Members of the 2018-19 Tennessee Educator Fellowship are busy planning how they’ll continue their student-focused advocacy in the year ahead. We caught up with a few members of last year’s cohort to hear how they will continue to make a difference for Tennessee students every day beyond the walls of their classrooms. — Leigh Cooksey

“I will be partnering with our school leadership to implement and improve on the college exploration we did last year with our eighth graders. If our state is going to get to 55 percent of Tennesseans earning a postsecondary credential, we need to get kids invested early in going to college or earning a postsecondary certificate. I have found that students sometimes assume, because of their background, that they will not have access to certain opportunities, but we can show them what’s possible, and it’s important that we do that early in their academic careers.” 

Rebecca Ledebuhr, Metro Nashville Public Schools

“I will continue to focus my advocacy on ‘All Means All.’ I hope to write about social-emotional needs of students, specifically African-American males. I also hope to have influence in the area of cultural competency as it relates to teacher preparation programs.”

Dr. Sherwanda Chism, Shelby County Schools

“I want to continue to bring the outside world into our children’s lives, so they can start planning for their futures now. One way we do this is through our student-run YouTube station, which is picking up steam, and our county government has become instrumental in partnering with us. Our students were even able to interview the mayor! We are also bringing guest speakers from area businesses and industry to engage with our students. We are taking our channel into those industries and learning as much as we can so we can share that information with the broader student community in our county through the YouTube channel. Giving students opportunities to see technology in action and learning what those careers encompass is very important to student success. We can help students explore career options, so they find a quality job they enjoy.”

Maury Wood, II, Marshall County Schools

“I believe in the importance of sharing a variety of postsecondary options with elementary students, sparking their career interests, and aiding them in charting paths for success. I plan to continue serving as a sponsor of the Career Connections Club at my school, serve as a liaison at my school for the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone Career Expo, and serve as a tnAchieves mentor.”

Monica Brown, Shelby County Schools

“I’m focused on advocating for strong instructional materials. Working on the state textbook committee last year gave me a far better understanding of the high-quality instructional resources that are so needed in today’s classrooms. Now the work is really starting! This is our adoption year for English language arts. We must advocate for strong materials that parallel the rigor of the standards and the assessments. Providing strong materials for teachers to address the standards and assessments will enable more time for teachers to hone their craft and to meet the specificity and depth of the standards, ensuring student success.”

David Sneed, Hamilton County Schools

Leigh Cooksey is educator engagement manager at SCORE.