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Grow Your Own Program Providing Teachers for Putnam County

A statewide program is producing home-grown teachers for Putnam County.

The Tennessee Grow Your Own Program (GYO) is creating a way for those who want to become teachers to undergo an apprenticeship with guidance from universities and their partner schools. Putnam County is benefitting from this program with four new teachers in place for the 2023-24 school year.

Dusti Brooks, Reagan White, Adriana Salinas, and Gabriella Hernandez have all graduated from the program through Tennessee Tech University and have been hired by PCSS.

“I learned so much in the classroom,” said Hernandez, who spent her time as a teacher assistant at Burks Elementary. “I have gotten to work with a lot of educators and students and learned how to be a teacher before becoming a teacher.”

In this program, Hernandez, Salinas, White, and Brooks came from different backgrounds, but they each became a teacher apprentice who was employed as a PCSS teacher assistant in a multi-year residency structure. 

“Regardless of what age you are, it’s going to be challenging but it’s worth it,” said Brooks, who has been at Sycamore Elementary. “You see teachers teach for a solid two years. That helped me because I watched excellent teachers and they poured into me. There’s something about being here in a school every day. It just gives you experience that sets you apart from other people who are applying for a job because you know the teachers and students.”

The GYO program also allowed them to mirror their growing responsibility and competency while completing the necessary coursework to earn a degree and licensure.

“You just have to find the balance that works best for you and adjust to that,” said White, who has been at Cane Creek Elementary. “You have work and you have school. It just took a lot of planning and looking in advance at what I had to get done.”

All four of Putnam County’s GYO candidates graduated from Tennessee Tech in May and have been hired for the fall. Hernandez will be teaching at Cane Creek along with White, while Brooks returns to Sycamore and Salinas returns to Burks Elementary, where she did her apprenticeship.

“I feel so thankful and blessed. It’s so exciting,” said Salinas. “My mentor teachers really poured into me and I appreciate them so much. The experience that I have received is priceless.”

While the experience is priceless, the program is free. Candidates can earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching credentials at no cost while helping school districts such as Putnam County address local needs, filling gaps, and strengthening schools from within the community.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Hernandez about her GYO experience. “It was hard because I was a full-time student and working full-time as well. I got amazing support through the whole journey, though, and I really enjoyed it.”

There are currently six GYO positions available in Putnam County for the upcoming school year. There are three elementary apprenticeships and three middle/high school apprenticeships in math, science, English, or foreign language with online class instruction being provided by Austin Peay State University.

Anyone interested in the GYO program should contact Judy Schinbeckler or Angie Knight at the PCSS Central Office by calling 931.526.9777 or sending an email to  or

Information about the program can be found at

Adriana Salinas

Dusti Brooks

Gabriella Hernandez

Reagan White