▶ Watch Video: Tennessee’s teacher residency program aims to grow next generation of educators and combat shortages

As the nation deals with severe teacher shortages, a new Tennessee residency program could be a potential solution to the crisis. The first-of-it-kind program allows teaching candidates to work full-time in the classroom while pursuing their degree — a win for future teachers and schools.

One of those teachers is Demetrius Winn, who works at Kenwood Middle School, an hour north of Nashville. Two years ago, the 42-year-old father of four spent his days mopping floors as a school custodian.

“It’s definitely been a change,” Winn told CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver.

He said teaching came as “a calling.”

“It was something I wanted to do. Just didn’t know how it was going to happen,” Winn said.

Tennessee’s Clarksville Montgomery School District launched the innovative program in 2018 after facing a lack of diversity and a growing teacher shortage. Without the program, the district would be about 150 teachers short today, said Sean Impeartrice, the district’s chief academic officer.

The program squeezes a four-year degree into three. If teaching candidates commit to working in the district, night school is free. They co-teach during the day with a mentor and earn up to $27,000 a year. When they graduate, their salary almost doubles. 

Winn said the program will open up a lot of opportunities.

“I have grandkids. And so that gives me an opportunity to be there, not only financially, but also physically,” he said.

The program is funded through the school district’s regular budget, and with the help of state and federal grants. In 2021, Tennessee committed $6.5 million over two years to support the program, which is now operating in 63 school districts across the state.

With 80 teachers set to graduate this year, Impeartrice said the shortage could soon be over.

“Sometimes with the shortage, it compounds, right? So if it stays the same as this year, we’ll be okay next year,” he said.