Leadership Chattanooga Leads for Learning

Amanda Ellis

Leadership Chattanooga class members connect with our community while learning about what it means to lead. Through monthly sessions, education-related projects, police ride-alongs and more – participants graduate with a fresh understanding of our community’s strengths and challenges, and how we can all be part of solutions.

This year’s education projects involved collaborating with the Public Education Foundation’s Teacherpreneur grant program in which local teachers pitch project ideas to support student learning at their schools. Leadership Chattanooga’s 42 class members divided into five teams to support five of the Teacherpreneur projects, helping students learn through cooking activities, a math class focusing on tiny house construction, classroom fitness exercises and more.

Fitness for Focus 360

Audrey Pulse, third grade teacher at Wallace A. Smith Elementary, wanted to create a resource with intentional workouts to wake up students’ brains and increase information retention while emphasizing character traits and classroom community-building.

“Audrey wanted to help her students be more engaged with quick exercises to help them get their wiggles out and better focus on academic lessons,” says Fitness for Focus team member Brianne Lalor of Northside Neighborhood House. “For example, if the lesson focused on perseverance, students might do jumping jacks as they spell perseverance, talk about what it means and a time they persevered.” 

The Fitness for Focus Leadership Chattanooga support team partnered with local designer Gabrielle Blades, Blades Creative, to create a Fitness for Focus 360 handbook containing 30 days of lessons.  The team also used their connections to have 1,000 handbooks printed and bound at reduced rates, completing this in time for Pulse to bring them to a nationwide conference. They’ll also distribute handbooks to local third grade teachers. Eventually the group would like to give these to parents and other elementary school teachers.

“Our group was impressed by Audrey,” Lalor says. “She’s a relatively new teacher but has taken extra initiative for her students. She’s innovative and caring and I think that’s what we need teachers to be.

“This project was rewarding because our group members are all interested in fitness. We know kids can lead more sedentary lifestyles these days with technology so it’s good for them to know what a mountain climber, for example, is and blend it with everything they’re learning.”

Leadership Chattanooga Team Members: Ryan Henn, Donna Elle, Angela Henry, Blake Bozarth, Marcus Cade-Johnson, Brooke Gorman, Vaughn Berger, Brianne Lalor 

Beast Club

BEAST (Breaking, Established, Accepted, Stereotypes) Club partners students from diverse schools across Hamilton County to learn about each other, form friendships, and serve the community. Its aim? To break down barriers by forming relationships.  

“The idea is to bring students together from all over the county,” says team member Kurt Syler of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “Economically disadvantaged students often do not have the same opportunities that students in higher income areas have, such as access to new technologies or funding for special projects.”

The BEAST Club Leadership Chattanooga team created a plan to launch BEAST Club this fall. They identified goals of coordinating student exchange field trips within the school district, facilitating community improvement ​projects in which students from multiple schools can partner, and helping students communicate with one another​ (through written letters, Skype, etc.) to foster continued relationships following in-person events.

The plan also includes brand guidelines for creating a one pager and presentation to demonstrate the program’s value to supervisors and teachers. A team from next year’s Leadership Chattanooga class will continue work on this project.

Leadership Chattanooga Team Members: Jason Allen, Jonathan Butler, Bo Drake, Cory Howard, Erika Hyde, Toccora Johnson, Natalie Martin, Laurie Stevens, Kurt Syler

Cooking Up Learning

Through collaboration between teachers and local culinary masters, Cooking Up Learning connects cross-curricular standards through cooking in the Dupont Elementary culinary lab. Dupont teacher Tarah Kemp created Cooking Up Learning to prepare elementary students with STEM knowledge while practicing real-world skills.

“Say a class is studying the roaring 20s – the teacher would create a recipe of the foods at that time or different recipes that relate to that time period,” says Cooking for Learning team member Tippi Montgomery of Cigna. “It’s based on what they’re covering in class.”

Beginning in the upcoming school year, Dupont third, fourth and fifth graders will participate in a monthly culinary lab activity. This could include learning to make biscuits, jam and butter while studying colonial America or making cheese to highlight chemical changes.

The Cooking Up Learning Leadership Chattanooga team helped raise additional funding for the project, including helping secure a Krystal Foundation grant. They engaged local chef and restaurant partners, and created a brochure and poster, as well as an Amazon wishlist, to encourage giving. The team hopes to replicate the Cooking Up Learning program at other schools.

“Tarah saw the need for this program and created it, we just brought in skills to enhance it,” says team member Stephanie Koukas. “We’re seeing that kids lack practical skills in areas such as cooking and finances. This program speaks to that piece because it’s a cross between standard curriculum and teaching a life skill.”

Leadership Chattanooga Team Members: Dan Pratt, Vivian Lozano, Stephanie Koukas, Tippi Montgomery, Derek Daniel, Beth Bennett, Jeff DeLoach

Tiny Curriculum

The mention of math class leads to echoing groans in schools everywhere, but not at Sale Creek High School. Michael Caraccio, 12th-grade math teacher, created a course on building a tiny home, changing the way students view math.

Caraccio crafted the class for disengaged students who need a math credit to graduate. His class applies what they learn to building a tiny home from scratch using math formulas.

Geometry guides angles for the base of the tiny home, and the class teams with the school’s construction class for building.

“Our group was excited to work with someone dedicated to their project and their profession,” says Leadership Chattanooga Tiny Curriculum team member, Geoff Millener, The Enterprise Center.  “Our team recognized Michael’s leadership. He was going to get the job done no matter what and we were excited to support him in that.”

Caraccio’s class has students excited about math and its practical applications. The course now boasts a waiting list of 20 students who want to take it as an elective next year, and several students inspired by the coursework have enrolled in electrician programs following graduation. 

The Leadership Chattanooga team provided Caraccio with support, helping raise both money and materials like lumber and steel, as well as coordinating visits from HVAC professionals and other skilled workers.

“Our goal was to help the program become sustainable,” Millener says. “Teachers are often underpaid and overworked, so we wanted to demonstrate the kind of community support available when we work together.”

Leadership Chattanooga Team Members: Julia Bursch, Tray Bryant, Tracy Wood, Wilson Meads, Josh Morin, Kurt Stafford, Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, Geoff Millener 

My Voice

Erica Martin, East Brainerd Elementary third-grade teacher, empowers her students through the My Voice project designed to inspire students to impact community issues.

“Mrs. Martin is teaching the children to engage in self-advocacy,” says Leadership Chattanooga class member Trae Cotton. “While students may not have the big SAT word for it, they’re learning how to articulate why they are passionate about something and what they can do to solve big challenges.”

My Voice participants gather after school, and began by brainstorming topics they were interested in for a group project. Topics students wanted to address during My Voice ranged from helping the homeless to combatting bullying, depression and suicide. 

“Working on this project reminded me that kids are not protected from exposure to tough topics simply because of their age,” Cotton says. “They understand things at a higher level than we sometimes give them credit for.”

Students will share their presentations with peers and score each other through a “glow” ― an encouraging remark, or a “grow” ― constructive criticism. The Leadership Chattanooga team supported the project through helping work with the students, providing food for meetings, as well as t-shirts and stickers for the final presentations. The team will attend the presentations to provide feedback and help students become comfortable presenting to new people. 

Leadership Chattanooga Team Members: Emily Dockery, Dr. Marthel Young, Chad Goodman, Trae Cotton, Heather Hicks, Jonathan Gibbons, Elizabeth Appling, Jeff Rector

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