When the President spoke at McGavock High School last month, it wasn’t an honor for just one school. It was a reflection on all of the work from all students, educators and parents across Metro Schools. The President’s endorsement of the Academies of Nashville, in particular, reflects on all Metro zoned high schools, which over the last seven years have transformed into smaller learning communities focused on strong academics coupled with career and technical education.
An exemplar of this new model, McGavock broadcasting teacher Barclay Randall from the CMT Academy of Digital Design and Communication received a special mention when the President told the story of Sara Santiago, recent McGavock graduate:
But when Sara was in Mr. Randall’s class he helped her discover this passion for filmmaking. And pretty soon, Sara’s grades started to improve. She won the school’s “best editing” award. Then she got an internship with Country Music Television –- one of your business partners. And then she was accepted to the prestigious Savanna College of Art and Design. And she gives credit to Mr. Randall for this. She says, “Mr. Randall gave me a second chance. He saw things I never saw in myself. He’s the person who helped me change.”
It’s well-earned recognition for Mr. Randall. Though he’s too humble to admit it, he has become one of McGavock’s most beloved teachers. He’s also a prime example of the kind of educators the Academies bring together. They come from many different career backgrounds, they all have a strong focus on academics, and they support students as a team.
Mr. Randall took a few minutes to chat with us about why he believes he doesn’t deserve that praise and how the Academies have changed schools like McGavock.
What did you think when President Obama singled you out as one of McGavock’s great teachers?
To begin with, I was stunned. I knew they would be talking about Sara. But I had no idea he was going to say what he said about me, for crying out loud! It was obvious I was blubbering.
Every day people put their hearts and souls into this deal. The President could have told the same story about any kid at McGavock and pointed to any teacher. It isn’t about me. It showed the power to the Academy approach and the team approach. Every kid in this school has at their disposal what Sara had. The Academies give opportunity to every kid. Sara took advantage.
All of Sara’s teachers had a hand in that. Every single one of them. Her math teacher, her English teacher. I’m just a broadcasting teacher. I couldn’t help her with her study habits or discipline issues by myself. That’s where the team approach comes in. That’s where all of the teachers came together to help her graduate and achieve.
How has the Academies model for career and technical education helped McGavock students?
I came to teaching five years ago from the broadcasting industry, and I really believe in the Academies, honest to goodness. I can’t imagine teaching any other way than this. It works. That’s all I know.
This is a different school than it was five years ago. The reality of the situation is if it weren’t for Robbin Wall and [McGavock Academy Coach] Paula Barkley and the administration here really putting all of this in place and making it work, none of this would work.
Career and technical education means something very different now than it used to. I graduated from Mt. Juliet High School, and I took agriculture classes and vocational classes. What we’re doing now in the Academies is a wholly different thing. Industry classes integrate with all of the core classes. We do all of the intra-curricular stuff and projects.
If it weren’t for our business partners, this wouldn’t have worked. CMT has been a very, very involved business partner, so has Rocketown and Stones River National Battlefield.