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Project Inspire Residency Coach Named NAACP Educator of the Year


The Chattanooga Hamilton County NAACP Branch has named Dr. Erica Kelley as its 2022 Educator of the Year. Kelley was selected for the award, which commemorates the legacy of longtime civil rights leader Ruby Hurley, for being a positive force within public education. The award recognizes her work as a leader in educational equity and as a residency coach for Public Education Foundation’s Project Inspire teacher residency program.


“This is an honor I cherish, as it represents the part of my work I feel is the most consequential–helping teachers bridge the gap between a desire to elicit equitable outcomes for all students and the practical classroom practices that will help them get there,” said Dr. Kelley. Kelley and other award winners will be honored Thursday, October 27th at the Ruby Hurley Awards Banquet at the Convention Center hosted by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Branch of the NAACP.

PEF launched the Project Inspire Teacher Residency in 2011. The initiative recruits and prepares individuals in a 14-month teacher program that leads to a full-time teaching position. Residents who complete the program earn a stipend, teaching license, and a Master’s degree. Project Inspire’s model for developing and coaching new teachers is based on the idea that educational equity can be embedded in all aspects of teaching and learning.


For Kelley, this work is a dream come true. As a middle school social studies teacher she found a passion at the intersection of her love for activism and the classroom, devoting her teaching career to empowering students to cultivate their voices and make connections between history, current events, and their own lived experiences. In her current role with Project Inspire, she works to expand that impact with teachers. “Our work with pre-service teacher residents and their expert mentors prepares them to understand the lives and perspectives of their students in order to teach in ways that result in meaningful learning and powerful outcomes,” Kelley stated.


“The profession grows stronger as leaders like Dr. Kelley make space for more teachers to understand the critical and central importance of being culturally responsive,” Dr. Edna Varner, Project Inspire residency coach and education chair of the NAACP branch, states, “It is important that culturally responsive teaching is not delegated to teachers of color, but elevated by all teachers who believe in the district’s aspiration that all students thrive and experience a future without limits.”



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