Alaina Grissom, MS, from Rochester, New York, has always aspired to be an educator. With a passion for the field of speech and language pathology, she is pursuing a career that merges both fields.
As she prepares for graduation in May 2024, a program in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Teaching and Learning Center has provided support toward her goal to further her training in education.
The Future Educators Academy (FEA) supports graduate students and residents across various disciplines in becoming successful educators. It is structured in two parts, the first consists of completing six self-paced asynchronous TLC medallion courses. The second is the submission of a capstone project, including a teaching portfolio and teaching demonstration, in preparation for academic job interviews. During the program, participants receive hands-on support from TLC consultants.
“I really appreciated the variety of information they collected for each of the different medallions, and how it was a great mix of research in specific areas with practical tips on how to implement them into the classroom,” she said. “And the assignments allow those who are completing the program to really think about how we might implement them into our own classes in the future.”
Grissom is a PhD student in Speech and Hearing Science in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology in the College of Health Professions and the College of Graduate Health Sciences. She said she also appreciated the support from consultants in TLC and the structure of the FEA program. “It felt more structured and supported than other online programs or asynchronous learning opportunities that I’ve done in the past,” she said.
Graduate students and residents from any of the colleges can enroll in the program with permission from their advisors. After completing each course, participants receive medallions and a plaque. In addition, graduate students will receive a notation on their academic transcript in recognition of the achievement.
“It’s given me a much larger tool kit to take with me, as I go into teaching in the future, and has given me the passion for thinking about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting together and executing a class that’s best for the students that I’ll teach in the future,” Grissom said.
“I learned more about the field through shadowing experiences and different exposures in high school, and I liked being able to work closely in a one-on-one or small group setting with children who needed more support in that area,” she said. “Once I entered the field, I loved how it combines my interests such as language development, supporting individuals and their families, and helping them have a better educational experience.”
Prior to studying at UTHSC, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Penn State University.
Grissom said her experience in the Speech and Hearing Science PhD program allowed her to explore many areas of interest in the field, and inspired her to combine the areas of research, teaching, and clinical practice in her future career.
“It increased my passion about developing research that will be helpful for future clients and their families, but also thinking about how we implement that research to support them in our communities,” she said.
Now, she is working on her dissertation focusing on vocabulary exposure for children with developmental disabilities.
“I’m looking at how children who have difficulty learning language are exposed to different vocabulary when playing with their caregivers, and how it may be similar and/or different from interactions between caregivers and children who are typically developing,” she said. “I am excited to finish and see the results of my dissertation because this project is the first one that I have been involved in where I have been able to work with families who have a child with developmental disabilities. I am excited to see what we can find and how we can use that to support clinical practice and other families in similar situations in the future.”