Academies of Nashville Blog

The Academies enable students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme in a personalized learning community. Through their academy, students are exposed to a multitude of career and college opportunities, industry skills, and potential employers by way of classroom speakers, site visits, job shadowing and internships.

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  • Cane Ridge, Overton, and McGavock High School's recognized for having 'Model Academies' through the National Career Academy Coalition.

    Cane Ridge, Overton, and McGavock High School's recognized for having 'Model Academies' through the National Career Academy Coalition.

  • 2013 My Future. My Way. Career Exploration Fair allows 6,000 freshman to experience nearly 400 jobs.

    2013 My Future. My Way. Career Exploration Fair allows 6,000 freshman to experience nearly 400 jobs.



Internships allow student to see the realities of a profession or industry and the connections between learning and the real world.
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Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing

Job shadowing connects students with the real working world and gives them an insider's view of a profession and the everyday duties and responsibilities.
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Externships give teachers an opportunity to have a real world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum.
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Business and community partners are essential factors in preparing students for life after high school and are integral to the educational experiences students receive.
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The Power of the Resume

The Academies of Nashville business partners are an essential element to high school redesign. While many partnerships occur in the classroom through guest speakers and mentoring, there are some partnerships that occur with students outside of the classroom. Ryan Pryor, a Nashville community volunteer, shared his experiences after working with Academy Ambassadors on a resume writing workshop.

resume ambassadorLet’s be honest, resume writing is kind of scary.  It’s you represented on a piece of paper, and it might be the only shot you have at getting that crucial interview.  “What do I say?  Should I include my GPA?  Is this the best wording?  Does this resume look bad?”  These are the types of questions I addressed with the Stratford STEM Magnet High School students last month.

It was a welcome opportunity to see the Stratford student body in motion.  A few junior and senior students already had internships or job interviews in mind, causing them to dial into the specifics.  Some of the younger students were getting their first exposure to the process.

Resumes are powerful tools for helping students see the way their school work and extracurricular activities and hobbies or interests prepare them for the job world.  Resumes can also show students the gaps they may have in their preparation for future jobs and life outside of their high school experience.  This enables them to set goals to fill those gaps, or possibly realize they already have experiences that do fill those gaps.  I worked with one such student who wanted to work at an elderly care facility.  When we spoke about it she came to understand that her years of babysitting experience was a huge item to make sure she included in her “relevant experience” category.

I’m encouraged to see the students being exposed to such a fundamental element of life outside of school.  Keep up the good work, Stratford.

My Academy Experience

By Jorge C, a student in the Academy of Science and Engineering at Stratford STEM Magnet High School

Choosing to take part in the Academy of Science and Engineering is probably the best decision I made at Stratford. I am currently in the engineering pathway in ASE. ASE stands for Academy of Science and Engineering and the academy’s mission statement is: The Academy of Science and Engineering will equip students with the skills necessary to be prepared for college and ready for a career in the fields of engineering or any branch of science. This is clear what the academy wants for its students: success.

I personally enjoy all of my classes that are provided by my pathway, specifically Advanced Design Apps which is the third engineering class in the pathway. Right now we’re designing a bottle rocket on a website named WhiteBox Learning. After the design process comes the construction part. This is one of the websites that the pathway will use to simulate the design and construction process engineers use on a daily basis. I appreciate the staff for the growth and support of the academy, because of them students can have various opportunities rather than just one or none.

NES Employees Showcase Career Opportunities

Originally posted at


Maplewood_High_School_Academy_ShowcaseSeveral NES field and safety employees participated in the Maplewood High School Academy Showcase on October 15 to support NES’ partnership with the Academy of Energy & Power. The showcase provides incoming freshmen and sophomores the chance to learn more about the academies offered at Maplewood.

Students were able to interact with NES employees to learn about electrical safety, protective equipment, tools used for overhead line work, operations and engineering careers in the energy industry and continuing education after high school.

NES partners with the Academy of Energy & Power throughout the year to develop curriculum and annual class projects for students interested in engineering.

“Preparing Student for College, Career, and Life”

By Susan Cowley
University of Tennessee- Knoxville


Metro Nashville Public Schools prepares students for “college, career, and life.” It’s a part of the vision statement for Nashville’s school district, but how exactly does this happen? One method involves students receiving industry related professional certifications before high school graduation.

Students in the Academies of Nashville are meeting industry standards to receive professional certifications before walking across stage in their caps and gowns. In fact, during the 2013-2014 pilot year, more than 180 students received certifications in more than a dozen areas.

After completing a yearlong preparatory course, students have the opportunity to take the certification test. If a student passes the exam and meets other certification specific criteria, he or she will walk out of high school with a competitive edge in the workforce. The certifications range across multiple fields from healthcare to broadcasting.

Teachers in the school system have been instrumental to the success of this program. Criminal Justice instructor Jeremiah Davis has seen more students to receive certification than any other teacher in the district.

“Obtaining a certification helps demonstrate maturity at a young age and determination to accomplish goals” says Davis, from Whites Creek High School. It is evident he feels that these certifications leave longstanding positive effects as he states, “When I see my former students and even students from other schools I offered the certifications to, they let me know they are working because of their certification.” Davis knows that it is well worth the effort to see students reap the benefits of industry certification. “My students know that the way to get ahead in life is to stand out in a positive way. Certifications allow a student to graduate with a great distinction and work as they are in college or start their career immediately.”

Stratford STEM Magnet High School graduate, Reggie Mayes sees the benefits of industry certifications in his own life. Mayes says his certification aided him in becoming a more mature individual. He is now working as an unarmed security guard at a local grocery store.

Mayes believes that his certification has “helped me get my life on track to start a good life after school.” He also considers the certification process to have fostered strong, positive relationships between him and his teachers.

Not only does the industry certification program profit the students, it strengthens the teachers as well. “I’ve seen significant improvements to my own work as a result of the training and certification” says Becky Banazsak-Pendergrass, Broadcasting/Media Production Teacher and CTE Cluster Lead Teacher at Hillsboro High School. Banazsak-Pendergrass recently became certified to host a testing cite at Hillsboro; bringing the school the distinction of being one of the only testing facilities for Final Cut Pro in the state of Tennessee. She feels this has given her greater insight into the process as a whole. She strongly supports student certification, and says, “not only does it hold students to a much higher standard, but it also gives them a real-world benefit…obtaining a professional certification that is recognized by their industry of study is a very practical step they can take towards a successful career.” Banazsak-Pendergrass believes the greatest benefit that students receive is an overall boost in motivation; she sums up her experience with certifications by stating, “Students who in the past may have done just barely enough work to pass the course are now taking ownership of their learning experience, actively taking notes and asking questions throughout instructional time, and seeking out additional opportunities for learning and practice.”

This opportunity would not be possible without the support of the Nashville Career Advancement Center, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as federal CTE grants. Through the generous donations of these organizations, students were able to earn certifications worth hundreds of dollars for an individual fee of $10.

Industry certifications are an exciting new benefit for graduates of all MNPS high school programs. “Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools will provide every student with the foundation of knowledge, skills and character necessary to excel in higher education, work and life.” Certifications play a key role in instilling confidence, motivation, and success in each individual student. It is evident that the opportunities allowed to students through professional certifications strengthen the goals and values of the MNPS school system.Pe

Why Academies? Its about the Relationships

One of the key objectives of the Academies of Nashville is to develop relationships between students, teachers, business partners, and the Nashville community. In the post below, Austin S. writes about his academy experience and the relationships he has developed through his time in Metro Nashville Public Schools. 


The Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies is a wonderful academy in which to belong. I enjoy the academy because of the teachers, the learning environment, and the activities we get to experience.  Within the academy, I am in the Computer Gaming/Programming pathway. I especially enjoy the computer gaming and programming class because of the different experiences and standards I get to learn. This pathway is really fun to be in, and I love all the variety of technology speakers who visit with us. A specific teacher I would like to thank for the experience is Mr. Osborne. He’s taught me a lot throughout the three years he has been here. He has taught me how to program sprites and objects, programming languages, and made different apps on the software, Eclipse. Mr. Osborne is a wonderful teacher to be around, and he has made a huge impact on me. Without him I wouldn’t know how to program apps, sprite, or create code for games.

Another great experience I had was going to Emma. Emma was one of the greatest places to job shadow.  During my experience, I learned lots of new terms, different roles each person plays, and the diversity of the tech world. In addition, I gave the staff a presentation on what I learned and how I could apply the information. The job shadow experience boosted my confidence because I am not much of a public speaker. When I spoke in front of the Emma staff, it really opened my eyes that I have the ability to speak to anyone without being nervous. If it wasn’t for Dr. Berry, my academy coach, I would not know about Emma.

Thanks to all of my academy teachers and peers for this wonderful experience throughout my years at Stratford STEM Magnet High School. The experiences and classes have provided me with so much knowledge that it allows me to teach to my siblings and other students.  It is for these experiences, events, and understandings that have made my academy experience so wonderful.

Glencliff HS highlighted in Nashville Arts Magazine

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Stratford STEM Magnet High School Executive Principal Michael Steele implemented the Criminal Justice Cadet Corps (CJCC) in 2013. The mission of the CJCC is to provide students with a comprehensive program of training, competition, service, and practical experiences. Character development, leadership, command presence, physical fitness, good citizenship and patriotism are integral components of the Cadet Corps. Cadets are a primary supporter of school activities and serve as a positive role model for all students by participating in community service, practical exercises and competition. Cadets develop an awareness of the critical real world skill set necessary to learn and grow in preparation for college and career.

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Executive Principal, Mr. Steele and Academy Coach, Dr. Jennifer Berry motivating students and cadets.

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Academy Principal Gail Merkerson presents the Cadet Corps at a school assembly.

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Lt. Stine and an ROTC Officer from Vanderbilt University

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Capt. Simmons and an alumnus from West Point

Captain Blake Simmons and 1st Lt. Jordan Stine attended the U.S. Military Academy conference hosted by Congressman Jim Cooper. Captain Simmons and Lt. Stine met with Congressman Cooper and staff, West Point cadets, Naval Academy cadets, and Vanderbilt Army and Air Force ROTC cadets.

Stratford STEM Magnet High School’s Academy of National Safety and Security Technologies teachers, administration, and students are proud to have a strong mentoring and business partnership with the following:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Society of Former FBI Special Agents
  • Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy
  • Tennesse Bureau of Investigation
  • Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
  • Medal of Honor Foundation
  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • United States Marine Corps
  • United States Army National Guard
  • Stratford Alumni Association (Retired FBI Special Agent Steed, Class of 1970)
  • Parents of Cadet Corps Students

Stratford Student Shadows in Cancer Research Lab

Job shadowing gives students the opportunity to see the realities of a profession or industry and the connections between learning and the real world. Taronda W., a student from Stratford STEM Magnet High School,  participated in a job shadow at Diatech Oncology Lab.  In this post, Taronda writes about her experiences.

Diatech Oncology

I attended the Diatech Oncology lab and visited Ms. Patti. She talked about cells and she made cells. She let us make our own microscope slides. First we dipped the cell in four types of stain and then alcohol. Next, we looked at the cell on a digital microscope. We were able to see all the colors combined with the cells. Then, she let us take them home. Afterwards, she showed us her robot. Her robot pipets everything. She also let us see how you could keep up with the pipetting on the computer, which monitored each row. Our pipets at school have you do one at a time by hand (96 holes). Ms. Patti’s pipets have four tips at a time and her robot does it in less than 15 minutes.

My favorite part was when we got to wear real lab coats that Ms. Patti and her crew wear in their lab. I also enjoyed it because she talked a lot about breast cancer. She also talked about how she and her crew treat the different types of breast cancer. I was interested because I had a family member die of breast cancer when I was little. I didn’t know as much as I know now since I visited Ms. Patti’s lab. I enjoyed her job position and sharing it with me – it couldn’t have been better.

Metro Students Dig In

Students from Glencliff, McGavock, Overton, and Whites Creek High Schools travelled to the Nashville Research and Education Farm at Tennessee State University on Tuesday, Sept. 16 to get hands-on experience in land judging. Davidson County Soil and Water Conservation, the Natural Resources Conservation Services, and TSU Agriculture and Environmental Science professors worked with students to learn about the physical characteristics of soil, how to interpret the best land uses, recommend management practices, and even examine the suitability for homesites.

This experiential learning opportunity marks the first annual event at Tennessee State University and reflects the continued growth of the agriculture programs within the Academies of Nashville. A team of four students will represent each school next week at the Middle Tennessee Regional FFA Contest at the Highland Rim Experiment Station in Springfield.



FFA members from Glencliff, McGavock, Overton, and Whites Creek pose as a group before making their way into the soil judging pits.

FFA members from Glencliff, McGavock, Overton, and Whites Creek pose as a group before making their way into the soil judging pits.

Students in soil pit

Students work with TSU Scientist and Research Professor Dr. Jason DeKoff to evaluate the soil at the Research Farm.

testing soil

Students wet down the soil in order to determine a variety of properties that can be found in a single handful of soil.

Overton Students Show Off their Green Thumbs

The Academies of Nashville business partners are an essential element to high school redesign. While many partnerships occur in the classroom through guest speakers and mentoring, there are some partnerships that occur with students outside of the school grounds. Rebecca Farrow,  an agricultural education teacher at Overton High School recently shared her experiences after receiving this type of support from the Natural Resources Conservation Services and University of Tennessee Extension Office to help grow her program, student, and school. 

On September 11th Shantel King, a Soil Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), came to Overton High School to speak with the dual-credit Greenhouse Management students. She presented information about the importance of soil, opportunities within NRCS, and how NRCS works within our communities. Students completed a hands-on soil texture analysis to identify sand, silt, and clay particles and then were challenged to correctly identify an unknown soil sample. Students also learned how to pace off a distance for determining slope of a landscape and discussed the purpose of soil and land judging. The presentation provided great background information for the District FFA Land Judging Career Development event at Tennessee State University’s Experiential Learning Farm Lab where we will be competing against students from Williamson and Davidson Counties.


JOHS Soils 1

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On Monday, September 15th Overton’s urban agriculture students spent time working in the garden. As summer crops come to an end, now is the perfect time to start cool season vegetables and greens. With the help of Dan Harrell, UT Extension Agent specializing in school and community gardens, students prepared garden beds and planted turnip and collard greens for a late fall harvest.

Students in the urban agriculture program are working with community members and local organizations to learn how to meet the challenges of agriculture in a growing world, including growing and harvesting local food. For more information about the Urban Agriculture pathway at Overton High School, visit


JOHS Extension 1

JOHS Extension 2

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Teacher Team-Building Beyond the Classroom

Saturday, Sept. 6, Stratford STEM Magnet High School took to the Cumberland River for the Cumberland River Compact’s 8th annual Dragon Boat Festival.  A team of twenty-one was comprised students, teachers, parents, and business partners who all came together for top honors in this team sport.

Stratford’s best time of the day, was one minute eleven seconds; a much better time than in 2013 with one minute twenty-five seconds.  Despite the rain, the team had a great time and was cheered on by students, parents, partners, and staff.  In between heats, Stratford teachers could be seen working on their laptops planning lessons together and writing project-based learning curriculum.

Stay tuned as they prepare to battle it out again in 2015.


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Stratford shows that collaboration and teamwork are necessary outside the classroom and work place.

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The team waits at the starting line to begin the race.

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Between heats, teachers could be found working on lesson plans and project-based learning curriculum.

Local FFA chapters receive Environmental Grant from National FFA Organization

Nationwide grant program supports local chapter to engage in service-learning project. 

The McGavock and Overton FFA chapters have both been awarded a $2,000 grant from the National FFA Organization’s Living to Serve: Environmental Grant program. These chapters have developed a year-long service-learning project to meet a local environmental need. The Living to Serve: Environmental Grants are provided through funding from CSX, as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

McGavock FFA Chapter

McGavock FFA is one of the longest running FFA chapters in Nashville with a history of success. Students in this program study pre-veterinary science in the Aegis Sciences Corporation Academy of Health Science and Law.  McGavock FFA is collecting used household items to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” into pet toys for a local animal shelter. To further reduce waste, FFA members are also conducting a DIY recycled pet toy contest with local 8th graders to educate them on why we should all reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Overton FFA Chapter

Overton High School is one of four agriculture programs in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and is focusing on urban agriculture. Many of the students in this area are recent immigrants to the United States. A reality of urban areas is that most families have limited space and for many, limited resources. Urban and community gardens are gaining in popularity, especially with families that are looking to grow more diverse produce for ethnic cooking. Whether the family has access to a small garden of their own or a church or community garden, they could benefit from soil amendments with the heavy clay soils here in middle Tennessee. Composting allows families to reduce their waste while creating a very useful soil amendment. This grant project will teach local community members about the benefits of composting and help them set-up a composting program. The grant will focus on small scale composting including small outdoor bins, tumblers, and vermicomposting (using worms) that can be conducted indoors for families with minimal or no yard space. As part of this grant, the chapter will host a minimum of three educational workshops over the life of the grant. Two will be for elementary or middle school students from their feeder schools teaching them about vermicomposting, including setting up a compost bin for their classrooms. The third workshop will be for the local community and will present different composting set ups including tumblers, small bins, and vermicomposting. Students will present different compost designs and evaluate their use with the workshop attendees. As a result of this grant, students will create a minimum of four different styles of composting bins and a vermicomposting center for the classroom. Inputs will be tracked to determine how much waste is diverted out of the trash stream. Students will use this information to create an Agriscience Fair research project and could potentially start a variety of Supervised Agricultural Experience projects as a result.

These projects illustrate the final line of the FFA motto (“Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve”) by encouraging FFA members to unite in service within their communities. The Living to Service: Environmental Grants take community serve one step further to service-learning, which provides a meaningful way to apply leadership and education skills learned in school and FFA. More information about this program can be found at

Antioch HS Named Reward School

Breaking a new record for the district, 18 Metro schools have been named 2014 Reward Schools by the state Department of Education. That’s an enormous jump from last year’s list of 12 schools, and it’s representative of the increased student achievement district wide. As a district, Metro Schools posted some of the highest scores statewide for growth in several subjects. And among those reward schools identified, Antioch High School was the only high school in the district to make the list!

Schools with Reward status are among the highest performing in the state. They are given the designation for landing in the top five percent of all schools statewide for growth, performance or both. Of the 18 Metro schools on the list, five are there for performance, nine for growth and four in both categories.

“These 18 schools reach across geography and across type. They are schools making a difference for our students, helping them grow and achieve,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “We are very proud of the work they do, and we need to see more of this kind of progress elsewhere in the district. These schools have found a path to success, and they are the ones to follow.

Reward schools for progress are determined according to the Tennessee Value-added Assessment System (TVAAS) growth index, which is the state’s system for measuring growth. Metro elementary and middle schools have the second highest TVAAS growth index in the state for math and are in the top five percent statewide for reading / language arts. Metro high schools, meanwhile, have the best TVAAS growth index in the state for English II and are in the top five percent for English I.

One of the schools making the most growth in Tennessee is Antioch High School. From 2007 to 2010, Antioch was in one of the lowest categories for achievement under No Child Left Behind. This year they are the very first zoned high school in Nashville to earn Reward Status.

“Antioch has been on a journey for several years,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle-Koger, Antioch’s executive principal. “With our Reward School status, International Baccalaureate and wall-to-wall model Academies, it’s great to be able to offer South Nashville one of the best high school choices in the state.”


Whites Creek High School Virtual Tour

Take a tour of Whites Creek High School.  Learn more about the Academies at Whites Creek and what learning looks like in Metro Nashville Public Schools.