#MNPSVoices: William Brooks, Band Director

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As band director at Hunters Lane High School, William Brooks has become somewhat of a father figure to dozens of students. So much so, he is rarely addressed as “Mr. Brooks.”

“It’s rare to hear one of my band students call me Mr. Brooks – it’s always ‘Dad’ or ‘Pops’ or something to that effect,” he said.  “It’s also ironic to hear students call me ‘Pops’ because that’s exactly how I referred to my high school band director.”

Brooks grew up in Detroit, Michigan where he discovered his gift of music. He pursued that gift and landed a band scholarship that brought him south to attend Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, and then to Middle Tennessee State University. He said he always knew he wanted to teach at an urban school.

“I went to a rougher high school where a lot of the people around me didn’t have opportunities to go to school,” Brooks said. “I was blessed enough to have a talent that got me a scholarship and the opportunity to see that the world is bigger than just the city of Detroit.”

With these experiences, Brooks has placed focus on teaching more than just music. He teaches life lessons.

“I try and instill in them [students] that life is going to throw you all kinds of obstacles and the most important thing you can do is to learn how to adapt to different situations.”

Brooks said he sees himself in the faces of so many of his students and understands where they are coming from and the circumstances they face.

“When I look at these kids and their situations, I can relate to them because I was that kid who didn’t have much growing up,” he said. “I was the kid who didn’t know a lot about the opportunities that were available for students to go to college.”

Brooks’ mission is to ensure his students know about the possibilities beyond high school. Since his arrival at Hunters Lane five years ago, today 100 percent of the school’s band graduates have received music scholarships at various universities and colleges across the country. Some of his first students are even about to graduate college – and at least one plans to be a teacher. He said he couldn’t be prouder.

“They went somewhere they may have never gone and it changed them for the better,” Brooks said. “I feel like my job is complete after that.”

Recently, the Hunters Lane High School band traveled to Brooks’ hometown of Detroit to march in the America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The band received an unexpected surprise learning they had won first place for ‘best band performance’ in a competition that they didn’t even know they were being judged.

Learn more about their first place win at http://www.newschannel5.com/news/local-band-wins-1st-place-in-thanksgiving-parade.

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

Metro Schools celebrates afterschool programs with Lights on Afterschool events

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At the end of October, more than 125 afterschool programs in Metro Schools hosted events or activities during the national Lights on Afterschool celebration. Lights on Afterschool is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities. Metro Schools celebrated with fun afterschool activities—games, crafts, STEAM experiments and other educational activities!

Lights on Afterschool educates communities and parents about the positive impact of afterschool programs. Afterschool programs strengthen students’ academic performance and social emotional skills, while also keeping them active and healthy and promoting community and family engagement.

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“We are impacting the success of our students, not only during traditional school hours,” said Jennifer Bell, MNPS’ director of extended learning programs. “In addition to receiving academic support, students engage in activities that foster improved social and emotional skills, positive health and the opportunity to participate in areas of interest such as the arts and STEAM – the type of experiences and lessons that educate the whole child.”

In a study done by the Afterschool Alliance, data shows:

  • More than 70 percent of parents agree that afterschool programs improve students’ behavior and attendance.
  • Every $1 invested in afterschool programs saves $9 by reducing crime and welfare costs, improving students’ school performance and increasing students’ earning potential.
  • More than 4 in 5 parents in the study agree that afterschool programs helped working parents keep their jobs.

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There are three types of before and after care options in MNPS:

  • Fee-based programs: Pre-K through fourth grade programs managed by Metro Schools at select schools require a fee or tuition to participate.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Center/ LEAPS programs: Metro Schools was awarded a federal grant to expand academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours in high-poverty or low-performing schools.
  • Community-managed programs: There are some community organizations that offer before and after school programs at certain schools. Fees or program cost may vary depending on the service provider.

 

#MNPSVoices: Andy Mizell, EL Teacher

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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 Kortyard – 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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