#MNPSVoices: Jenny Bobbitt, Teacher

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Jenny Bobbitt took an unusual path to becoming a teacher – on roller skates.

Before beginning her career at Metro Nashville Public Schools, Bobbitt spent her time working at a restaurant to pay off student loans and playing a sport she loved: roller derby.

“Roller derby taught me so much about myself,” Bobbitt said. “I have taken many lessons from derby over to my teaching career. One element is ‘head on a swivel.’ I am always aware of my students and have an eye on everything they do. Teamwork is another element. It’s important to know how to work as a team and to understand that you are stronger as a unit instead of alone.”

Bobbitt joined MNPS in 2014 and is currently a fourth grade teacher at Shayne Elementary School. She first joined Shayne as a temporary fourth grade English Language Arts teacher and immediately fell in love with the school.

“I prayed every day that a position would open at Shayne for the coming year,” Bobbitt said. “To my luck not only did a position open, but it was with the same amazing fourth grade team. Shayne is one of those great schools that once you’re a Shayne Star, you will always want to be a Shayne Star teacher.”

After nine years of roller derby, Bobbitt finally hung up her skates for good to focus on teaching and enjoying time with her family. Although she’s no longer skating as Maulin Monroe (Bobbitt’s roller derby character based on Marilyn Monroe) for the Nashville Roller Girls, she’s still finding joy as a teacher.

“My favorite thing about teaching is being able to make an impact in a child’s life,” Bobbitt said. “I like knowing that at the end of the day I taught someone something new.”

Bobbitt also adds that her inspiration to become a teacher came from her first MNPS experience – as a student.

“I went to elementary school at Lakeview Elementary,” she said. “It was my excellent teachers there who inspired me later in life to choose education as my profession.”

Bobbitt is looking forward to wrapping up another great school year at Shayne and marrying her fiancé, John, this summer.

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

#MNPSVoices: Kenetra Harris, Nutrition Manager

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Kenetra Harris has been with Metro Schools since 2005 starting as a part time general nutrition assistant and working her way up to her current role as school nutrition manager for three Metro Schools—a job that she says provides a different task and schedule every day and allows her to interact with her important customers – students.

From her own experiences, Harris is better able to manage her staff with know-how and understanding. She is the go-to person when a co-worker needs advice or counsel because of her empathetic approach. Harris exhibits empathy for others daily, and particularly when she learns about students who may be experiencing difficult home situations or need food. The desire to help students is the motivation for Harris and her staff to spring into action every day to ensure every child is fed.

“We get to know them [students] well,” Harris said. “They will tell us things they wouldn’t necessarily tell their teachers about their needs.”

Because of her care and kindness, Harris is often the recipient of birthday party invites, funny stories, and clever elementary-aged observations—anecdotes she says have always been her favorite part of the job. While she is no longer the official café cashier, she enjoys the opportunity to catch-up with her elementary friends by occasionally taking a shift at the cashier counter.

Harris not only takes the time to listen, she works hard to keep her students safe. As a nutrition professional, and the mother of a child with a peanut allergy, she knows how important it is to keep close track of food allergies and diet restrictions.

“I want parents to be comfortable trusting us with their children,” she said. “We make sure every child receives good nutrition and eats something no matter what their dietary restrictions. We offer something for every child.”

Harris and other Metro Schools Café employees maintain notes about each child’s dietary needs. She knows specific student allergies as well as which children are vegetarian or vegan. For children with those dietary needs, she makes sure they do not feel left out and some days will make them special boxed lunches varying their options.

Harris shows her love by making her cafés a safe, happy and welcoming space for students. For Valentine’s Day, the Eakin, Waverly Belmont and Harris Hillman cafeterias are expected to reflect the colors of pink and red to coincide with the theme of the holiday.

“My favorite part of this job is just being able to see the kids and to know they are being fed,” Harris said.

Celebrating National School Counselor Week: Dr. Beth Schroeder

This week, Metro Schools is celebrating our school counselors in honor of National School Counselor Week.

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School counselors across our district impact our students lives everyday. Dr. Beth Schroeder, Fall-Hamilton Elementary School’s counselor, focuses on helping students find their inner leader.

Two years ago, Fall-Hamilton was awarded a grant to implement The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into their curriculum. Among other positive mindsets, The 7 Habits teaches students to find their own personal victories. Schroeder emphasizes that this victory could be something as simple as being a line leader. No matter what they choose to lead, Schroeder hopes to help students find that belief in themselves. Along with developing the children’s confidence, Schroeder’s favorite part of being a counselor is figuring out a student’s personal needs and how she can best fill those.

“Dr. Schroeder is 100 percent about meeting the needs of all students,” said Principal Mathew Portell. “She connects with the adults and students to ensure Fall-Hamilton is a place where everyone wants to be.”

And MNPS is a place that Schroeder herself wants to be — she has been a school counselor with MNPS for more than ten years, but she started her career as a social worker.

“I decided I wanted to counsel kids because I believe prevention is the key to success with mental and emotional health. I wanted to be a part of that proactive side,” Schroeder said. “If the problem is identified early that is where we can really make a difference.”

Schroeder works every day with the mindset of connecting with people’s humanness—meeting the students and parents where they are and remembering that each situation must be handled with kindness and equity. Fall-Hamilton is a trauma- informed school, meaning the adults in the school community are trained and prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic events. Students are also provided with clear expectations and communication strategies to guide them through stressful situations. At Fall-Hamilton their goal is to not only provide tools to cope with extreme situations but to create an underlying culture of respect and support.

Over the last few months, Edutopia has spent time at Fall-Hamilton documenting their approach to social and emotional learning. Check out this video to learn more about those efforts:

Winners of this year’s Blue Ribbon Teacher Award announced

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Metro Nashville Public Schools, along with the Nashville’s Agenda Steering Committee and the Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF), announced today the winners of this year’s Blue Ribbon Teacher Awards. In its fourth year, the program aims to recognize top teaching talent in our public schools.

Winners are determined following a rigorous selection process that included a review of evidence of outstanding teaching practices by a team of experts. Applications of semi-finalists are then reviewed by a specially-convened community selection panel. This year, the focus was on recognizing teachers doing outstanding work in one of three areas – literacy instruction, support of English Language Learners and teacher leadership. Winners will be honored at a special reception in March and celebrated through a month-long city advertising campaign.

“In classrooms across this district we have many life-changing moments taking place every single day due to the expertise, commitment, and caring of our great teachers,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools. “The Blue Ribbon Teacher Award helps us shine the spotlight on some of our best teachers and more importantly, better demonstrate the value this community places on teaching excellence.”

Click here to view the list of 2018 Blue Ribbon Teacher Award winners.

This year’s winners join an elite group of the city’s top public school educators. With their addition, only 192 teachers have received this distinction to date.

“So often, teachers tell us they feel invisible or their work unnoticed in the larger community,” said Tom Sherrard, Chairman of the Nashville’s Agenda Steering Committee and a member of the Board of the Nashville Public Education Foundation. “What we are hoping to do with this award is to say that great teaching matters – not just to students and parents but the entire community. We all benefit immensely from the work of extraordinary educators like these. They deserve the entire city’s thanks and recognition.”

Along with Blue Ribbon status, each teacher receives a $1,000 cash prize – supported exclusively by private donations.

The Blue Ribbon Teacher awards program began in 2014 and is a joint project of the Nashville’s Agenda Steering Committee, the NPEF and MNPS.

Members of this year’s community selection panel were: Susannah Berry, Gail Carr-Williams, Hank Clay, Ron Corbin, Stephen Francescon, Rebecca King, Vanessa Lazon, Rob McNeilly, Paul Oakley, David Plazas, Stephanie Silverman, Brenda Wynn and Nahed Zehr.

#MNPSVoices: Tomás Yan, Teacher

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Tomás Yan has loved science for as long as he can remember. When he was five years old his parents bought him a chemistry set and from that moment, he was hooked.

Now the scientist-turned-teacher at Antioch Middle School is finding creative ways to inspire the next generation of scientists through the district’s STEAM initiative, which is engaging students in developing their creative, communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills.

“I am not just teaching the subject matter, I am teaching them to learn, how to ask questions, how to experiment and how to create,” Yan said.

He designs his classes around experiments and other hands-on activities to bring STEAM to life for students.

“There is nothing better than seeing a troubled student suddenly engaged in a classroom activity,” Yan said. “It’s not unusual to see a kid talking or acting out in class, but when they walk into my classroom and see how hands-on it is, it’s amazing to see that transformation. Students are able to exercise both sides of their brain at once.”

Yan has spent years collecting tools and technology for his lab and he has even bigger plans for the future. He recently received a grant from MNPS Libraries to build a virtual reality lab and a hydroponic lab to explore growing plants without soil and using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. His goal is for students to be able to start with a seed and grow their own food to be sold at a student-run farmers market. The money raised will either go back into the program or be donated to a local food bank. Yan said not only will students receive real-life business experience, they will also learn the importance of giving back to the community.

“STEAM isn’t something you read in a book. It is a culture, a way of living,” Yan said. “STEAM is a part of our everyday lives, we just have to open our eyes and look for it.”

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

Digital service connecting community with Metro Schools students in need

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If your neighbor were in need – you’d help.

That’s the core belief behind Purposity, a digital community that Metro Nashville Public Schools is partnering with to support our students experiencing homelessness. Purposity connects the community with students in need of everyday items like air mattresses, tennis shoes and clothing that can’t be fulfilled by grant funding and existing partnerships. With one quick text message notification, community members can seamlessly fulfill a need.

At MNPS, Purposity will work directly with the HERO Program for Families in Transition, which serves more than 3,000 students experiencing homelessness each year.

“This is an exciting new opportunity for us to better meet the needs of our students experiencing homelessness,” said Catherine Knowles, HERO coordinator, “community interest has been high.”

We know our employees, community friends and partners are ready and willing to help our students in whatever ways they can. In less than 36 hours after announcing this avenue of support, more than 250 people signed up to support this initiative. In addition, four requests were posted and each one was fulfilled within the day. This means four students were positively impacted – by a simple text message and an invested community.

You can get involved with Purposity, too, and make a difference for our students experiencing homelessness. There’s no app to download and you’ll only receive one text message a week.

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Watch the video below to see more of what Purposity does and how it works.

Early College High School Program to better prepare students for college and/or career

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Metro Nashville Public Schools, in partnership with Nashville State Community College (NSCC), will introduce a new Early College High School Program for the 2018-19 school year at Middle College High School on NSCC’s Main Campus. The program will offer a rigorous curriculum emphasizing Information Technology (IT) and will provide higher education and industry partnership experiences for students.

There is still time to complete the Optional Schools application and families who would like for their child to be considered may update their existing applications or still apply between now and Feb. 2. To apply, visit https://schooloptions.mnps.org/. There are currently 100 seats open to qualified students which will be open until filled before the start of the 2018-19 school year. The Early College High School program will give current 8th graders entering high school next year an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and college associate degree in just four years and at no cost to families.

Early College High Schools are relatively new to education and boast a 90 percent graduation rate, according to Jobs for the Future. That’s much higher than the nationwide high school graduation rate of about 80 percent, according to a 2016 article in U.S. News and World Report. This will be a first introduction of the concept in Metro Nashville Public Schools to offer families more options for their children’s education. This dual enrollment experience not only leads to a college associate degree but supports students’ readiness for future college opportunities and prepares them for the start of a career in the IT field.

While the program is not a traditional high school experience typically inclusive of sports and extracurricular clubs and activities, it does provide students with a strong academic foundation to get a head start on their future. Students will receive support to help them balance college courses.

The program has academic entrance requirements of a grade point average of 85 or greater, requires acceptable test scores and the completion of an interview. For more information on the Early College High School Program, call (615) 259-INFO (4636) or e-mail earlycollege@mnps.org.

#MNPSVoices: Derrick Williams, Coordinator of Social & Emotional Learning

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Derrick Williams had no plans of continuing his education after high school because he had a gift that he believed would take him all the way to Hollywood. Needless to say, growth, maturity and encouragement from a friend stimulated him to serve his community in a different way.

“My talent was making people laugh and this was important to me because of the many adverse childhood experiences I encountered,” Williams said.

Williams started his career with Metro Schools as a behavioral specialist in 2009 where he enjoyed serving the Brick Church Middle School community for three years. He has held a variety of resource positions such as family involvement specialist and community outreach coordinator over the course of his nine years with the district.

Williams currently serves the district as the Coordinator of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL). Through professional development sessions and face-to-face school support, he works to assist key leaders in understanding the 5 Core Competencies of self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. He spends most of his time conducting SEL walkthroughs at various schools.

“SEL is necessary and essential in developing positive, productive, life-long learners who are prepared to engage in society,” Williams said. “I hold this work close to my heart as I try to model this work on a daily basis.”

However, this was not the path he initially chose for himself.

Williams was raised in Georgetown, South Carolina in a family of talented singers and songwriters. It was in middle school that he discovered his talent was making people laugh. While in high school, Williams began to embrace his passion for entertainment and joined the drama club, eventually starring in two school plays.

“I remember telling myself, if I could laugh or make someone else laugh for just a minute, that moment escapes to another place – away from harsh realities – and this would be worth the energy and effort I put forth,” he said.

The summer after graduating high school Williams had still not applied to any colleges, however, he enrolled in a summer scholarship program that offered students funding support for their future college choice. Despite this, Williams was still not interested. His focus was on becoming an actor until one day a friend convinced him to apply to South Carolina State University, where he majored in Performing Arts before changing his major to Psychology in his junior year.

“I had a sort of ‘Moses Mountain Top’ experience that piqued my interest in human behavior,” Williams said.

Williams went on to have a flourishing college career becoming sophomore class Vice President, joining the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and graduating with the highest GPA in his field of study.

While Williams does not have his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he is a star to his wife, Shala and their two beautiful children and all the lives he touches on a daily basis within MNPS. Attending college altered the trajectory of his life allowing him to reach audiences in a more impactful way.

“Going to college was a life changing experience that has allowed me to become the person that I am today,” he said. “I believe that there is a chosen path for each of us. Sometimes we might step off that path, but when we seek guidance, we find the path that allows us to be the most impactful and influential.”

Families visit every Metro School in one place at 2018 School Choice Festival

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On Tuesday, January 23, more than 2,000 students and families visited the Fairgrounds Nashville to attend the annual MNPS School Choice Festival. For two hours, families could explore every MNPS school, including our public schools, charters and specialty options for the 2018-19 year. The space was bustling with people and filled with the unique personalities of 160 schools. Many booths displayed student projects, or let their own student ambassadors tell the stories of their schools, but all booths gave families the chance to learn more about their offerings and meet school staff. Attendees could also visit information sessions to learn about the general school choice process.

Attendees also enjoyed puppet shows, a musical petting zoo, face painting, free children’s books donated by our community partner Book’ Em and games on Microsoft devices. The School Choice Festival is not possible without our community partners and the volunteers at Central Office and from our schools—thank you to all who attended and made this year’s event a success!

This year, the School Choice  Festival was held during the optional schools application period. School choice applications opened on Jan. 10 and will remain open until Friday, Feb. 2.  Families can apply online at www.mnps.org or can request a paper application from their school. If you’re interested in applying but you don’t know where to start, call the Family Information Center at 615-259-4636.

#MNPSVoices: Lori Kahley, Technology Teacher

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Among Nashville’s points of pride is the diversity and vibrancy of its people – a melting pot from all different backgrounds. And no one knows the beauty of Nashville’s diversity better than Lori Kahley, a fourth grade technology teacher at Tusculum Elementary, who serves students representing 31 different nationalities and speaking 34 different languages.

“My favorite part of my job is seeing students get excited about learning,” Kahley said. “We have a very high EL [English Language] population at Tusculum. They may not always understand grade level scope and sequence, but all can be successful [with the use of] computers. They can pick it up quickly and find success.”

She said this success gives EL students a confidence boost which carries over into their other classes. The computer classes also equip students with the 4C’s (critical thinking, collaborating, communicating and using creativity), a learning method that is used throughout Metro Nashville Public Schools to create a strong foundation for learning.

Kahley began her teaching career in 1990 spending more than 20 years teaching in the private sector in Nashville. In 2011, she moved to Georgia where she taught in public schools for the first time. After her experience there, Kahley said her heart belonged to public education and when she moved back to Nashville in 2016 she joined MNPS.

“I have seen many changes in the educational system, but I guess it is the unknown that many speak about in regard to public education that surprises me,” Kahley said. “Many people automatically assume that public schools are full of poverty-stricken students who have behavioral issues. But those who speak out know little about what actually goes on in a day-to-day classroom.”

The diversity of Nashville isn’t the only thing Kahley loves about the city. She’s also passionate about its musical history. In her spare time, she works as a tour guide for Old Town Trolley’s “Nashville After Dark” tour.

“The premise behind the tour was to introduce visitors of Nashville to all the different types of music that have shaped our city,” Kahley said. “Not only is Nashville home to country music, it has also seen the likes of musicians such as Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, B.B. King, Etta James and many others.”

Kahley added that while the tour is something she does for fun, it has also given her skills she brings back to the people who matter most to her – students.

“I would love to invite leaders from all over Nashville to visit our school and see all of the amazing things that happen each day,” she said.

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

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