Growing up in a rural area with limited opportunity, Jason Beach, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, understands the value that education can have for students who grew up in a similar environment.
Neither of his parents graduated high school, let alone college.
Beach attended community college for two years before transferring to Tennessee Tech to gain a science background before going to dental school; however, his life vision changed.
“I originally wanted to be a dentist, and working in the sheriff’s department, working my way through school, I had an opportunity to start tutoring some of the inmates. It really opened my eyes to the value of education,” he said.
Beach switched his major to secondary education to continue impacting lives with the power of education at the school that inspired him to do so.
“I was very fortunate to come here and work under Dr. Carl Owens, who’s helped me see that it’s more about building up the people you work with and the students you work with and less about basically putting your name out there and trying to be the lead researcher in a specific thing. One of the things he really kind of showed me was that when you help support other students and help support faculty, you’re actually raising and moving the entire program forward, not just your own personal self.
“It’s often said that Tech is Tennessee’s best-kept secret. In many cases, we’re actually leading the way in many of our programs.”
One of these programs is Tech’s VISION lab, which stands for Virtual Immersive Interactive Observation, where pre-service teachers can watch a classroom in full 360. This allows teachers to see instruction as well as students’ responses and behavior in a normal classroom.
“This provides a wealth of opportunity for our preservice teachers. No other school in the state of Tennessee is able to do this. We’re leading the way as far as VR integration in the education realm.”
Not only is Beach passionate about technology, but he also has a heart for students who come from rural areas like the one he grew up in.
In Spring 2019, Tennessee Tech University’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge was announced. This initiative focuses on fostering success in rural areas across Tennessee that can be replicated in other rural areas across the United States or even across the world.
“Most of the grand challenge type of events that universities do really look at specific areas, and rural communities is not one that’s been explored in this country yet. If you actually go back and look at the history of Tennessee Tech, that was one of the actual charges. With that capability, we are then able to reinforce and bolster that community. I see that as Tennessee Tech’s purpose, to really help the students and help our rural areas.”