An Innovative Approach To Teaching In Tennessee

Chelsea Penney
February 24, 2022

Shelby County Schools began working with Proximity Learning in 2019 to fill their teacher vacancies. Over the past three years, the partnership evolved to include educational innovations that ensure the district provides the best quality education for its students. We are proud to work together to provide personalized learning and future educational transformations with students and educational quality at the forefront.

Monica Jordan, Director of the Office of Schools and Academics at Shelby County Schools, discusses how this partnership offers ground-breaking opportunities to Tennessee students.

The Evolution Of A Partnership

“We partnered with Proximity Learning before the pandemic. In the 2019-2020 school year, we had some teacher vacancies that persisted, and we were required to have a certified teacher. Proximity Learning was an HR Backup solution that enabled us to have a certified teacher in those classrooms where we had been unable to find a live teacher locally.”

“It evolved for us to think about Proximity Learning through a lens of innovation. While we are still utilizing Proximity Learning as an HR Backup solution in some instances, we also have a new contract with them specifically dedicated to utilizing Proximity as an innovation. We reduce the teacher-to-student ratio, but we also execute against a co-teaching, blended learning model that allows us to innovate how we best serve students. This matters especially in the post-pandemic world where we have so much recovery to focus on for students.”

Why They’ve Stayed

“In the beginning, we were having difficulty finding live certified teachers. Even though we had a solution where we could provide instruction to students with a certified instructor, it was asynchronous. So in terms of equity, we felt it more appropriate to seek a solution where we could participate synchronously with these certified teachers. That’s the Proximity Learning solution that was most attractive to us. Because again, we already have virtual courses, virtual teachers, and virtual school, but that model is asynchronous. Proximity Learning allowed us to explore what happens when we’re provided with live instruction virtually. We wanted live instruction because we believe that the best type of instruction occurs within that live space.”

“The principals are very excited to have a solution.”


“Starting from the very beginning, we had a liaison that was already familiar to us. The number one factor in the customer service experience for us was having an individual that was assigned to us that we knew from other work we had done. Having someone who knew us, we knew that person, and we knew that we could rely on that person to provide us with good customer service, which contributed to our experience.”

“From there, over the years, that initial liaison linked us with other individuals within the Proximity Learning organization to make it a lot easier to jump into the work we needed to do. Our liaison made it feel like we were working with folks we already knew and made it easier to do any exchange we needed to set us up for successful execution.”

Innovating Personalized Learning From A Student’s Perspective

“One scenario might be that your Proximity Learning teacher is tuned into your classroom via the interactive board or your device, while your physical teacher initiates the whole group instruction on Monday. During that class period, some students either break away with the Proximity Learning teacher or the Proximity Learning teacher takes over completely, leading discussion while the physical teacher checks on students in the room. That ‘instructor baton’ is passed back and forth between the physical teacher and the Proximity Learning teacher.”

“There could also be an experience where on another day, that student learns exclusively from the Proximity Learning teacher while classmates are being taught exclusively by a physical teacher. Throughout the week, there would be a combination of interactions where the Proximity Learning teacher and the physical teacher both have access to the same students according to the needs of the lesson plan's objectives or the student's needs.”

This new educational innovation model allows for better-personalized learning for each student as it lowers student-to-teacher ratios. Students have access to more high-quality certified teachers and receive a well-rounded education. 

Proximity Learning partners with Shelby County Schools for English 1, English II, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Biology.

*This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Learn more about how Proximity Learning is impacting the Tennessee teacher shortage.

about the author
Chelsea Penney

Chelsea Penney earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing from University of Colorado Denver and her Masters of Science in Marketing from Texas A&M University Commerce. She loves living in Austin, TX and working on the frontline as Content Marketing Manager for Proximity Learning.

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