Tennessee’s corps of superbly prepared classroom teachers will grow by three more, thanks largely to an investment in their preparation made more than two decades ago by a single donor, the late J. Clayton Arnold.
Mr. Arnold, who for many years earned a living of about $60 a month as a rural mail carrier, aimed to help build future generations of Tennessee teachers. To make that vision a reality, he saved his money and invested wisely—so wisely, in fact, that he was able to make the first million-dollar gift to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Not content with making such a generous gift of his own, Mr. Arnold then challenged other alumni to support teacher education as their gift to the future, and last year the scholarship named in his honor helped enable 82 teacher-education interns to work toward their goal of being classroom-ready on the very first day of their professional career.
Meet the Recipients
Claire Zachary, recipient of an Arnold scholarship for this year, said, “I wonder what teachers touched [Mr. Arnold’s] life, making him want to donate to us.” She said the scholarship had helped her “pour all my effort into the classroom” during her internship year at Knoxville’s West High School, since the financial assistance alleviated the need for a second job during the unpaid internship.
James Anderson, another J. Clayton Arnold Scholarship recipient who interned at West High, said that with his scholarship aid, he was able to devote all of his time, in and out of the classroom, to “being the best teacher I can be.”
Katie Rickard, the third recipient of the Arnold Scholarship, interned at Knox County’s Farragut High School and precisely echoed both Zachary and Anderson. “This scholarship has allowed me focus on being in the classroom completely, making me a better teacher.”
These three students fine-tuned their teaching skills during their intern year while working toward master’s degrees in teacher education. UT Knoxville’s teaching internship program is unique in that students have full charge of a classroom for an entire semester. Besides its uniqueness, students say the internship program is also invaluable because it lets them experience solo classroom management.
“Actually, I complained about the intern year; I thought I would learn everything during my first year of teaching,” said Zachary. But once in the classroom, she recanted and now says she loved the internship experience that fully prepared her for her chosen career.
“You can’t learn these experiences [from the internship] in a college classroom,” she said.
Rickard and Anderson also had opportunities to involve themselves outside the classroom during their internships. Rickard served as the assistant head coach of the Farragut girls’ basketball team, where she said it was “fun to see students get excited” both in and out of class. Anderson worked with West’s drama department, which recently mounted a production of Alice in Wonderland, and said he knew immediately that he was in the right place for his intern year.
Though all three agreed that they were thankful they didn’t have to wait tables to help pay for school, they emphasized that it was the honor and recognition of holding the Arnold Scholarship that meant the most to them.
“I appreciate the recognition and how important Arnold thought teachers were. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning, and I’m fortunate to have this opportunity, my classes, and the professors at UT,” said Rickard.
Thus J. Clayton Arnold’s commitment to educating the educators persists, both in his personal generosity and in the legacy of his challenge to others who care about the future of education in Tennessee. An anonymous donor has challenged the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences to raise $1 million in the spirit of J. Clayton Arnold. If the challenge is met, this donor will match the pledges with a $1-million gift, continuing to help future teachers receive the best education possible. To learn more about the remarkable J. Clayton Arnold and the challenge in his name, visit The College of Education, Health, & Human Sciences website.