NCTR BEI’s Project Inspire Graduate Named Teacher of the Year in Her District


The National Center for Teacher Residencies’ (NCTR) Black Educators Initiative (BEI) is proud to recognize the hard work and dedication of teacher residents and graduates of our BEI-supported teacher residency programs across the nation. Their stories are courageous and inspiring, fueling our mission to help recruit, prepare, and retain Black teacher residents for the teaching workforce. We invite you to read and share their stories to create awareness around the impact of teacher residents in our nation’s schools, districts, and overall communities, as well as read about the impact teacher residents have experienced as part of a teacher residency program. 


Chandler Davenport, Project Inspire (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Chandler Davenport - Graduate - Project Inspire
Chandler Davenport, graduate of Project Inspire. Photo courtesy of Project Inspire

“I didn’t major in education, but something in my heart told me that teaching is the route I want to take,” says Chandler Davenport, Project Inspire Cohort 9 graduate. Davenport, now only in her third year post-residency, is The Howard School Teacher of the Year as well as Hamilton County Schools’ district-wide Teacher of the Year. Project Inspire is based in Chattanooga, Tenn., which is part of Hamilton County and its school district. Davenport began as a history teacher but now teaches ACT Prep.

“A friend of mine at Sewanee [the University of the South], Jonathan Brown, who is Cohort 8, was going through his experience with Project Inspire. I didn’t know the first thing about teaching even though I loved my teachers in high school. I thought teaching is too important of a role, yet I was comfortable with the [teacher] residency model because I got to be in the classroom with an experienced teacher.” Davenport spent her residency year at Brainerd High School, mentored by history teacher Keunta Graham. “He really fostered my own teaching style and personality, and let me do my thing while learning from him.”

What Davenport really excels in is building relationships with students, really seeing them for who they are and what they need. Current Project Inspire Cohort 12 Biology resident at The Howard School, Mikayla Curry, says that her students love Ms. Davenport because “she gets us.” “When I met Chandler, I said, ‘Oh, YOU’RE Ms. Davenport! My kids really love you. They really, really love you,’” said Curry.

That sentiment was echoed throughout the teachers at The Howard School, where Davenport won Teacher of the Year due to votes from her peers. “It’s weird because I’m so new, but it’s so cool! The most special part about it was getting the school-level nomination because there are so many strong teachers here in the building. I feel like Janine from Abbott Elementary, who looks up to Ms. Howard and Ms. Shemmenti, because there are people here who have been teaching for decades, and if I can be half the educators they are in my career, then I feel like I’ve done my job,” continues Davenport. “I said, ‘Is this for real?’ when I heard the announcement over the intercom. My principal said that, ‘yes, the majority of the staff voted, and they voted for you.’ It made me feel that the people I look up to see me in that same respect which is super special.”

Project Inspire Residency Coach Dr. Edna Varner says that Davenport has been a superstar and change agent from the very beginning, and is excited to see that her school and district recognize her talents and passion for teaching and her students. In her first year, she was appointed to the leadership team and was tapped to speak at the ceremony where The Howard School won a state award for improving school culture. Quickly gaining recognition as a champion for students and advocate for teacher voice, she was recruited to transfer to a high-performing magnet. She turned it down, indicating that she needs to be where she can make a difference and not merely benefit from the difference someone else has made. Davenport needs to be the change she wants to see, lighting a path so that others can be.

Throughout all the hard work of teaching, Davenport says the biggest thing is to have fun with it. “I’m having a ball!” she exclaims. “The kids are hilarious. During the announcement, my kids came running down the hallway, flung my door open, and shouted my name. They were so excited!”

Teaching is hard, but Davenport feels that the teachers who are burned out are also the ones who aren’t having fun. “You really have to show up and want to be here every day. The school culture here makes me better, and I want to be the teacher for my kids that my teachers were to me,” she concluded.

Project Inspire is so proud of Chandler and look forward to seeing her in more leadership roles and affecting more change in Hamilton County. What’s next in the immediate future for her besides going on to the Regional Finals Teacher of the Year? Planning a wedding! Davenport became recently engaged in February… to a fellow Project Inspire graduate.

Learn more about Project Inspire.


Content and photo provided by Project Inspire

Posted March 20, 2023