Distinguished Professionals Education Institute

Public School Forum of East TN Knox County Schools Pro2Serve

Distinguished Professionals Education Institute Provides "Distinguished Professionals" as Secondary Teachers in Critical Shortage Areas

In late fall, 2005 the Public School Forum of East Tennessee, in collaboration with the Knox County School System and Pro2Serve Professional Project Services, Inc. of Oak Ridge, established the Distinguished Professionals Education Institute (DPEI), an organization formed to provide distinguished professionals with subject area expertise to teach courses in critical shortage areas in Tennessee's secondary school classrooms.

"We are experiencing teacher shortages in critical course areas such as math, science, and foreign languages locally, across Tennessee, and nationally," said Betty Sue Sparks, DPEI Executive Director. Ms. Sparks, who retired as the director of human resources for Knox County Schools, has experienced the shortage of teachers in these areas firsthand.

Chartered in December 2005, DPEI's purpose is to benefit the public through educational and charitable programs and activities that lessen the burden of government and ensure that all Tennessee high school students have the opportunity to take the full slate of educational coursework needed to develop their full potential.

DPEI evolved out of Knox County's Every School A Great School education program, which recommended that schools "Recruit skilled scientists, engineers, linguists, and others to teach in hard-to-staff subject areas, using strategies such as a "Distinguished Professionals in the Schools" program. The non-profit corporation's initial funding came from grants from Pro2Serve and the Public School Forum of East Tennessee. It is governed by a board of directors that includes Ms. Sparks; Chairman Dr. Barry Goss, President of Pro2Serve; Gordon Fee, Chairman of the Public School Forum of East Tennessee; Homer Fisher, Senior Vice President Emeritus, University of Tennessee; Dr. Lynn Cagle, UT Office of Professional Licensure; and Ed Hedgepeth, Knox County Director of High Schools.

In October, 2005 the Tennessee State Board of Education approved the Distinguished Professionals program. In January,2006 it approved the creation of an adjunct teacher's license, which is granted to those who successfully complete the required pre service program.

"We hope to see this initiative expand statewide in the next three to five years," said Buzz Thomas, executive director of the Public School Forum of East Tennessee. "This is a win-win situation. It has great potential to benefit schools statewide."

Under DPEI, a distinguished professional (DP) is eligible for the program if he has content area expertise as demonstrated by at least a Master's or a Bachelor's degree; 24 semester-hours credit in teaching or a related field; and at least 10 years of work experience in the field to be taught. Having met these qualifications, completed 50 contact hours of pre-service preparation, and passed a rigid screening process, including a background check, a DP is issued an adjunct license in specific subject areas to teach critical shortage courses such as mathematics, physics, chemistry or foreign languages.

The program is not designed for individuals who desire to teach on a full-time basis and the license must be renewed annually but no more than nine times. After acceptance into the program, participants are assigned a mentor teacher who will commit to meet regularly with the DP. At the end of each year, the school system recommends candidates with successful evaluations to the Department of Education for renewal of the adjunct license.


All Tennessee high school students will have the opportunity to take the full slate of educational coursework needed to develop their full potential.


The Distinguished Professional Education Institute's (DPEI) mission is to provide high quality education to Tennessee high school students in specialized courses which require teachers with critical, hard-to-find skills. DPEI will partner with educational organizations across the state to address their unmet critical course needs with Distinguished Professionals who hold teaching licenses for those specific critical courses.


The Institute is designed to address the growing need for course matter experts with expertise in math, science, foreign languages, and other areas of current shortage. Professional scientists, linguists and mathematicians holding alternative licenses issued by the state will teach on a "course by course" basis in hard-to-staff and critical shortage areas. DPEI will mesh teacher education, mentoring, induction, and professional development to enable schools, districts, to leverage resources of personnel, equipment, and dollars.


DPEI will be organized as a 501(c)(3) charitable institute for the advancement of education which lessens the burdens of government. A Board of Directors consisting of 5-9 distinguished representatives from the community oversee the functioning of the Institute. DPEI will have an Executive Director to manage its day to day operations including providing the required training of state-licensed Distinguished Professionals who will be contracted to teach critical courses.


  • Gallup Teacher Insight
  • Drug Screening
  • Background Check
  • Praxis I pre-professional skills test or the equivalent
  • Praxis content area examination(s) during first 6 months
  • Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching (prior to their second year of teaching)

Adjunct Licensure

  • Granted upon successful completion of pre-service course work and screening
  • Support from a mentor teacher who will commit to meet regularly with the Distinguished Professional
  • Support from mentors and other professional development will be at least the equivalent of two days per month
  • License is valid for one year


  • Principal or designee will be responsible for all evaluations
  • At the end of each year, the school system will recommend the candidates who have received successful evaluations to the department of Education for renewal of the adjunct license. In no event will the adjunct license be valid for more than 10 years.
  • The Distinguished Professional will not attain licensure beyond the approved subject matter or courses without successfully completing the state's regular or alternative licensure program.