TSU alumni take the lead in shaping young minds as educators, while filling shortage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For Tennessee State University alumna Sa’Mariah Harding, teaching isn’t just about the subject at hand but molding the minds of future leaders. Harding graduated from TSU in spring 2023 and serves as a 9th and 10th-grade honors geometry teacher.

“I always knew I wanted to teach high school math,” said the former Miss TSU, Harding, who currently works as an educator at Valor College Prep in Nashville.

Sa’Mariah Harding graduated from TSU in spring 2023 and serves as a 9th and 10th-grade honors geometry teacher at Valor College Prep.

Amid the ongoing nationwide teacher shortage, Tennessee State University continues to produce and nurture the next generation of educators who College of Education faculty believe will shape generations to come.

“TSU definitely prepared me for this,” Harding said, emphasizing the university’s role in shaping her as an educator who can empower and mentor students. As an African American woman and an HBCU graduate, Harding emphasized the importance of mirroring the community.

“In the classroom, proper representation matters,” she added.

Dr. Janet Finch, the Dean of the College of Education, said she anticipates producing even more quality educators throughout the country as TSU continues its reputation as a leading HBCU in producing educators, including teachers, counselors, and executive educators.

Quamane Graham

“I want to make sure we have people that assimilate the world,” Finch said. “We have established great partnerships with school districts across the State, so we can support them in identifying well-qualified teachers.”

Quamane Graham, a junior from Florida studying at TSU, plans to teach high school biology in Nashville after college. Graham was accepted into the Teacher Education Certification program this summer and will be able to teach grades 7-12 post-graduation. 

“I want to show young Black males that you can go to college and be a teacher,” he said. “That it is achievable to do so.” Graham said he is grateful for the tools provided within the College of Education that prepared him up for success.

“I would not be in the Teacher Education program if it wasn’t for the Global Student Success Lab,” he said, which is located on TSU’s main campus. “The staff worked day and night with me to make sure I had the resources to pass my Praxis test. They were very resourceful.”

Dr. Janet Finch

The global lab is an academic center geared toward encouraging interested students to become educators and provides additional support in the areas of education and psychology.

Dean Finch also highlighted the impact TSU education graduates are having “in our own backyard.” Historically, this is particularly true for metro Nashville and the State, where over 50% of district leaders across Tennessee are TSU education graduates. 

Dr. Adrienne Battles, the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, is a TSU alumna who Finch taught. She also highlighted Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, the first Black female president of Nashville State Community College, being a TSU alumna. Both Dr. Battles and Jackson graduated from the Educational Leadership program in the College of Education.

Dr. Rhonda Stewart, who is the global student success lab director, said the environment is a supportive academic center geared toward welcoming interested students with open arms and providing additional support in the education and psychology field.

In 2022 , Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona visited TSU and praised the University for its pipeline to the classroom teacher’s initiative to help eliminate the shortage. Tennessee State Certification data shows that 325 students graduated from TSU’s college of education, between 2019 to 2022, and of that total, 87% are currently employed in their field, throughout schools in Tennessee.

In 2020-21, there were 155 TSU graduates who finished their teacher training. Out of that number, 137 are still working as teachers, approximately 88%. According to Dr. Rajah Smart, assistant dean and director of the college’s assessment and accreditation program, there was a slight increase for 2021-2022. Dr. Smart reports that of the 118 students who finished their teacher training, 89% are currently teaching.  

Sa’Mariah Harding teaches a student honors geometry at Valor College Prep.

A recent report by the Tennessee State Board of Education further revealed how TSU graduates are impacting Tennessee classrooms. It found that nearly all the teachers who graduated from TSU and started teaching in 2020, have a second-year retention rate of 96%.

Dr. Finch stated that the nationwide teacher crisis is real, but TSU’s College of Education is committed to addressing the crisis by continuing to produce quality educators dedicated to changing world through the TSU motto think, work, serve.