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Lipscomb University to launch new teacher preparation program to support rural communities

Kim Chaudoin | 

School bus in rural setting

Lipscomb University is launching a new teacher preparation program designed for educators and leaders in rural school systems across Tennessee, President Candice McQueen announced today. 

Beginning next fall, Lipscomb University is making plans to offer a Rural Education and Coaching Certificate program designed to feature specific professional learning, coursework and field experiences that focus on the challenges and opportunities unique to rural districts. Tennessee has the nation’s fifth-largest number of students attending rural schools, with more than 293,000 rural students — well over three times the roughly 86,000 students enrolled in Metro Nashville Public Schools. This new certificate program will provide valuable resources and training to support and equip highly effective teachers in these communities. 

“Education can change a life’s trajectory. Equipping educators and leaders in rural areas and small communities across Tennessee by providing innovative resources, support and programs designed to meet their unique needs is a strategic priority for Lipscomb University,” said President McQueen. “This new program will expand the rural community support that we have already built with our education partners across the state and we are eager to continue this work to provide meaningful, relevant and timely learning support to rural districts.”

The certificate program is offered through Lipscomb’s College of Education, nationally recognized for its teacher preparation program, in collaboration with the university’s Ayers Institute for Learning & Innovation, which supports educators through individualized educational opportunities, embedded professional learning and innovative resources that result in positive student outcomes.

“While this program will empower educators, we never lose sight of the fact that the work is ultimately about students,” said Rachael Milligan, director of the Ayers Institute, housed in Lipscomb’s College of Education. “For every educator this program will touch, the lives of untold numbers of students are forever impacted through that educator.”

This is the latest program developed to invest in rural communities across Tennessee. Lipscomb’s Ayers Institute has partnered with 46 Tennessee school districts, many of which are located in rural communities, for professional development programming and engaged educators from all 95 counties across the state through its robust online resources. The university’s Reimagining Principal Preparation Program offers K-12 leadership training that incorporates character education, leadership development, business acumen and conflict management among other key components in a collaboration led by Lipscomb’s College of Education with the institution’s nationally ranked College of Business and Institute for Conflict Management. A key focus of the program is to reach Tennessee schools and districts that do not have existing resources to develop internal leadership programs
In 2019, Lipscomb’s College of Leadership & Public Service launched the Regional Scholars Program, an initiative designed to develop leaders across Tennessee with a particular focus on those from the state’s 70 rural counties as investment in leadership development and education in the state. The Master of Arts degree in Leadership and Public Service at Lipscomb University was created and designed to train leaders in urban and rural areas who can serve strong communities by implementing tangible solutions. 

About Lipscomb’s College of Education
Lipscomb University’s College of Education is consistently recognized as one of the most effective teacher preparation programs in Tennessee and in the nation. Last fall, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) announced that Lipscomb University is one of 26 providers from 17 states and the United Arab Emirates to be recognized for quality and excellence as recipients of the 2021 Frank Murray Leadership Recognition for Continuous Improvement. Lipscomb once again earned high marks on the 2021 Teacher Preparation Report Card released earlier this year. This marked the 10th year that state data on the effectiveness of new Tennessee teachers indicates it is one of the most effective teacher preparation programs in the state. In 2019, the College of Education was also awarded a $2.49 million grant from the Kern Family Foundation to develop an innovative leadership development program for principals focused on character, academic excellence and business acumen in the rising generation of leaders. Since 2013, the National Council for Teacher Quality has consistently ranked Lipscomb’s College of Education programs among the top 25 in the nation, ranking them as high as No. 1 nationally in 2014. Learn more about Lipscomb’s College of Education.

About Lipscomb’s Ayers Institute for Learning & Innovation
The Ayers Institute for Learning & Innovation was launched in 2012 by Lipscomb’s nationally recognized College of Education as a partnership with the Ayers Foundation, founded by Jim and Janet Ayers. The focus of the Ayers Institute is to support educators through individualized educational opportunities, embedded professional learning and innovative resources that result in positive student outcomes. The Ayers Institute supports teachers and leaders in improving student outcomes through proven professional learning, to incubate innovative instructional ideas and resources, and to serve as a bridge between policy and practice, as well as between educators in PreK-12 and higher education in rural and urban, public and private school settings. The institute offers a variety of programming including customized partnerships with school districts, seminars, coaching academies, an academic resource-sharing portal called eduTOOLBOX®, online courses, a library of online resources and videos, podcasts and webinars. In the last ten years, the Ayers Institute has engaged or partnered with 46 Tennessee school districts for programming, educators from all 95 counties across the state have accessed its online resources, and educators in all 50 states and 135 nations around the world have grown in their professional practice through the online and digital resources.

For more information about Lipscomb’s Ayers Institute for Learning & Innovation, visit or about Lipscomb’s College of Education, visit