Erin brings an expansive background in education to her role as the executive director of the TN Grow Your Own Center. A veteran educator, she spent the first decade of her career as a middle and high school language arts teacher before transitioning to higher education after her graduate studies. Erin held various directorship roles at Indiana Wesleyan University before serving as the university’s associate vice president of innovation. Most recently, she served as the chief academic officer for the educational technology startup, CampusEdu where her work included instructional design, educational technology, blended learning, strategic program launch, and collaborative partnerships.
Erin’s research interests include feedback processes, adaptive learning, program evaluation, assessment, design theory, and learner-centered design. She has been invited to provide keynote addresses and has published articles on the intersection of teaching, learning, and technology.
After growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, Erin moved to the US for college and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and special education from Indiana Wesleyan University, a master’s in instructional design from Towson University, and a doctorate in instructional technology from Indiana University. Erin and her husband Eric have three adult sons, and they spend most weekends hiking, gardening, attending a theatre performance, or visiting family.
In December 2022, Kate joined the Tennessee GYO Center. She holds a doctoral degree in education with an administrative endorsement, a master’s degree in reading education and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, all from East Tennessee State University. Prior to joining the Center, Kate served as senior specialist at the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, associate principal of Kingsport City Schools, interventionist and Read to be Ready coach consultant for TDOE, and a kindergarten and first grade teacher at Kingsport City Schools.
When Kate is not working, she enjoys traveling, cooking, attending plays and concerts, and spending time with family and friends.
Middle Tennessee Regional Manager
Charlene joined the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center in December 2022 as the Middle Tennessee regional manager.
Most recently (2020-2022), Charlene served as the Middle Tennessee Regional Apprenticeship Director for the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Office of Apprenticeship. Prior to transitioning into workforce development, Charlene worked as an educator at Richland School in the Giles County School District. There she served from 2004 until 2020 as a high school science teacher and intervention coordinator.
Charlene earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Martin Methodist College (now known as The University of Tennessee Southern). She graduated as Grissom School of Education’s first secondary education candidate. Additionally, Charlene earned a master’s in administration and supervision from Middle Tennessee State University and a doctoral degree in education from Lipscomb University.
Charlene and her husband Bryan have two children, Emily and Matthew. They currently reside in Pulaski, TN.
East Tennessee Regional Manager
Bianca joined the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center in January 2023 as the East Tennessee Regional Manager. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Bianca has an extensive background in both the public and private sectors of K-12 and higher education, specifically around online programing and best practices for instruction.
She began her career teaching in Tennessee’s public schools then taught online, excited about approaching education in innovative new ways through virtual schools. She supported other teachers as an instructional coach and later as a regional manager of instructional coaches, building programming around best practices for online teaching and learning. She joined Western Governors University, supporting working learners earning their teaching degrees and licensure through competency-based programming. Before joining the Grow Your Own team, Bianca served as principal of a local public virtual school serving K-12th grades. She comes to the University of Tennessee and the Grow Your Own team looking forward to supporting our TN school districts, aspiring apprentices, and teacher preparation programs by approaching education in innovative new ways through the apprentice model.
Bianca earned a bachelor’s degree in communications/public relations and a master’s in teaching from Lee University. She attained her administrative license while earning a specialist in education degree from Tennessee Technological University.
Bianca and her husband Josh have two children, Brody and Lila Jean. They reside in Polk County, Tennessee, and love all things basketball, softball, and outdoors.
West Tennessee Regional Manager
Dr. Canidra L. McGuire’s received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, specializing in English and Journalism. Later, she pursued her master’s and doctorate degrees in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Memphis.
With a solid foundation in academia, Dr. McGuire ventured into the field of education, initially as a teacher in local schools within DeSoto County, MS, and Memphis, TN. As her career progressed, she transitioned into school leadership and teacher support roles. She served as a principal in schools located in Memphis and Nashville, honing her expertise in leadership and cultivating supportive environments for educators.
Additionally, Dr. McGuire has held several positions as an adjunct professor of educational leadership at institutions such as Christian Brothers University, University of Memphis, and ITT Institute. In these roles, she shared her knowledge and experience with aspiring educational leaders, preparing them for their own career journeys.
Throughout her career, Dr. McGuire has been dedicated to mentoring, supervising, and evaluating school principals, as well as supporting school leadership teams in her roles as an Instructional Leadership Director and Chief of Operations. Her passion for fostering strong educational leadership led her to join the Grow Your Own Center at the University of Tennessee System Administrative in January 2023. In her current position as the Regional Manager of the Grow Your Own Center, she plays a vital role in supporting aspiring teachers, school districts, and educational partners in West Tennessee, as part of a partnership grant aimed at building the teacher pipeline across the state of TN.
Dr. McGuire finds great fulfillment in witnessing other leaders step up as mentors and supporters for individuals pursuing careers in education and leadership. Her commitment to excellence in education has led her to present best educational and leadership practices at regional and national conferences. Her research is centered around organizational leadership, principalship effectiveness, and the crucial role of effective leadership in building teacher trust and retention.
Research and Evaluation Manager
Chris currently serves as the research and evaluation manager for the Tennessee Grow Your Own Center, drawing on over 15 years of experience in academia, student affairs, research, and state government to lead efforts to evaluate and conduct research surrounding Tennessee’s teacher occupation apprenticeship program.
Chris holds a Ph.D. in higher education (2017) and a graduate certificate in educational research (2017) from Virginia Tech, as well as a master’s degree in counseling and human development with a concentration in student affairs administration (2008) and a bachelor’s degree with a double major in history and social sciences (2006) from Radford University.
Chris’ research interests include the law, policy, governance, and leadership of higher education, as well as the use of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research methodologies. He is passionate about making a positive impact on the world through his work in education and research.
In his free time, Chris is a self-proclaimed movie buff and avid reader, and you can usually find him listening to a true crime or a news/politics podcast.
Janelle Alexander is originally from Berrien Springs, Michigan. Her educational background includes bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and accounting. She is currently working on a master’s degree in public health from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Alexander spent over three years at UTIA before joining the UT System Administration. Outside of work, she enjoys studying, reading, traveling, playing tennis and spending time with family.