As I start this new chapter in my career, I can’t help but to look back with thankfulness and look forward with hope and excitement. My professional career started more than 25 years ago as a teacher at Glencliff High School. It was there that I fell in love with teaching and helping shape the lives of young people. Within the first couple of years of teaching, we piloted some curriculum being offered by Ford Motor Company. Little did I know that exploration would be the catalyst for the journey that I have been blessed to travel for the past quarter of a century.
It was in those classrooms that we worked with teams of students to solve real business problems and allow those students to get dressed in their best to deliver their solutions to the executives of companies. It was in those classrooms that we learned to bring business partners into the classrooms to make learning authentic and to spark the curiosity of students that had once sat quietly in neat rows of desks. It was there that the Academies of Nashville dream began.
Spring forward twenty-five years and the dream of all students learning in this manner is at hand in MNPS high schools. In 2006, we were able to get a Small Learning Communities grant that would allow us to put the structure into place to build what we know as The Academies of Nashville. This work could not have happened without the dedication, vision and hard work of two great leaders that I have been blessed to learn from: Starr Herrman and Chaney Mosley. Each was able to bring the work that was needed at the time to the Academies of Nashville and each of their personalities and commitment will be forever etched on the organization.
As I look forward, I do so with hope and excitement that we can continue to nurture the process that has brought us to this place. As we approach our tenth year for the Academies of Nashville, I am honored to take on the role of director and want to build on the success that has brought over 2500 educators from around the country to study our work. My goal is to help support our stakeholders to move this work forward into the next quarter of a century. In the beginning, we wanted to improve the high school graduation rate—we moved that percentage from a dismal 58.2% in 2006 to a current rate of 81.6%. As we look to the future, I want to help many of our first-time college seekers believe that they can succeed at both college and career. I want to continue to give them the tools that are required not only to go to college, but to complete college and move into a career where they can begin to change the culture of poverty.
I continue to believe the tools for student success are bundled in the Academies of Nashville and my goal is to continue to learn from and nurture the 350 business partners that are committed to our work. Further, I hope to mentor and help develop the Academy Coaches as they are the “boots on the ground” at each of the academy schools that keep the spirit of the academies thriving. Indeed, it is with great hope and excitement that I believe the best days for the Academies of Nashville are yet to come.