at an Aug. 16 press conference. These districts will receive a one-time, $50,000 grant to further boost the Commonwealth’s teacher talent pipeline, with the goal of providing all students with a high-quality education.

The 10 districts receiving the grant, and the schools they will serve, include:

  • Barren County: Barren County High School
  • Bullitt County: Bullitt Central High School, North Bullitt High School and Bullitt East High School
  • Corbin Independent: Corbin High School
  • Greenup County: Greenup County High School
  • Hardin County: Central Hardin High School
  • Jefferson County: Ballard High School, Central High School Magnet Career Center, Butler Traditional High School, Doss High School, Fairdale High School, Jeffersontown High School, Louisville Male High School, Marion C. Moore High School, Pleasure Ridge Park High School, Seneca High School and Waggener High School
  • Nelson County: Nelson County High School and Thomas Nelson High School
  • Owensboro Independent: Owensboro High School
  • Spencer County: Spencer County High School
  • Whitley County: Whitley County High School

The GYO program is designed to recruit, develop and retain teachers who already are connected to the school or community but may not have considered teaching as a profession. Or, they may need (or want) additional support to enter the profession.

Byron Darnall, associate commissioner in KDE’s Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness (OELE), said GYO grants can help eliminate obstacles that future educators may face.

“Local schools and districts are uniquely suited to provide this opportunity to employees that may already be active in schools but lack full certification,” Darnall said. “GYO grants directly address potential barriers that may be preventing talented people from becoming fully certified educators.”

Recruitment of new teachers to the profession is vital to address significant teacher shortages and expand teacher workforce diversity in the state.

“The department is thrilled to see the first Grow-Your-Own partnerships start across the Commonwealth,” said Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “Most educators teach in the school district they attended. Helping school districts develop the interests of students who want to become teachers, giving them the experiences they need to develop their skills, is a good way to create a larger teacher workforce in the future.”

Glass added that KDE is focused on recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce of teachers.

“Students benefit from having teachers who look like them. Diversity in the profession – whether that means race, ethnicity, economic background, disability or gender – helps give students role models who they can look up to and aspire to be,” he said. “GYO programs can be found in many states, and we encourage school boards and districts to embrace and support them.

“As a country, we’ve been increasing the percentage of teachers of color over time, but we’re not necessarily reaping the benefits due to the turnover rate. That’s why we’re focused on retention and making sure these teachers are supported so that they want to stay in the profession.”

Photo of Jesse Bacon, superintendent of Bullitt County, speaking at a press conference on Aug. 16, 2021.

Jesse Bacon, superintendent of Bullitt County, one of 10 districts that received a GYO grant, speaks at a press conference on Aug. 16. (Photo by Jacob Perkins)

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said she knows firsthand the importance of recruiting and retaining good teachers.

“With the Grow-Your-Own program, we believe we can cultivate future educators as early as high school. That is exciting, because the road to a strong future for Kentucky education requires a new generation of highly skilled and empowered educators.”

She said recruitment of future teachers can begin in high schools, and “Who better to start engaging students and developing their interests in education than educators?”

Once students are identified and recruited, a comprehensive school program employing the Teaching and Learning career pathway and Educators Rising, a career and technical student organization (CTSO), gives them a solid foundation for career preparation. Students receive formalized training in the classroom, while participation in the CTSO supports student learning through the development of leadership skills, positive personal attributes and real-world application.

Jesse Bacon, superintendent of Bullitt County, one of the 10 grant recipients, said “I have always wanted what is best for all Kentucky students and that is what I, along with all of the staff at Bullitt County, strive for daily.”

“This grant will have a tremendous impact on our district by allowing us to put more emphasis on recruiting teachers from within the Bullitt County area and recruiting early from among our best students. We can recruit those who we believe will grow into great teachers.”