Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High family and consumer sciences teacher Kayleigh Beasley leads the Teaching as a Profession (TAP) program.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High family and consumer sciences teacher Kayleigh Beasley leads the Teaching as a Profession (TAP) program.

Macon County High School is training the next generation of educators through its Teaching as a Profession (TAP) courses, which recently expanded into a four-year curriculum.

Family and consumer sciences teacher Kayleigh Beasley leads the program, which allows students to gain practical experience by working alongside teachers in the school district and leading certain lessons. She hopes for the course to boost interest in teaching among local students.

"There are currently no applications on file at the (Macon County) Board of Education for teaching," Beasley said. "(In TAP) over the past few years, we've seen a decrease in enrollment as well, because not as many students are interested in becoming teachers."

According to annual listings from the U.S. Department of Education, Tennessee has been experiencing statewide teacher shortages in subjects such as English, mathematics and science since 2012. The shortages primarily reflect grades 7-12, and some of

Macon County High's TAP students hope to fill those roles.

"I'm looking to teach high-school chemistry after I graduate," senior Matthew Harrison said. "Chemistry is the main balance between math and science, which are my two favorite subjects. I like the physics, formatting and theories that go along with it."

Harrison originally wanted to become a scientist, but he started taking TAP classes as a sophomore to help others learn.

"I don't want to be stuck in a lab coat my whole life, so I thought about how I could inform people," Harrison said. "The most rewarding part (of TAP) for me is fixing up my lesson plans and the way that I teach each time I go to the site to help out. I can learn from my mistakes and teach (students) so they understand (concepts) better."

Junior Bryli Nichols plans to teach high-school English or art, which are her strongest subjects, because she feels most at home explaining them.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher, but what made me want to be an English teacher specifically is that I've always had really good English teachers that made class really fun," Nichols said. "That made me want to do the same thing for students."

One of the program's former students, Nikki Owen, currently teaches fifth grade at Westside Elementary School and said that the experience was valuable for her career. When she attended Macon County High, TAP was a single course rather than a curriculum, though it offered a similar experience.

"My teacher, Kathy Cothron, encouraged us to start our teaching portfolio to document our experiences, awards and lesson plans," Owen said. "That helped me not only to grow in my teaching career, but with my college courses as well. I was able to work on my speaking skills with others, and it was the first time I didn't feel like a high-school kid just walking around through life."

Owen, who was stationed at Central Elementary School while in TAP, said the on-site experience from the program can help students to see what the field is like early on, noting that some of her classmates changed their focus after taking it.

"The most important thing I did was when Ms. Cothron encouraged us to communicate with our mentor teachers about our strengths and weaknesses," Owen said. "That got me used to expecting constructive criticism from someone and prepared me for how we are observed as teachers today."

TAP's scope has grown since Owen graduated from Macon County High, and Beasley hopes to continue the trend. She will work with her first TAP 3 class during the next school year and wants to convert a closet space in her classroom into a library with textbooks and curriculum resources.

Students who complete TAP 2 can also get a head start on college by passing an interview and portfolio review process to earn credit hours and build their resume through their experience on-site.

"One of my students actually won an essay contest," Nichols said. "When my site teacher came in and told me that, I felt really proud for her and excited that I got to be in her classroom for the semester."

Beasley's primary goal is for the TAP participants to feel that pride when their students succeed academically.

"What's been really rewarding for me is reading (students') journals about what they're doing," Beasley said. "When they say, 'I taught my lesson today, and I can tell that the students got it,' or 'I was able to work one-on-one with a student today, and it finally clicked,' that's what pays us as teachers … to see students succeed."