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Nashville Public Schools Come Together to Share Bright Spots from the Pandemic

As we near the end of one of the most challenging school years of modern times, we wanted to share the lessons we learned about being educators, supporting students, and providing excellent education in the midst of great obstacles.

In this 90-minute webinar, education leaders from across Nashville came together to share both bright spots, challenges they overcame, and what they plan to bring to the next school year.

We were honored to have the event emceed by Tara Scarlett who is the President and CEO of Scarlett Family Foundation, board member of the Tennesseans for Quality Education, and has served Tennessee communities in numerous ways through National Literacy Collaborative, Tennessee Learning Circle, and as a Big Sister in the Big Brother Big Sister Program.

Here are some of this year’s lessons from some incredibly talented Tennessee educators:

Lessons learned from Dr. Ricki Gibbs II, Warner Elementary Principal, Metro Nashville Public Schools

What he’s grateful for: The pandemic allowed a great awakening, highlighting the inequities that have always existed and showed that we must invest in education, because teachers are doing life-changing work every day in classrooms.

Challenges he overcame: Addressing teachers and leaders’ needs. We needed to be honest with teachers, saying, “Hey, I know you need us to support you. I can’t really help you with this specific support but I’m going to find someone that can.” Or, “This is a resource that I hear is amazing. Let’s learn this together,” and be vulnerable, learn together, and grow side by side.

Bright spots: Thinking about things like home-field advantage, educators have always done things on their home turf with families coming to the school. This year, teachers met families on their turf. This showed them a different level of respect, a different level of admiration, and that the schools are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that each child receives a world-class education. Teachers and parents have become partners in ways we’ve never done before.

What he’s bringing into next year: With this year’s introduction to technology, it’s time to start pushing innovation. Every child has a laptop, now what are they going to do with that laptop?


Lessons learned from Lagra Newman, Founder and Head, Purpose Prep Academy

What she’s grateful for: Her life and the village that surrounds that, the togetherness and commitment to supporting each other.

Challenges she overcame: Purpose Prep created teacher feedback sessions for the leadership team called, Ask Us Anything, as an opportunity for teachers to communicate when something wasn’t working. These opportunities strengthened communication and created a new layer of critical support.

Bright spots: A lot of structures were created to allow teachers to identify what their needs were and give and get support. As part of this, they held a forum just for teachers who have children, because sometimes it’s just a matter of sharing our needs so that we can leverage the community that we have within each other.

What she’s bringing into next year: Not lowering expectations and seeing the students as asset-based, but appreciating all they’ve learned during this time and what they’ve navigated. Being thoughtful about the structures we put in place to empower students and provide them with a sense of safety and consistency while understanding that these structures may look different from before. Engaging our families and our students, asking, “What do you envision our school to be when we return?” We want them at the table to make those decisions and to see things that we haven’t thought about.


Lessons learned from James Cross, Rising Assistant Principal, Rocketship Public Schools

What he’s grateful for: How well the entire staff came together to serve students and work together to keep everyone safe.

Challenges he overcame: When some students came back to the classroom and were making projects in class, there were a lot of parents and their children didn’t get to experience that because they were still virtual, so virtual family nights we created. Every month, there was a craft, game night, science night, or readathon, virtually, so all students could participate.

Bright spots: The grace families, teachers, and students have given each other and finding those little small opportunities to listen and be responsive, showing students that you’re going to find a solution together.

What he’s bringing into next year: Teaching better than we were taught and doing the work to better understand and make sense of internal biases, how they play out in classrooms, and focusing on what the kids need in those critical thinking skills. Additionally, ending the idea that we need to get back to normal and consider who “normal” was ever serving.


Lessons learned from Dr. Clint Satterfield, Superintendent,  Trousdale County & Jennifer Cothron, Supervisor, Trousdale County

What he’s grateful for this year: Using the hybrid model for the year limited the COVID-19 cases to only 111 among staff and students. It also forced them to adopt online learning, which he looks forward to continuing to incorporate for years to come.

Challenges he overcame: Because a lot of the technology was new to the community using it, the schools had to invest in technology and support for that technology. They got 1-to-1 devices, training in the learning management system, extra support for the devices, training for teachers, parents, and students.

Bright spots she experienced: Because of the constant communication, families got calls with the positive news too, with teachers calling to say, “Hey, little Johnny’s doing great, you know, he’s doing better than he was last week. We just wanted you to know.” The families appreciated that.

What he’s bringing into next year: Teachers need instructional focus reset, refocusing on supports for maintaining high expectations and grade-level content at all times. Teachers have learned to teach in new ways and now they just need to use those new methods to create learning acceleration. Jennifer also noted bringing blended learning and providing one-to-one devices for students to bring home.

Lessons learned from James Robinson, Nashville Executive Director, Rocketship Public Schools

What he’s bringing into next year: With two campuses that serve two different communities, the communities were polled on their needs. From those responses, additional mental health services on campus and augmenting personalized learning model are being brought in, with interventionists to focus on small group instruction in subjects like guided reading, as well as coaches to help develop and support every teacher and interventionist in reaching excellence.

We hope you found this webinar helpful! We look forward to providing more insightful articles next year as we return to school, so stay tuned!

Published on May 18, 2021

Read more stories about: Uncategorized.

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