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School of Education Celebrates Success of First Year of “Grow Your Own Teacher” Program


The Grow Your Own Teacher (GYOT) program is a new initiative designed to build a diverse and talented local teacher pipeline by investing in local students who want to be educators in our community. The program encourages these students by connecting them to an education at Saint Louis University’s School of Education (SOE). 

In 2018, representatives from the School of Education spoke to superintendents in urban districts across the St. Louis region, working to figure out their needs. They found that the primary concerns focused on recruiting more teachers to work in local schools. At that time, SLU’s School of Education was graduating about 20 undergraduate students, many of whom took jobs in suburban schools or in other regions. The SOE determined that a strategy was needed to find more aspiring teachers who would work in urban schools in the St. Louis region. The Grow Your Own Teacher program is designed to help fill this gap.

The GYOT program is committed to several objectives, including recruiting and supporting local high school students of color to become certified teachers; connecting graduates to teaching positions at their neighborhood schools in the region, or other in-need schools in our region; giving back to the local community and ultimately improving students’ educational outcomes in the region; and growing and diversifying the School of Education at SLU. SLU’s development office works to raise scholarship funds for students in the GYOT program to help achieve these goals. Leaders in the School of Education build strong relationships by connecting with high school principals, other school partners and community organizations.

We are addressing three perceived barriers to SLU for St. Louis students: funding challenges, lack of familiarity with SLU and the ACT testing barrier." 

Gary Ritter, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education

Christian Wallace-Hughes
Christian Wallace-Hughes

The first GYOT cohort began in Fall 2021 with 12 students. These GYOT students were eligible to apply to receive the GYOT scholarship in addition to other SLU financial aid. From the beginning of their program, students are welcomed into an instant community of peers and nurturing educators. They work with a mentor to ensure they gain a sense of belonging at SLU. “I am very happy for the opportunity to receive the Grow Your Own Scholarship to attend St. Louis University. I'm excited for the chance to go back into my community and teach in the future,” said Christian Wallace-Hughes.

The School of Education partnered with several racially diverse local organizations, including school districts such as Ritenour, Ferguson-Florissant, University City and Belleville, resulting in increased support and awareness of SLU’s School of Education in the community.  In the future, the Grow Your Own Teacher program hopes to increase local district partnerships, grow to fund each student to be competitive with other local teacher education programs and attract more racially diverse students each year.

“We are excited to begin recruiting for 2022 in the School of Education,” said Ryan Wilson, program coordinator for community projects.

For more information about Saint Louis University’s School of Education, visit our website or email us at