Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 23, 2016

Students provide glimpse of what works in schools

“Work together, compromise and give everyone a chance to explain their idea.”

That was the advice given by a third grade student at Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School when asked for tips on how to be a good leader.

This student was one of many impressive third, fourth and fifth graders taking part in the school’s Leadership Academy.

The Leadership Academy seeks to empower students by equipping them with strong leadership skills early in life.

Bess T. Shepherd was only one stop for Leadership Chattanooga last week as we hopped on board a school bus to meet with students, teachers and administrators as we toured area schools. Education can be a controversial and divisive topic.

It’s understandable that emotions run high and opinions strong on matters concerning our children and the children in our community.

While visiting East Brainerd Elementary, we learned that only 40 percent of Hamilton County children are in Pre-K and we know that only 40 percent of Hamilton County third graders are reading at the appropriate grade level.

Thankfully, there are great people, like the educators at East Brainerd Elementary, working every day to improve this situation.

Despite any statistics, we saw a lot of exciting and inspirational things happening in our public schools.

As part of a panel at the Hamilton County Department of Education, Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent, said that an important goal for area educators is to “bring back the joy of learning.”

After a brief bus ride to the STEM School of Chattanooga, we saw an example of this in person.

The best way to describe the STEM School is that it looks how the corporate offices for Google or Facebook might look.

There’s an open floor plan with art, equipment and experiments scattered all around.

As our student tour guides explained, the school embraces project based learning – a method whereby students learn by actively exploring issues rather than relying solely on text books or their teacher’s instruction.

For some students, this style of learning is a great alternative to a more traditional setting. As Tony Donen, principal of the STEM School, explained, “It’s an issue of finding the right fit for each student.”

Ensuring the best possible fit for every Hamilton County student is a difficult task to take on.

However, after a long day of meetings, it was clear that the educators and administrators of Hamilton County’s schools truly have a heart for their work and want to see their students succeed.

As a community, no matter how we move forward into the future with regards to education, that is a solid foundation on which to build.

In January, Leadership Chattanooga will re-convene to take a look at issues related to healthcare.