By Sally Absher


Knox County Teachers of the Year Honored

Three Knox County teachers received the Knox County Teacher of the Year award last week at the 2016 Teacher of the Year celebration sponsored by Comcast, Rusty Wallace Automotive, and Kroger.

Jessica Stewart (Christenberry Elementary), Jill Gill (Rita Elementary) and Valerie Cagle (Farragut High) were selected as the three overall Teacher of the Year award recipients based on criteria set forth by the Tennessee Department of Education, including: educational history, professional development, community involvement, philosophy of teaching, and contributions to education.

A total of 181 teachers were honored for the “extraordinary work they do in the classrooms of the Knox County Schools.” The number of Teacher of the Year honorees each school can recognize is based on overall faculty numbers. Schools are allowed to recognize one honoree for every 20 faculty members so honorees from each school were recognized, but only three honorees—one primary educator (PK-4) and two secondary educators (5-8 and 9-12)—received the Knox County Teacher of the Year award.

To be eligible for the Teacher of the Year honor, each candidate must be a full-time, certified Pre K-12 grade teacher who has taught five years or more and spends the majority of the day instructing students. Candidates must also show dedication to teaching and possess a variety of positive personal attributes. Recipients are nominated by their colleagues.

According to KCS, “Every day, these three winners and all other honorees help ensure that each of our more than 58,000 students are academically successful, college and career ready, economically competitive, and personally fulfilled. The continual focus of the Knox County Schools is that every student will have the opportunity to successfully reach their highest potential, regardless of whatever challenging circumstances they may face.”

“By giving of time, bringing personalized instruction to the classroom, and equipping children for bright and successful futures, these teachers are making positive impacts on our community and our region—they are the ones cultivating Knox County’s greatest resource, our future leaders and decision makers, our future parents and stakeholders.”


Groundbreaking for new Gibbs, Hardin Valley Middle Schools

After a series of weather-related delays, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, along with KCS Superintendent Dr. McIntyre, Knox County Board of Education members, Knox County Commissioners, and other elected officials formally broke ground at the sites of the new Gibbs and Hardin Valley middle schools on February 19.

The new Gibbs middle school, to be located on Tazewell Pike just behind Gibbs Elementary School, will be built to accommodate 800 students. Hardin Valley middle school, to be located just behind Hardin Valley Academy and Elementary School, will be able to handle nearly 1,200 students.

Rouse Construction received the $23,631,000 design-build contract for Gibbs, while Denark Construction was awarded the design-build contract for Hardin Valley on a budget of $34.8 million.


“Rigor” v “Vigor”

A recent post on the Momma Bears blog ( mentions that the Constitution of the State of Tennessee has a clause (Section 13) “That no person arrested and confined in jail shall be treated with unnecessary rigor.”

So, it is against the law for prisoners to be treated with rigor, but not for students in public schools? Rigorous curriculum, rigorous testing, rigorous schedules with little to no recess… The blog points out that politicians, testing companies, reformers, and some school district administrators seem to love that word.

About two years ago, Momma Bears wrote about this, stating, “This world can be a cold, cruel place, but our children’s classrooms shouldn’t be. Schools should be a place of warmth, of joyful learning, and of respect for each unique child and their needs. Rigor is not a nice word, but reformers keep saying “rigor” as if it is.  rig·or [rig-er] noun

  1. strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.
  2. the full or extreme severity of laws, rules, etc.
  3. severity of living conditions; hardship; austerity: the rigor of wartime existence.
  4. a severe or harsh act, circumstance, etc.
  5. scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence: the logical rigor of mathematics.

They suggested, how about using the word Vigor instead?  vig·or [vig-er] noun

  1. active strength or force.
  2. healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.
  3. energetic activity; energy; intensity: The economic recovery has given the country a new vigor.
  4. force of healthy growth in any living matter or organism, as a plant.
  5. active or effective force, especially legal validity.

Indeed, let’s hear less about rigor and more about vigor, as well as joy, enthusiasm, respect, creativity, flexibility, valuable, and worthwhile when describing our children’s schools.


ESK Announces Expansion

The Episcopal School of Knoxville will break ground next week on a $6.5 million expansion of its campus, enhancing academic and student support.

The project, which will be commemorated with a groundbreaking ceremony at 1 pm on March 1, will feature a new 25,000-square-foot middle school athletics and fine arts facility. The building will allow the school to reconfigure its middle school program to include fifth grade, and expand its junior kindergarten enrollment.

ESK will be creating a 5th-6th grade program and a 7th-8th grade program. Fifth-grade students will be introduced to additional class offerings including world language, performance music, and critical thinking course components.

ESK has nearly 350 students. It offers an interdisciplinary curriculum, daily chapel, three foreign languages, a range of courses in the arts and a full sports program. The nationally accredited Episcopal School is affiliated with the Episcopal Church and offers a faith-based environment, but actively seeks children of all faiths and backgrounds.