Hardin Valley Academy English language learners teacher Verónica Calderón-Speed recently learned she was one of a dozen Knox County Schools’ educators to be awarded this year’s Tennessee Educators of Color Fellowship.
When she learned she was chosen, Calderón-Speed recalled, “I was excited.
“I love learning, and I love growing,” she added. “We receive yearly professional development, but as far as having intensive courses or work that allows me to grow professionally, it has been a while.
“So, I was really looking forward to getting started with this program,” Calderón-Speed said.
Knox Education Foundation sponsors the work of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance on the program, which aims to retain, elevate and support teachers of color in Tennessee.
Calderón-Speed, who teaches English to non-English speakers, said the fellowship is an application process through the Tennessee Educators of Colors. When she heard about it from her ELL supervisor, she applied.
Calderón-Speed, a first generation Latin American born in the states, has been an educator for 21 years. She joined HVA as a Spanish teacher in 2009, and began teaching ELL in 2016. Prior to teaching in Tennessee, she taught in south Texas.
While the fellowships were awarded in early summer, Calderón-Speed said she just received word she was a recipient.
“Originally, it was supposed to be out of Nashville, but it turned out we had a big enough number of teachers from Knox County and other community members who had applied to (the fellowship), and through the partnership with (University of Tennessee), we were able to keep the Knoxville fellowship (presentation) in Knoxville, instead of us having us to go to Nashville and merge with them,” she said.
“So, the 2021 Cohorts is the first time here in Knoxville,” Calderón-Speed added, explaining the Cohorts are a group of 12 teachers chosen to receive the fellowship.
“They are addressing the equitable teaching practices and opportunities for teachers of color (and) students of color within the public school system,” she said. “It exposes us, the 12 cohorts, to talk about different leadership opportunities — locally, statewide or nationally — it’s being able to help us, teachers of color, to grow professionally.
“We meet once a month,” Calderón-Speed said, adding future meetings will be virtual.