#MNPSVoices: Andy Mizell, EL Teacher

MNPSVoices Andy Mizell

Andy Mizell has had a fascinating journey of conflict, tragedy, forgiveness and joy. While he had planned on being an artist and studied art in college on a full ride scholarship to Lipscomb University to play tennis, it was a chance mission trip to Haiti for one year that sowed seeds of doubt for his future as an artist. It was during this time he realized he enjoyed communicating with people wanting to learn English.

“I visited Haiti four times that year. I really enjoyed helping others, but I remember saying the last thing I ever wanted to do in life was to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I graduated from Lipscomb that I considered teaching,” said Mizell, who is a now an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher at Margaret Allen Middle School.

After participating in a teacher-in-training interview, and then five days later getting married, he began working full-time as a teacher at Margaret Allen Middle Prep School – the same school he still works today as a 5th-8th grade ELL teacher.

Mizell admits while he struggled his first year as a teacher with feelings of frustration, he was fortunate to meet another teacher who began to mentor him. “She taught me how to teach, how to handle myself in the classroom and it changed my life,” Mizell said, adding that he flourished under her guidance. Now, eight years later, he’s enriching the lives of his ELL students by introducing them to complex books on a number of subjects such as the Holocaust.

Mizell has had many experiences as an educator, including tragedy when one of his brightest ELL students, with a promising talent in art, was tragically killed in a car accident. The student’s love of reading, art and history were an inspiration to him.

His sorrow from her passing pushed him to mark her life with a beautiful courtyard at the school. Not only that, he reached out to his former student’s favorite Holocaust speaker, Eva Kor, a twin survivor of medical experimentation at Auschwitz, human rights champion and forgiveness advocate.

Mizell moved mountains to get Kor to come to the opening of the memorial garden, which they named Eva’s Kourtyard – a place where conflict can be resolved and forgiveness, flowers and fountains flow.

Mizell thinks about his former student often and how she would have wanted him to forgive the driver that took her life. He has embraced that forgiveness and has found immense joy in the process.

The visit from Kor was an affirmation for him and his students that with hard work, passion and a little luck, one can all build hope for a brighter future.

Since that time, Mizell created a YouTube video that features the voice of an ELL student from Margaret Allen. This video, produced and written by him for his students, commemorates their collective achievements of simultaneously learning English, meeting Kor and building a memorial garden that forever represents a place that encourages students to resolve conflict and to forgive freely. https://www.evaskortyard.com.



Metro Schools hosts ninth annual career fair for high school students


Engineering, video game development, veterinary medicine; these are just some of the career aspirations of Metro Schools students who attended the ninth annual My Future. My Way. Career Exploration FairMore than 6,000 high school freshmen from 22 MNPS schools, including magnet, charter and the 12 largest neighborhood schools, gathered at the Music City Center on Nov. 14 to explore careers of their interest.

“The career fair shows us as freshman why we should prepare for life,” said Briona, a student East Nashville Magnet. “It helps us mix with different cultures and it gives me a different perspective on life. I would like to be a social worker because I want to involve myself with different people and help.”

“My favorite part of the day was meeting the FBI agents,” said Cole, a student at McGavock High School, who visited the Transportation Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation booths.

Sponsored by Alignment Nashville, students like Cole learned firsthand about career opportunities from more than 100 area businesses and nonprofits – many of which set up hands-on demonstrations of the work they do. Exhibitors represented a broad spectrum of careers including arts, communications, business, information technology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, tourism, government and nonprofit areas.

The exhibit hall was organized by five industry-themed areas:

  1. Arts, Media and Communications
  2. Business, Marketing and Information Technology
  3. Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology
  4. Health and Public Services
  5. Hospitality and Tourism

New this year, freshmen took the YouScience aptitude assessment thanks to the sponsorship of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. YouScience results deliver personalized matches to hundreds of careers, including in-depth information on each career such as day-in-the-life, core job tasks, salaries and educational requirements. Career fair exhibitors were matched with the Top 100 YouScience careers and marked with icons on their booths.

“Based on their YouScience results we know MNPS Academy students have talent,” said Armando Garza, senior vice president of sales and marketing at YouScience. “It was great to actually meet them personally and to hear firsthand how YouScience impacted their career exploration and decision making. We were very excited to be a part of this innovative career fair.”

“It’s important for the community to be part of the event to support freshman as they try and decide what career paths they want to pursue,’ said Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, who attended the event. “I’m here to tell everyone how to be a judge when they grow up. I would rather them be a judge than to have to see a judge.”

CEO Champions co-chairs Mayor Megan Barry and Dan Piotrowski presented the “Best in Show” to the Engineering, Advanced Manufacturing and Industrial Technology partnership council for the interactive nature of their booths and variety of careers showcased. Rashed Fakhruddin, chair of the partnership council, accepted the award. Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS Director of Schools, Melissa Jaggers, president and CEO of Alignment Nashville, and Donna Gilley, director of the Academies of Nashville were part of the Best in Show award presentation.

Many thanks to PENCIL and the MNPS partnership council career fair chairs, who were instrumental in helping the Academies of Nashville plan and support the event this year:

Arts, Media, and Communications
DeeGee Lester, The Parthenon

Business Marketing and Information Technology
John Doerge, Deloitte
Ann Kehayes, Tennessee Credit Union

Engineering, Manufacturing, and Industrial Technology
Jack Tipton, ACE Mentor
Cheryl Mayes, Toolbox Consulting

Health and Public Services
Rebecca Bilbrey, Saint Thomas Health
Nikkita Chatman, Davidson County Juvenile Court

Hospitality and Tourism
Leslie Davis, Nashville Convention and Visitors Center

Check out photos from the event below.

Metro Schools students learn about the science behind hockey at Nashville Predators’ STEM Night


This week students in the i3 G2ROW STEM grant program had the unique opportunity to visit Bridgestone Arena and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Nashville Predators.
The NHL team invited schools from all over the state to participate in STEM Night, a special event that educates students about how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) plays a part in professional sports.

Students from seven Metro Schools attended the event: Croft Design Center, Goodlettsville Middle, Isaac Litton Middle, Madison Middle, McMurray Middle, Oliver Middle and Stratford Lower Campus. These students are a part of a program created by the i3 G2ROW STEM grant, a multi-year Federal grant from the US Department of Education committed to growing STEM education in middle schools.

During the field trip, students toured the facility and participated in a Q&A with staff members where they learned about STEM-related activities like video production, technology during games and how math and science play a role in hockey strategy. The students were exposed to a variety of STEM careers and able to see those jobs in action during an actual Predators game.

See pictures from the field trip below.

#MNPSVoices: Dr. Glenn Falls, 57 Years of Educating in MNPS


After 57 years of coaching in Metro Nashville Public Schools, Dr. Glenn Falls has no plans to slow down. He began his championship-winning career at Burton Middle School in 1961, where he taught science, physical education and coached every sport offered there including track, softball, football and even girls and boys basketball. After serving on all tier levels throughout the district, he officially retired from Glencliff High School in 2004, however, was re-hired the same day on a part-time basis doing what he has loved to do for more than a century – teaching and coaching. He still serves as head coach of the girls volleyball team.

In 2014, he joined the MNPS Central Office as Coordinator for Health, Wellness, Physical Education and JROTC to assist the district in implementing new professional development curriculum options for teachers, such as golf and archery.

“It was very much like having a team to work with, so I joined,” said Falls, who also supports initiatives around health and blood pressure screenings for students as well as Titan Tuesday and Walk to School Day.

Falls graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Physical Education from the University of Tennessee in 1960 and 1961. He continued his education in 1977 obtaining an Education Specialist degree from Tennessee State University. In 1983, he became one of the first two students to graduate with a doctoral degree in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University.

Coach Falls, as he’s affectionately known around the city of Nashville, is a coaching legend. He has been named “Coach of the Year” in basketball, volleyball and tennis, and has won more than 45 district and regional championships in middle and high school sports. Because of his longevity in the education field, and the generations of families he’s touched within MNPS, he has been the topic of several published articles. When asked what it feels like to have coached both parents and their children, and now even some grandchildren, he said, “These kids are like my children; I just don’t take them home with me,” adding he has tracked all of his student athletes who have gone on to college or professional sporting careers and speaks to some of them at least once a week.

Falls is as passionate about teaching in the classroom as he is about coaching. He believes it is important for teachers to be good coaches inside the classroom, especially for up-and-coming teachers.

“Several teachers and administrators completed their student teaching under me,” he said. “[I believe] Having a great supervising teacher is important to producing a great teacher.”

Falls recently turned 79 years old, and while one may wonder if he has plans to ever fully retire, he says his motivation to keep coaching and serving MNPS students is what continues to drive him.

“I’m prepared [to retire], but I’m not looking to retire as long as I’m needed,” he said. “On the days I’m not working, I’d rather be here. I enjoy working with people and especially the kids.”

If you’re interested in joining the MNPS team, visit our careers page for more information.

Seven Metro Schools participate in city-wide middle school art contest


Tennessee State University recently hosted its 5th annual We Are the World International Middle School Art Contest as part of International Education Week. Seven Metro Schools participated in the contest: Oliver Middle Prep, Gra-Mar Middle Prep, John Early Museum Magnet Middle Prep, Creswell Middle Prep School of the Arts, Margaret Allen Middle Prep, McKissack Middle Prep and Bellevue Middle Prep.

The artwork was evaluated by a group of judges and the winners were announced during TSU’s International Education Week culminating event – International Family Night. The event included a dinner, a puppet show by the Nashville Public Library, games and music from around the world.

Out of 36 entries, three winners were chosen from each grade level:

5th Grade
1st Place: Camille Griggs, Bellevue
2nd Place: Danica Whitaker, Gra-Mar
3rd Place: Sophia Ou, Gra-Mar

6th Grade
1st Place: Torri James, Margaret Allen
2nd Place: Ahsiri Dominguez, Gra-Mar
3rd Place: Jasmine Winfrey-Horton, Gra-Mar

7th Grade
1st Place: Bella Bears, John Early
2nd Place: Icsis Church, Bellevue
3rd Place: Joniyah Henry, John Early

8th Grade
1st Place: Cha’ Keya Holt, John Early
2nd Place: Rikiya Donelson, John Early
3rd Place: Premiere’ Clay, Creswell

Check out the students’ artwork below.


Hunters Lane students connect with African students through technology


Students at Hunters Lane High School recently used virtual reality to communicate with students in Africa. The African students had never seen that kind of technology before, so it was an exciting experience for everyone. The experience was filmed for a show “Good All Over” that will air on PBS.

#MNPSVoices: Craig McClellan, Second Grade Teacher


Reading books on iPads, using styluses instead of pens, submitting assignments through innovative apps; this is what the modern classroom looks like according to Craig McClellan, a second-grade teacher at Eakin Elementary. McClellan, who has spent the last four years teaching in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), works to create this environment every day by integrating technology into his classroom.

In addition to a more efficient learning environment, McClellan believes utilizing technology will better prepare students for their future.

“Digital literacy is incredibly important,” McClellan said. “Most jobs will require the use of technology to some extent so if we are truly college- and career-focused as teachers, we need to help students understand how to use these tools.” Even at the tender age of seven and eight.

“When teaching writing, I will often use my personal iPad Pro and Apple Pencil along with the app GoodNotes to model for students. I pair this with an Apple TV so I can walk around the classroom to monitor students and still project my writing on the board.”

Not only is McClellan’s use of technology helping his students learn, it’s making it easier for parents to participate in their child’s learning experience. Students submit assignments via an app called SeeSaw, which gives McClellan and parents an opportunity to review assignments and share feedback.

Although McClellan is making strides as an innovative educator, he didn’t always envision himself as a teacher. He majored in guitar at Belmont University and started his career in the music industry. After working as a professional musician for several years, McClellan stumbled upon a new passion – teaching.

“I started substituting [teaching] on days I wasn’t on the road and slowly realized I was happiest on the days I was in the classroom,” McClellan said. “It was very fulfilling, and I felt like I was making a difference.”

While McClellan enjoys using technology as a tool in his classroom, he said his favorite part of being a teacher is the relationship he has with his students.

“I love watching students grow academically and socially,” McClellan said. “It’s fun to have former students come by and see me on their way to class and be a part of an awesome faculty that is changing their lives.”

If you’re interested in joining the MNPS team, visit our careers page for more information.

#MNPSVoices: Harold Finch II, Director of Workplace Safety and Training


After being wait-listed for medical school, Harold Finch II’s desire to be a doctor was temporarily put on hold. But he kept focused on his goals and decided not to let the grass grow under his feet while waiting for a space to open up. Instead, he proactively prepared for his dream by pursuing a Master of Public Health from Meharry Medical College.

As a student, Finch managed to juggle a demanding course load while also serving as a substitute teacher in Metro Schools for two years. This experience helped to pique his interest in education.

“My love for education and my love for health makes this a very good fit for me,” said Finch, MNPS director of Workplace Safety and Training. “There’s not one day that’s like the other and, more importantly, we get to help people here – that is our drive.”

Upon completion of his degree in 2003, his desire to be a doctor shifted and he decided to continue his work in the classroom teaching chemistry and physical science at Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School and then as coordinator of health and safety for Head Start with the Metro Action Commission. Today, he continues to combine his experience and interest in health and education overseeing health and safety programs that support employee well-being.

“If employees are happy, we believe they are going to be effective in the work they do for our children,” Finch said. “A safe and healthy work environment that helps our employees means more effective instruction occurring in the classroom.

“My most valuable asset is my family,” he continued. “I have two children who attend MNPS and I am a product of MNPS as well. I believe that if what I do can better the learning environment and experience for my children, then that is going to do the same for the other 86,000 MNPS students we serve.”

Among his responsibilities include handling worker’s compensation, safety inspections at schools, training for employees on safety and health-related as well as some human resources concerns. His office also assists with providing accommodations for employees with disabilities and handling Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) health and safety reporting procedures

During his tenure at MNPS, he has focused on heightening the level of safety awareness all across the district.

“I think our work will speak for itself and our effect on the district’s success,” Finch said. “Our actions speak louder than anything we can say. We’re not only saving money, we’re saving lives.

If you’re interested in joining the MNPS team, visit our careers page for more information.

How to keep students safe on Halloween


Halloween is just around the corner and although it is a fun holiday for students to celebrate, it is important to keep safety top of mind.

Here are some Halloween safety tips from Safe Kids Worldwide to share with your children if you choose to participate in this year’s Halloween festivities.

Walk Safely

  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.  Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  • Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Trick or Treat With an Adult

  • Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.

Keep Costumes Both Creative and Safe

  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  • Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
  • Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  • When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.

Drive Extra Safely on Halloween

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

#MNPS Voices: Johnsie Holt, Staff Wellness Coordinator


As Metro Schools celebrates receiving the Cigna Well-Being Award, a national award recognizing employee health and wellness, Johnsie Holt can count it a professional win that validates the importance of her daily work in promoting healthy environments and habits for employees across the district.

Holt’s role as Staff Wellness Coordinator for the Employee Wellness Center keeps her focused on improving and maintaining the health of all MNPS employees and, although a new resource, she said she is already seeing positive results.

“I have heard several testimonials, especially from employees using our fitness center facilities, physical therapy and health coaching services,” Holt said. “They have experienced everything from healing injuries that have plagued them for years, losing weight, getting stronger, having more energy, and feeling more confident in themselves or even forming new friendships. It is so amazing to watch people make positive changes in their lives, and I’m just thankful that I get to be a small part of that.”

Before becoming the Staff Wellness Coordinator, Holt was part of the Coordinated School Health department, a grant-funded program that promotes healthy environments for students. She spent seven years rallying around PE teachers helping to provide support at schools with limited funds or staff to implement programs and activities.

Holt believes the opening of the Employee Wellness Center has been a positive step for workplace wellness. The new state-of-the-art health facility offers MNPS and Metro employees with expanded medical, therapy and behavioral health services, a full-service fitness center, a fully stocked onsite pharmacy and a healthy food café.

“It’s really a one-stop-shop for health,” Holt said, adding that the expanded services also include onsite physical therapy, health coaching and chiropractic services in addition to a full-service clinic. “We have a fitness center filled with cardio and strength training equipment, a walking track and fitness studio for classes.”

Holt said that while society at times makes people feel like it’s selfish to make time for self-care, she keeps the adage, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” at the forefront of helping provide the resources and support needed to “fill [our] employees’ cups back up.”

“Our employees are so giving to everyone around them – our students, their co-workers, the community,” she said. “I would like to think that my work helps provide them with opportunities and encouragement to take care of themselves in return.”

%d bloggers like this: