Category Archives: News

#MNPSVoices: Madisien Steele, Trauma Informed Practitioner

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Trauma comes in many forms and, despite what some may think, it’s not just something that impacts adults.

“It’s difficult for many adults to deal with traumatic situations, but for kids it can be particularly devastating,” said Madisien Steele, a trauma informed practitioner at Fall-Hamilton Enhanced Option Elementary (FHEOE). “Their brains simply aren’t developed enough to handle what’s happening to them.”

Steele is the first person in Metro Nashville Public Schools to hold the title of trauma informed practitioner, and she is the first person in the state of Tennessee to hold a position in a school that is solely dedicated to supporting students who have experienced trauma.

She has dedicated her career to supporting the emotional needs of students who have suffered trauma so they are able to succeed in an academic environment. For many students who experience a traumatic event, the emotional toll can create feelings of anxiety, fear and even uncertainty about what the future may hold.

“It is inevitable that at some point, all of us will experience some trauma in our lives,” she said. “Until you have sat and talked with some of these children, you have no idea what they are dealing with outside of the classroom.”

In addition to helping students understand what they are feeling and how to deal with those emotions, Steele also works to educate parents, families and teachers so they are better equipped to deal with students who have experienced trauma.

“I’ve actually had parents say they don’t think kids experience trauma – or stress. But stress and trauma looks different for different people,” she said. “We all deal with it and process it differently.”

Before joining MNPS, she spent several years working as a crisis counselor for Youth Villages. Her work with Metro Schools is critically important in supporting the district’s whole learner approach, a belief that in order for a student to be successful you must respond to their physical, social and emotional needs as well as their academic needs. As the first trauma informed practitioner in the state, Steele hopes to leave a footprint by helping students to heal.

“I’m hoping the work I am doing at Fall Hamilton can spread throughout the district and the state,” she said. “It all goes back to the kids and we must start now.”

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

Metro Schools student named Student Mayor for a Day


Congratulations are in order! Nashville Classical Charter School student Eloise Poag was selected as the “Student Mayor for a Day” by Mayor Megan Barry as part of the Nashville Public Library‘s Summer Challenge.

Over the summer, Metro Schools students competed in the challenge by reading and completing a series of activities to help avoid the “summer slide.” Nashville Classical had the most students complete the challenge and received a visit from Mayor Barry to congratulate them on their accomplishment.


By random drawing, Eloise was selected to be the Mayor for the day and will spend the day at city hall with Mayor Barry. The school also won $300 from the Nashville Library Foundation to support multimedia technology.

See a video of the announcement here.


Metro Schools serves as pilot for Governor’s ACE Grant

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Tennessee State Representative (District 81) Debra Moody—who serves on the education committee for the state—spent part of the day at Fall-Hamilton Elementary a pilot school for the Governor’s Building Strong Brains Innovation Grant Project: Mitigating the impacts of childhood adversity and promoting resilience and school success for all students through trauma-informed school culture and practices. The program was created to help Tennessee children lead productive, healthy lives and ensure the future prosperity of the state.

The project is two-fold, designed to promote:

  1. a) widespread awareness about the science behind adversity and toxic stress, and the impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on lifelong health and school success, and;
  2. b) trauma-informed school culture and practices throughout MNPS.

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Fall-Hamilton Elementary School was chosen as the model pilot school for the program with trauma-informed practitioner on staff and fully integrated trauma-informed school culture and practices, including targeted interventions for individual students.

“The Mitigating ACEs through Trauma-Informed School Practices Initiative in Metro Nashville run by Dr. Mary Crnobori is noteworthy,” said Representative Moody. “If our schools in Tennessee can empower parents and students like they do at the initiatives pilot school, Fall-Hamilton, then our students will have the skills needed to be successful learners in any setting.”

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MNPS also has 10 schools that received funds to implement these practices on a smaller scale. In addition, related professional development is available for all 168 MNPS schools and MNPS affiliates. So far, 5,400 MNPS educators and community stakeholders have been trained including more than 70 schools, 21 MNPS departments and 20 conference presentations. This initiative supports the Metro Schools’ strategic framework under the Our Students focus, by establishing a positive school culture and climate, and responding to pre-K-12 students’ physical, social and emotional needs.

#MNPS Voices: Dalila Duarte, Principal

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Dr. Dalila Duarte understands how getting an early start in education can help better develop students for future success. As the first in her family to attend college, she eventually went on to earn a doctorate degree. She is now putting her education to work as the principal of Casa Azafrán Early Learning Center focusing on educating Metro School’s tiniest voices – Pre-K.

As principal of Casa Azafrán, Dr. Duarte places great emphasis on family services noting it as a healthy and critical part in enhancing a child’s learning experience.

“We welcome our children into the building to educate them, but we are bringing the families in as well,” she said. “We want to create a sense of support and help to our families through opportunities for services (medical, counseling and business) and parent workshops.”

Casa Azafrán is dedicated to preparing students for kindergarten and beyond through meaningful learning experiences based on play and discovery. To ensure the center is continuously meeting this objective, Dr. Duarte says she never loses sight of her top priority – the students.

“The priority is in providing them a space that empowers them not only academically but personally. We want them to know that everyone matters, and that they matter, so we personalize our practices to empower [our students],” she said.

Dr. Duarte, who relocated to Nashville from Chicago more than seven years ago, has found fulfillment in her work here. She says she “loves her job,” which allows her to positively impact the lives of children at an early age.

“I get the most joy when we see families return, whether they are coming to visit or bringing the next sibling to our school,” she said. “[Also] seeing the teachers get deep in the magic of tapping into a child’s curiosity; and seeing children [and teachers] take pride in what they do.”

And that pride runs deep within her school, as she’s worked to create a culture where her team feels happy about walking into the building each day.

“[Staff] should feel valued and feel good about being here,” Dr. Duarte said. “I tell them, ‘This is the place you spend the most time, so it is important that you walk in with your spirits up and always feel loved, cared for and valued.’”

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

Hunter Hayes donates $100K to renovate NSA music room


On Wednesday, Oct.4, country singer Hunter Hayes kicked off a month-long effort to revitalize the music program at Nashville School of the Arts, with two performances for students, staff and their families.

At the kickoff, Hayes was joined on stage by five NSA students who were able to show off their musical talents by performing with the country artist. Hayes played a few of his top hits for students and staff—and even performed one-on-one with an NSA piano player and guitarist. Several NSA students will also join Hayes on Friday, Oct. 6, when he plays the Grand Ole Opry’s 92nd Birthday Bash.

Hayes’ revitalization efforts will involve a renovation of NSA’s current music room and the addition of a working recording studio. With support from Samsung Electronics America, Inc., Hayes gifted $100,000 to the CMA Foundation for the renovations. Hayes noted the importance of having a dedicated workspace in schools for students to be creative and find inspiration. To bolster the creativity that will happen in the new spaces, Hayes has also developed a masterclass series for others in the music industry to mentor students. Metro Schools is thankful for our partners and the generosity of the music community for supporting our students and their futures.

Check out the video below.

#MNPSVoices: Jill Speering, Vice Chair of the Board of Education


As a child, she had a reading problem. “I found learning to read difficult.” Now, Jill Speering is recognized as an expert in the field of reading and writing, her research has been published in local, state and national journals, and she just so happens to be the District 3 representative for the Metro Nashville Board of Education.

Luckily for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), Speering chose to become a public servant after a stellar 35-year career as an educator.

Speering served as a teacher, researcher and trainer of teachers during her tenure with Metro Schools. In 2005, she was named Middle Tennessee Exemplary Educator of the Year. She taught hundreds of children to read in kindergarten and first grades.

As Metro Schools commits to literacy as its’ top academic priority,’ it is individuals like Jill Speering, current vice chair of the Board, who understands firsthand how important this issue is to student success.

Speering has dedicated her career to reading and literacy efforts and its power to change the lives of students and help them reach their greatest potential. Among the many positives she can point to in her time as an educator, she said of one of her greatest joys was helping one of her first graders, at the time, graduate from Reading Recovery after only 50 hours of instruction to grade level reading.

“In May, I attended his high school graduation, and when he invited me to participate in photos, he leaned over and whispered, ‘It’s because of you that I’m here today.’”

Speering was first elected to the Board of Education in 2012. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Tennessee State University.

West End teacher Cicely Woodard named Tennessee Teacher of the Year

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Big news from Metro Schools! West End Middle School 8th grade teacher Cicely Woodard has been named the Tennessee Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year for the entire state of Tennessee! Metro Schools is proud to have a teacher whose work has been recognized at such a large scale.

Woodard is a 13-year veteran of MNPS and is currently a math teacher at West End Middle School. Inside and outside of the classroom, Woodard has made a lasting impact as a teacher leader within her school, the district and the entire state. She was also named a S.C.O.R.E. Fellow in 2013.

Back in May 2017, Metro Schools named 140 Teachers of the Year-– one from every district-managed school – who were chosen by their colleagues and principals as the epitome of a model educator. The Teacher of the Year program provides recognition to teachers on a district, regional, state and national level. To select the district-wide winners, teachers were scored on characteristics of a well-rounded educator including relationships with students, leadership and overall academic performance of students. The three tier-level winners were included in the regional Teacher of the Year competition. Mrs. Woodard will now advance to the National Teacher of the Year in 2018.

As Tennessee Teacher of the Year, Woodard will be an ambassador for teachers in Tennessee and will serve as Tennessee’s representative in the National Teacher of the Year Program. Woodard will also sit on the Teacher Advisory Council during the 2017-2018 school year alongside the other nine Teacher of the Year state finalists. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year.

“Mrs. Woodard exemplifies what it means to always strive for excellence in the classroom,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools. “We could not be more proud of the work she’s accomplished inside the classroom, the leadership she’s modeled for her fellow educators and the lives she has undoubtedly impacted in her time at Metro Schools. She exceeds great expectations every day and will continue to do so as an ambassador for the state of Tennessee.”

MNPS recognizes the ability to do great work and provide students with a great public education rises and falls based upon the quality of our employees.

The district is proud to have one of its dedicated teachers recognized for her work. Please join us in congratulating Mrs. Woodard on this incredible accomplishment!

#MNPSVoices: Carmen Sparkman, Travel Specialist

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Carmen Sparkman first joined the Metro Nashville Public Schools family in 1961 as a first grader at Meigs School, which during that time served as an elementary, junior and high school for African-American students. With the gradual desegregation of Nashville’s public schools, beginning in 1957, Sparkman witnessed firsthand a historic moment in our city.

In the fall of 1970, Sparkman left Meigs to begin her sophomore year at East High School, which previously enrolled white students.

“My first year at East was full of discovery – from the day-to-day adjustment of being in a much larger building to meeting classmates who were just as apprehensive as I was,” Sparkman said. “Getting involved in several activities and clubs was key to making the adjustment and provided outlets for me to spread my wings. I remember many one-on-one and small group conversations with classmates that helped us all realize we were much more alike than we were different.”

Some of her favorite memories as an MNPS student included meeting lifelong friends while at Meigs, and traveling to Mexico with the Spanish club at East High.

Sparkman became a student-turned-employee beginning her career with MNPS in 1977, serving as an administrative assistant. She eventually became an exceptional education teacher assistant and then as an in-school suspension staff person at the middle school level.

In 1988, she continued her work with MNPS joining the PENCIL Foundation, where she was assigned to various middle and high schools to provide dropout prevention and school-to-career readiness opportunities. In 2013, Sparkman returned to the district and currently works as a travel specialist.

“I enjoy working at MNPS because there is no question that every day you can make a positive difference in the lives of students and teachers,” Sparkman said. “I come from a family of educators, and we were taught by word and deed that what you do for others is the most important contribution you can make.”

She added, “As a student and employee, I have witnessed MNPS transform from a network of neighborhood schools to comprehensive schools to now the intentional and positive move toward an excellent education for every child.”

John Early features exhibit on desegregation of Nashville public schools


John Early Museum Magnet Middle Prep celebrated the 60th anniversary of desegregation in Nashville public schools with the opening of a new exhibit, “A Matter of Black and White,” on Friday, Sept. 22.

The exhibit was created by John Early students and explores Nashville’s journey into desegregation in September 1957. Student docents were stationed throughout the museum ready to share information with guests about the artifacts featured in the exhibit.

“A Matter of Black and White” begins with Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark court case that upheld the notion that, “separate but equal,” was lawful. Attendees traveled through time learning about Jim Crow laws in Tennessee, the Women Change Makers who contributed to Brown v. Board of Education and desegregation in Nashville. Further exhibits highlighted what Nashville’s plan for desegregation looked like, the schools impacted, community reaction, the bombing of Hattie Cotton Elementary School and where the public education system stands today.

The exhibit is just one of several the school features in its museum facility every year. John Early boasts a collection of roughly 8,000 museum artifacts that are used in object-based lessons and exhibits. Curators and educators from more than 80 museums, historic sites, universities, businesses and organizations help teachers plan engaging lessons and learning expeditions, provide resources to use in the classroom, as well as sponsor student internships.

The museum is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:15 a.m.-4:15 p.m. It is also open on the first and third Saturday of every month from 12-3 p.m.

See pictures from the exhibit launch event below.

#MNPSVoices: Chad Prather, Pearl-Cohn Teacher


In the wake of the attack in Charlottesville, a group of Metro Schools students created a video to show their love and support for the Charlottesville community. Chad Prather, a 10th grade world studies teacher at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, shared the video with his former Charlottesville High School colleagues, setting off a national chain of events that would change his and his student’s lives forever.

Prather has been an educator for 15 years, spending five years at Pearl-Cohn, five years at Glencliff High School and five years at Charlottesville High School in his hometown of Charlottesvilla, VA. It was through that hometown connection that Prather was able to provide his students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience outside of the classroom – the opportunity to perform with the Charlottesville High School orchestra in Charlottesville.

“I see teaching as a front-line opportunity to help young people confront the poverties in themselves, and their teaching me helps me to uncover and face my own poverties as well,” Prather said.

“Together, as members of a larger community, we can confront the broader hardships of our society. In this way, teaching is a mechanism by which students can be empowered to act significantly for the betterment of the world around them.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Prather chaperoned the students’ visit to Charlottesville over the weekend of Sept. 16-18, where they performed at a school-wide assembly at Charlotteville High School and various locations around the city – including the street where the attack happened just a few weeks prior.

“This weekend completely challenged my relationship with hope,” Prather said. “So many of the comments I’ve been reading from the residents of Charlottesville, so many of their thoughts spoken in conversation at CHS, on the Downtown Mall, at the Farmers’ Market and in front of the memorial on 4th and Water, so many thoughts have been expressions of hope – hope in the storm.”

Prather added, “At a time of such disconnection, distrust and disunity, the young men and women from Charlottesville and Nashville – complete strangers just days before – pulled one another together in unity of purpose. They showed the rest of us a vision of the beloved community breaking through, not in the future but right now. And that vision – of what is possible and attainable – is what offers people hope enough to step out and live the vision, too.”

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