With a New School Year, More Tennessee Teachers Leading from the Classroom

Thursday, September 17th, 2015


“In the past six months I have learned how powerful the voice of teachers can be when they are shared.”

These words were spoken by Karen Vogelsang, a former financial analyst turned educator and the 2015 Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Vogelsang welcomes this school year as the start of her first as a Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellow.

Hope Street Group is an independent non-profit organization that is working closely in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), the Tennessee Educators Association (TEA), and the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). This partnership serves to provide a group of diverse public school teachers, who are chosen through a rigorous selection process, with skills around peer and community engagement, facilitating focus groups, and communication strategies while giving them opportunities to amplify teacher voice to inform policy decisions. Hope Street Group launched the program with great success in Kentucky in 2013, replicating in Hawai’i in 2014 and now in North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Teacher leaders are a driving force not only in their classrooms and buildings, but in their communities,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “Their insight is incredibly powerful as we encourage and empower our teachers to take on new challenges.”

The work of the first cohorts of State Teacher Fellows (STFs) in Kentucky and Hawaii has led to their establishment as teacher leaders and advocates for their profession. In addition to providing recommendations to their respective Departments of Education, they have met with legislators and hosted school visits, and have independently written op-eds and essays that have been published in news outlets across the nation. The way these STFs have contributed to the state’s education policy decisions was a major reason Mary Elaine Vaughn, a high school math teacher and Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching finalist, decided to apply to join the program.

“Our educational system will continue to thrive and grow through student academics only if educators collaborate and share ideas for improvement,” Vaughn reflected. “We are all in this together and cannot do our jobs effectively without other educators’ input and support.”

Vaughn, one of the 30 teachers awarded the Hope Street Group Fellowship this year, belongs to a burgeoning teacher leadership movement within Tennessee. This movement is evident up to the federal level, where the U.S. Department of Education has emphasized empowering teachers to improve the education process through its Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program, which counts new Tennessee STF Josalyn Tresvant McGhee as a recent selection, to the Teach to Lead program, a partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

“Educators are on the ground, working with students every day. Their insight is critical when it comes to crafting meaningful education policy,” Keilani Goggins, Tennessee State Teacher Fellow Program Director stated. “I’m confident that this cohort of teacher leaders will do exceptional work engaging their peers and collaborating with our partners to gather input and feedback.”

This first year, Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellows will focus on Professional Learning and Teacher Leadership as the topics of their data collection. Educators can join the professional learning networks of the newly selected teachers here.

The 30 teachers selected to be Tennessee’s first State Teacher Fellows are:

  1. Jarred Amato, High School English Teacher, Nashville
  2. Mark Banasiak, K-5th Grade Physical Educator, Clarksville
  3. Michael Bradburn, Instructional Coach, Alcoa
  4. Monica Brown, 4th Grade Reading, Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher, Memphis
  5. April Carrigan, K–4th Grade Math Coach, Fairview
  6. Lara Charbonnet, 12th Grade AP English Literature and Honors English Teacher, Collierville
  7. Natalie Coleman, 7th Grade Reading and Writing Teacher, Hendersonville
  8. Tina Faust, Instructional Technology Specialist, Morristown
  9. Rebecca Few, Mathematics Instructional Coach, Murfreesboro
  10. Julia Geiger, 5th Grade Teacher, Rogersville
  11. Adam Guidry, 10-12th Grade – Engineering Practicum, Computer Aided Drafting, Geographical Systems Teacher, Nashville
  12. Debbie Hickerson, 5th Grade Teacher, Murfreesboro
  13. Melinda Hirschmann, 6-8th Grade Reading Intervention and Language Arts Teacher, Old Hickory
  14. Melody Hobbs, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher/Program Coordinator, Lenoir City
  15. Cheryl Killebrew, Instructional Facilitator/Federal Programs Coordinator, Robertson County
  16. Blake Lam, 7th Grade Math Teacher, Memphis
  17. Nikki Lavigne, Intervention Specialist, Clarksville
  18. Nancy Miles, 3rd Grade Teacher, Johnson City
  19. Brian Moffitt, 7-8th Grade History and Technology Teacher, Union City
  20. Crystal Nelson, Music Teacher/RTI Interventionist, Camden
  21. Michelle Polier, Special Education Math Instructional Coordinator, Cleveland
  22. Dana Siegel, K-5th Grade, ESL Teacher, Collierville
  23. Michael Stein, 10th Grade Tier III Intervention, 11th Grade ESL and English 3, English 3 Honors Teacher, Manchester
  24. Alicia (Pam) Thompson, Literacy Leader, Roane County
  25. Alisha Thompson, Literacy Leader, Philadelphia
  26. Josalyn Tresvant, 5th Grade ELA Teacher, Cordova
  27. Mary (Elaine) Vaughan, High School Secondary Mathematics Teacher, Oak Ridge
  28. Karen Vogelsang, 4th Grade Teacher, Cordova
  29. Marc Walls, High School Science Teacher, Clarksville
  30. Comeshia Williams, PLC Coach, Memphis


Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity. For more information, visit: http://www.hopestreetgroup.org

Press Contact:
Chimdi Ihezie
Associate, External Affairs

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