Grow Your Own Teachers

Total rewards. Employee value proposition. Are you ready for the dialect of today’s grow-your-own strategies? Sophisticated approaches for cultivating support staff into teachers transcend yesterday’s one-dimensional pathways.

You spend your days fighting back against teacher shortages, but today, the old recruitment tactics of career pathways and better pay are shifting beneath your feet. In the post-pandemic, diversified world, they are reshaping into systematic actions to reduce barriers and improve the employee experience.

On this battlefield, building principals play frontline roles, says American Association of School Personnel Administrators Executive Director Kelly Coash-Johnson. In particular, principals are key players in the Grow Your Own movement that has long advocated for creating new teachers from within education. Learn these terms related to today’s GYO and what they mean to you, and you sharpen your strategies for spotting and growing teaching talent in your own building.

Meaningful work

Across generations, more than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade part of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.

What this means to you: Your school mission and vision should express purpose. An aspirational culture helps staff feel comfortable raising their hands to say, “I want to be a teacher.” Remember, too, that the pandemic disrupted many career paths. Get to know your people, and you might find the perfect teaching candidate in the beloved cafeteria staffer who happens to hold a degree in biology.

Total rewards

Gen Z and Millennial job hunters want work-life balance and professional development. “Total rewards” enhance the pay package with growth opportunities and physical and mental health supports.

What this means to you: Develop GYO strategies that help teaching candidates access student loan forgiveness and grants, and adjust candidates’ schedules to accommodate study and travel time.

Employee value proposition (EVP)

Your employer brand should show potential talent a comprehensive picture of pay, perks, and school values that aligns with and compensates fairly for the skills and talents they offer.

What this means to you: Your EVP tells a story. As principal, you should be monitoring the EVP and addressing gaps between expectations and experiences.


Teachers who began as teacher aides inspired higher test scores in reading and math and were more likely to remain as classroom teachers, according to “Learning by Doing: The Characteristics, Effectiveness, and Persistence of Teachers who were Teaching Assistants First,” by Fortner, Kershaw, Bastian, and Lynn (2015). Bilingual paraprofessionals, already playing a key role as classroom translators, can have an even greater impact as lead teachers.

What this means to you: Chances are, your state offers programs that help guide your paraprofessionals and instructional aides up the career ladder.

Community cultural wealth (CCW)

A CCW perspective “views the knowledge, skills, and experiences of people of color as valuable assets,” notes GYO researcher Conra D. Gist.

What this means to you: A CCW perspective finds talent in everyone from parent volunteers to crossing guards. Kimberly Miles, principal of East Gresham Elementary School in Oregon, suggests diversifying the building’s teacher candidate pool by emphasizing diversity in hiring for support positions.

Data-driven career counseling

Data can reveal building-level retention and turnover, projected retirements, student achievement, and staff diversity.

What this means to you: While you use data to align your GYO strategy with specific building needs, you can also present it to potential teachers for a real-time look at the impact they can have.

Licensure flexibility

The U.S. Department of Defense is working with states to establish licensure equivalency across states and special temporary certificates to accommodate the teaching careers of military spouses.

What this means to you: That military base near your school could be a source of potential teachers.


Finances, family responsibilities, transportation—teacher candidates face many obstacles. The right resources empower you to help people overcome their barriers on the way to leading the classroom.