• KCS Teachers Get Grants For Innovation

    Posted by Josh Flory on 10/5/2018
    Students walking into Gibbs Middle School on the first day of school.
    Karns High School Principal Brad Corum; teacher Julie Langley; Jonathan Scoonover, of the Great Schools Partnership; Casey Robison, of KCS Curriculum and Instruction; County Commissioner Justin Biggs and teacher John Cionfolo celebrate a $10,000 TeacherPreneur grant for Karns on Monday, October 1.

    New ideas and giant checks were on display this week, as teachers across Knox County received grants to support innovation.

    For the last five years, the Great Schools Partnership and the KCS Curriculum and Instruction Department have teamed up to host the TeacherPreneur Grant Program, which aims to foster creative problem-solving by teachers.

    This year, 23 teachers received grants totaling more than $112,000 to support their ideas. One of those teachers was Julie Langley, an ELA teacher at Karns High School who led a team that proposed a Shark Tank-style program called The Beaver Dam, and received a $10,000 grant.

    The idea behind The Beaver Dam is for students to come up with a product, a service or a social campaign that will benefit themselves, the school or the community. They’ll pitch those ideas to a panel of community and business leaders, and that panel will help decide which ideas should be funded.

    Langley said several students are interested in gardens and growing food, and may submit proposals that involve healthy eating or providing food for needy families. Another group of students is interested in nursing, and wants to build an irrigation system for the KHS greenhouse that would be based on IV-drip bag technology.

    More broadly, Langley said that for some students, the program will provide a reason to come to school and invest in themselves, as well as giving them a real-world audience for their ideas.

    “So many times in academic classes, you’re presenting to a teacher or to peers, and we want to make sure they’re able to present to an authentic audience and writing for an authentic purpose,” she said.

    Copper Ridge Elementary received a $1,475 grant to purchase a washing machine and dryer. Principal Jennifer Atkins said some of their students live in modular homes, motel rooms or even campgrounds, with limited access to laundry facilities.

    “When I realized that washing clothes for my kids is a luxury that a lot of kids at my own school didn’t have, then we really wanted to seek out a different way to help these families,” Atkins said.

    Copper Ridge will use the grant to buy the machines, while Beaver Dam Baptist Church will provide detergent and dryer sheets for the first year. Participating students will be able to bring a week’s worth of clothes to school on a Monday, and a volunteer will wash and send them home the same afternoon.

    “It’ll be a big impact for a tiny group of people, but it’ll be totally worth it,” Atkins said.

    The Great Schools Partnership is a non-profit organization that is funded by public and private-sector dollars.

    Jonathan Scoonover, Vice President of Research, Development and Evaluation for the Great Schools Partnership, said a goal of the TeacherPreneur program is to use the experience and knowledge of Knox County teachers to generate innovative ideas to improve education. To that end, the program emphasizes innovation, the ability to measure results, scalability and how well a proposal matches the KCS priorities of raising academic achievement, creating a positive culture and eliminating disparities.

    In addition, the program looks for ideas that can be replicated at other schools. One example is a pair of grants issued last year to create “calm corners” or mindfulness spaces in classrooms, quiet spaces where students could go to calm down, rather than referring them to the office for discipline.

    Those grants -- at Belle Morris Elementary and Dogwood Elementary -- were successful enough that several follow-up grants were awarded this year for similar ideas.

    Other grants were focused on cutting-edge technology. Trent McLees, a librarian at Cedar Bluff Middle School, received a $4,240 grant to purchase a pair of 3D printers, which will be used by students to print prosthetic hands. Working with a network called e-NABLE, the school is hoping the prosthetics can be provided to people who can’t afford to buy them on their own.

    McLees said the school already has an active 3D printing club, but the new machines will make the activity more widely available.

    He said the technology is starting to be used in a variety of medical fields, and the new program will “enable students to see the way that 3D printing is used in a professional context.”

    Here is the full list of winners:

    Trent McLees, Cedar Bluff Middle School

    Grant: $4,240

    Project e-NABLE pairs individuals and groups who have access to 3D printers with individuals in need of prosthetic limbs. Once paired, the 3D printing group can communicate with the individual in need of a prosthetic about their needs and sizing, and then produce the prosthetic for them using a 3D printer. Our hope at Cedar Bluff Middle is to acquire two more 3D printers, enabling us to engage students with this life-changing project that will put the Computer Assisted Design and printing skills the students learn to meaningful and authentic use.

    Holly Kelly and Emily Swearingen, Farragut High School

    Grant: $6,913

    “Modernizing A&P Instruction Through Augmented Reality”

    This grant will improve how students learn and practice anatomy and physiology skills. Numerous classes would utilize the Visual Body app, including general biology, medical therapeutics, diagnostic medicine, health sciences education, English language development, and anatomy and physiology. Visual Body enhances student learning through innovative three-dimensional diagrams, augmented reality, and current reference materials.

    Suzanne Sherman, Carmen Long and Anne Troutman, Hardin Valley Academy

    Grant: $5,500

    “The Rest Nest”

    The Rest Nest will serve as a space to encourage healthy minds by highlighting resources such as yoga or stress-relief pet programs as a way of connecting to the community. Parents will be encouraged to attend a Rest Nest Open House and the librarian will partner with the HVA Counseling Center and the student-led mental advocacy group to offer mental wellness programming throughout the school year.

    Julie Langley, Mike Blankenship, John Cionfolo, Jacob Neblett, Cynthia Rhoden and Jack Witt, Karns High School

    Grant: $10,000

    “Welcome To The Shark Tank!”

    Inspired by “Shark Tank” and the Makers Movement, this project will give KHS students from various backgrounds an opportunity to use research and collaboration to create innovative solutions to problems within their community. The program will assist 20 students or student groups with defining and developing projects that represent the diverse interests and skills of students at Karns High School. Students or student groups will present their body of work to a panel of business leaders, community supporters, and school/district personnel for evaluation and feedback.

    Billie Davis, Jamie Escow, Ridgedale School

    Grant: $7,169

    “Inquiry Intervention”

    Using inquiry-based learning strategies coupled with hands-on activities, we will be able to engage and challenge our students who do not qualify for T2 or T3 interventions. Since every student in our program rotates through the intervention classroom, we need a systematic approach to providing enrichment activities that will promote questioning, thinking, research, and presenting findings. This systematic approach will focus on lessons that will promote student inquiry and soft skills needed to work collaboratively with peers to show mastery of standards across all curriculums.

    Lynn Shuryan, Charity Elliott, Jordan Frye (School Resource Coordinator), Norwood Elementary

    Grant: $4,500

    “Relax Rooms / Calm Corners”

    This proposal is slightly different from the original "Calm Corners" in that it would not have a space in every classroom. Instead, it would have a grade-level "Relax Room" with a "Calm Corner" where students can go to self-regulate using iPad apps or other calming materials such as those utilized at Dogwood Elementary.

    Jennifer Atkins, Laura Mullins, Nikki Hall, Copper Ridge Elementary

    Grant: $4,454

    “Calm Cougar Kits”

    This tub of calming resources could be used anywhere in the classroom. It would more closely mirror the strategies that adults use in everyday life. When students get stressed or overwhelmed, they can go to the Calm Cougar Kits with their teachers' permission and select the resources that most support their needs. The kit could be taken to a desk, to a table, or to a nearby corner. The addition of the Kindle Fire will support students' visual and auditory needs.

    Rachel Hill, Copper Ridge Elementary

    Grant: $3,041

    “Gnarly Graphic Novel Gang Project”

    To foster excitement and an enduring love of reading, The Gnarly Graphic Novel Gang Project would provide access to high-interest texts, especially graphic novels, poetry, series books, and informational texts. 5th-graders need ample experience reading across genres and responding to many different types of text in authentic, exciting ways. Reluctant readers often grasp onto a particular series or genre of books, and that can provide them the practice time necessary to acquire important skills and strategies for fluency.

    Jennifer Atkins, Copper Ridge Elementary

    Grant: $1,475

    “Clean Clothes, Happy Kids”

    The mission of our project is to meet the physical needs of our students. Specifically, we hope to provide a space to wash and dry clothing for students to wear to school. Basic transportation to and from a laundromat can be a real challenge for some of our families. A subset of our student population resides within a local campground in our district; these students often wash their clothing in the campground restrooms, if at all. Other students live in local motel rooms, modest trailer homes, and older farm homes where washing clothes in the sink can also be a challenge.

    Olivia Cates, Belle Morris Elementary

    Grant: $10,500

    “Voluntary Summer Reading”

    This program is designed to combat summer reading loss at Belle Morris Elementary School. Sixty students will be given books to read during the summer months, including approximately 15 students per grade level in grades 1-4. Selected students will be given a reading interest survey, and we will then compile a list of high-interest books based on our knowledge of our students’ reading habits and interests.

    Sarah Gilpin, Olivia Hysinger, Tabitha Cartwright, Fulton High School

    Grant: $6,135

    This program will focus on high school reading intervention with high-interest and relatable books. By reading a text that is a mirror rather than a window, we believe students will improve their all-around reading proficiency skills. These skills will help our students increase both fluency and comprehension, as well as giving them tools to take back to their traditional classrooms when faced with texts that may be challenging for them.

    Andrew Turner, Central High School

    Grant: $2,830

    “Teaching Math Through Music”

    Create a classroom studio that allows students to create songs with student written/recorded lyrics that support their learning, during Algebra instruction.

    Andrea Menendez, Central High School

    Grant: $1,392

    “The Scriptorium (Calligraphy)”

    Using calligraphy to increase engagement and improve classroom behavior.

    Jessica Anderson, Mt. Olive Elementary School

    Grant: $1,514

    “Cool, Calm and Collected!”

    This proposal will address the students’ emotional needs of a Mindfulness Room, but also meeting their psychological needs as well.

    Tracey Matthews Wynter, South-Doyle High School

    Grant: $5,500

    “Cherokee Peace Center”

    This program is designed to reduce the number of incidents in which the involvement of a School Resource Officer is required; to serve as a conduit to redirect the undesired escalation of students’ emotions and the subsequently undesired and sometimes violent actions that usually result; and finally, to allow students to “escape” from the various stresses of school, drama of teenage years in general, and even home anxieties.

    Kylee Haynes, Ashley Brooks, Kara Strouse (School Resource Coordinator), Dogwood Elementary

    Grant: $4,154

    “Outdoor Sensory Courtyard”

    Dogwood has a fully enclosed outdoor courtyard that is currently not being used. There is life in this courtyard that is untapped and ready to be transformed. The courtyard is 5,960 square feet and has several access points from 9 classrooms and from 2 main hallways. The plan is to divide the courtyard into 5 different areas.


    Hilary Keith, Pond Gap Elementary and Dogwood Elementary

    Grant: $1,666

    "Calm Corners"

    This grant will allow Calm Corners to be expanded throughout Dogwood and will extend the concept to Pond Gap.

    Corey Dugan, Vine Middle Magnet School

    Grant: $1,125

    “Microphones For Mastery”

    The goal is to facilitate fluency with the use of technology and various applications in the classroom. By allowing students to use spoken language in combination with reading, they will in turn boost literacy skills, including components related to fluency such as expression, volume/pacing, accuracy, and phrasing.

    Tina Huff, Green Magnet Academy

    Grant: $5,000

    “Calm Corners with a Mindfulness Twist”

    The ultimate goal of Calm Corners with a Mindfulness Twist is to increase student achievement for all students. By giving students a space to calm down before losing control, there will not be a need for removal from the classroom, allowing all students to achieve at a greater rate. Simply put, the more the students remain in the classroom, the more they will be learning.

    Gia Gray, Maynard Elementary

    Grant: $1,791

    “Storytelling with a Twist!”

    In weekly 2-hour meetings, students will begin each meeting by participating in a restorative circle. This will help them learn how to actively listen, effectively communicate their thoughts, and show empathy. They will also have stories read to them. During this time, they will ask questions, predict what will happen, and discuss other thoughts regarding the stories. Then, students will learn how to become storytellers.

    Jennifer Willoughby, Anita Tisdale, Jill Akin (School Resource Coordinator), Beaumont Magnet Academy

    Grant: $2,000

    “Back On Track Room”

    In addition to general calming, the room will be used for special needs students and any other student who has sensory needs, who would greatly benefit from sensory stimulation. This part of the program will be integrated into their daily schedule to provide the sensory breaks our kids need to be successful.

    Amanda Callahan-Mims, Ashley Zacher, Alexandria Ball, Karen Carter, Janee Gordon, Jessica Bocangel (School Resource Coordinator), Spring Hill Elementary

    Grant: $20,000

    “The MASST Approach”

    A Music, Art, Science, & Sensory Therapy (MASST) approach will link the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program with school mental health initiatives to improve student outcomes.

    Amanda Taylor, Karen Loy, Carter High School (District-wide grant)

    Grant: $1,500

    “Literacy Skills Kits”

    The Expanded Core Curriculum is the set of standards for students with blindness and visual impairment that are designed to compensate for the incidental learning that is typically achieved through observation. This proposal will create Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) Literacy Kits with real objects that represent pictures to “illustrate” children's books for students with visual impairments or blindness. The kits will include 2 copies of a book, props, reading comprehension questions, and follow up activities that support the Expanded Core Curriculum.