Relay Graduate School of Education announced on Wednesday that it will launch its ninth campus nationwide in Nashville, adding another path to teaching careers in Tennessee’s second-largest school district.

The site will mark Relay’s second campus in Tennessee after opening in Memphis last year. It joins Nashville Teacher Residency as the latest in alternative teacher training program in Nashville. However, unlike other alternative programs, Relay grants master’s degrees.

Starting this summer, Relay will work with 50 new teachers training at 12 Nashville schools during the two-year program.

Linda Lentz
PHOTO: Relay
Linda Lentz

Linda Lentz, a local charter school leader who co-founded RePublic Schools, will lead Relay’s Nashville campus. Lentz, who began her career as an English teacher through Teach For America, said she looks forward to collaborating with the teacher preparation programs already in Nashville such as Vanderbilt University and Teach For America.

“There are incredible things happening in Nashville, but we know there’s still a deep, deep need for high-quality teachers,” Lentz said.

Though the school is new to Nashville, its impact is not: 14 Nashville principals have participated in Relay’s National Principals Academy Fellowship since 2013.

Rooted in a program that began in 2007 in New York, Relay Graduate School of Education differentiates itself from traditional programs with its focus on hands-on practice. The school also places teachers in schools immediately, with a mentor in its residency program, or as the lead teacher in its Master of Arts of Teaching program. Unlike more traditional degree-granting programs, graduation is dependent on whether a student can prove that his or her own students have learned.

When seeking to locate its first Tennessee campus in partnership with the University of Memphis in 2014, Relay’s alternative training approach made it a target of the university’s Faculty Senate. Soon after, the school’s application to operate in Tennessee was approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and Relay established its Memphis campus separate from the university.

In a press release Wednesday, the program was welcomed to Nashville by local and state leaders.

“Tennessee is emerging as a national leader in education innovation, and we are eager for Relay’s launch in Nashville to prepare more teachers to lead this important work,” said Sara Heyburn, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education.

“We are excited to help bring this best-in-class teacher preparation program to Nashville,” said Karl Dean, former mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and chairman of Project Renaissance, a local education advocacy organization. “We believe Relay’s meticulous approach to teacher development and a demonstrated commitment to building a diverse teacher core will provide a new and important pipeline of talent for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.”