Academics // August 11, 2021

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) has awarded two competitive grants to Freed-Hardeman University. The initiatives provide no-cost access in order to remove barriers and provide a pathway to the teaching profession for selected participants. These programs will address the need for qualified teachers in Tennessee.

The $100,000 Grow Your Own award supports an innovative partnership between Freed-Hardeman and the Fayette County School system. This program seeks to increase diversity among professional educators and to address the state’s teacher shortage. This opportunity targets 20 paraprofessionals in Fayette County who hold an earned bachelor’s degree. These individuals will have access to a streamlined, no-cost pathway allowing them to earn K-5 initial licensure with an additional endorsement in Pre-K-12 English as a Second Language.

“We are excited to partner with Fayette County Schools in offering paraprofessionals the opportunity to complete their K-5 and ESL licensure. This gives FHU’s Department of Education the chance to prepare candidates to teach in K-12 classrooms in Fayette County,” Dr. Amy Downey, chair of FHU’s Department of Education, said. “The county will increase its teacher pool with current employees. This is a win-win for the university, school system and employees.”

Freed-Hardeman was also awarded a $122,500 grant to provide up to 57 educators the opportunity to receive an additional licensure endorsement in English as a Second Language (ESL), a teacher shortage area in Tennessee, at no out-of-pocket cost to themselves. This opportunity provides a seamless, online pathway for current teachers to obtain a high priority endorsement.

“Getting more teachers endorsements in ESL education is essential for Tennessee as many of our districts are seeing increased enrollment of English language learners,” said FHU Department of Education Director and Assistant Professor of Literacy and ESL Dr. Suzi Miley. “We are thrilled to have been awarded an Additional Endorsement Grant and to work with school districts on building up the state’s educator workforce.”  

These innovative programs will provide school districts with qualified and effective teachers in high-need, endorsement areas. Additionally, the online programs are designed to meet the needs of both aspiring and practicing educators.

“Education in Tennessee is in a state of constant change. With change comes opportunities for FHU to engage in new partnerships with the Tennessee Department of Education and school districts across the state,” Dr. Sharen Cypress, Dean of FHU’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, said. “We are very excited about these partnership initiatives to be implemented this fall. Dr. Downey and Eddie Keel, chief administrative officer of Fayette County Schools, will co-lead the Grow Your Own Partnership Initiative, while Dr. Miley, will head up the ESL Partnership Initiative. We anticipate that both of these partnerships will result in positive impacts on student academic achievement, educator effectiveness and increased diversity in the educator workforce in Tennessee’s schools.”

All programs in FHU’s Graduate Studies in Education are accredited regionally by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and nationally by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, formerly known as NCATE. Graduate courses are offered 100 percent online, with the option to attend some classes in Henderson or Memphis. Additional information about graduate courses in education may be found at