Teach Kentucky helping districts fill vacancies
Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCarty
A decade and a half ago Rowan Claypool was in the commercial real estate business when he noticed a need for more teachers in the Jefferson County area and wanted to help.
Claypool founded Teach Kentucky to find people who wanted to transition into teaching and match them up with schools needing help.
This year Teach Kentucky had 502 applicants and accepted 28 into the program.
“We want to hit that 30-something pace,” Claypool said. “Our hope next year is to go to 40 with half of them being STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).”
Teach Kentucky is a nonprofit organization that is funded almost entirely by local foundations and community fundraising. The program has recruited more than 200 new teachers since its inception.
Claypool said the organization looks for applicants with strong academic backgrounds.
“We want people who can score in the top 25 percent on their content-specific Praxis exam,” he said.
Of the 502 applicants last year, 125 met the academic standards and were invited to the recruiting weekend; 45 came.
“During the recruiting weekend we have a formal interview, which is 15 minutes when they have to address seven topics and we leave it up to them how they want to answer those, but it’s a really good way; they’re on their feet,” Claypool said.
The interviews are observed by 12 people and “what we’re looking for is their ability to engage us, take a big complicated subject and make it coherent, make it accessible and demonstrate to us that if they were in front of a classroom they could engage kids,” he said.
The applicants who are selected go to the University of Louisville’s alternative certification program for two years while teaching full time. They receive a $1,000 relocation fee and receive one month of transitional housing so participants can live together and get to know each other and the city.
“Our folks almost always serve in what are called priority schools, which are very, very demanding environments,” Claypool said. “It’s a tough scenario but the benchmark for us is the principals are asking for our list of candidates early in the spring and they want to interview our people early for their positions.”
He said Teach Kentucky tries to be realistic about the challenges for the new teachers.
“I never convince anyone to be a teacher,” he said. “I’m looking for those people who’ve decided that’s what they want to do and then I’m providing them a pathway to fulfill it.”
Teach Kentucky has worked with 14 districts in the Louisville area.
A few of the people who have entered the program have gone on to be principals and assistant principals.
“I think we’re actually doing something unique. I’m unaware of a community-based driver for teacher recruitment. I think the strength of our program is that we first of all fulfill all the minimum requirements of certification in getting a job, but then, beyond that, we’re building this really, really strong community both with and around these teachers. That’s’ the power of Teach Kentucky,” Claypool said.
He said he’s had some preliminary discussions with a couple of other regions about expanding but “we haven’t yet found the right ingredients because you really have to have both the school district and the college of education in that region to be able to form the kind of partnership to make it successful.”