Two students from Beaumont Magnet Academy are sharing the stage this month, playing the role of Tiny Tim in The Christmas Carol at the Clarence Brown Theater.
These young actors, second grader Penny Peterson and third grader Golden Littlejohn, are no strangers to performing in front of crowds.
“I’ve done a pre-show in my dad’s play, The Little Prince,” Peterson said. “Before the show started, I played in the sand with the character toys.”
Her mother, Amelia, directed this year’s musical at the Clarence Brown Theater, and her father, Joshua, is the Founding Artistic Director for the River & Rail Theatre Company.
Littlejohn has performed in school plays at Beaumont. Most recently, the school presented a show called The Greatest Snowman, a spin-off to the 2017 musical film The Greatest Showman. The year before, he was in the ensemble for The Great Big Holiday Bake Off.
“While I was doing it I was a little nervous,” Littlejohn said of his audition, set up by Beaumont theater teacher Amanda Taylor. “When I’m nervous and singing or doing a monologue, I just go faster.”
Both students were offered the role and began rehearsing in October. The pair take turns starring in the 28 performances that run from November 23 through December 18.
“We have to stay up late for some of them. We have to miss school for some of them,” Peterson said. “My favorite scene I do is the Cratchit scene because that’s Tiny Tim, and that’s the main character I play.”
Outside of performing, the students are active in their school. Littlejohn participated in the school spelling bee and is a Beaumont Ambassador.
“The first person I escorted around the school was the Superintendent,” he said with a proud smile.
Both are thankful for the unique opportunities they have on and off the stage.
“It’s been a really good experience of learning, but also a fun theater experience that not a lot of kids get to do,” Littlejohn said.
Three KCS students’ artwork will be on display at the Tennessee State Museum next year, as part of a statewide competition.
Elementary art teachers from across the state could submit their students’ work for the State of Tennessee Art Review and Showcase (STARS) competition, but only 19 pieces, the top three per grade level and one best of show, were selected. The showcase will be open to the public from January to May.
The KCS honorees are:
1st grader Joyce Hu (3rd place, Farragut Primary, art teacher Ruth Granroth),
3rd grader Leah Powers (3rd place, Powell Elementary, art teacher Jenny Snead), and
4th grader Avery Quilty (3rd place, Pleasant Ridge Elementary, art teacher Genevieve Byrd).
Avery Quilty’s piece, which she named “Ice Cream Spidey,” was nominated by Byrd, who taught the fourth grade class about Henri Matisse, an artist famous for his collages.
“I wanted them to be able to look at his art and see how you can combine different types of shapes,” Byrd said. “I gave them a really, really broad theme. I said, ‘We’re going to combine a creature or animal with food.’”
Quilty sketched four different designs and decided to combine a strawberry ice cream cone with a six-legged spider, which she constructed out of paper and glue.
“This is the first time something really big has happened in my life,” Quilty said.
She plans to travel to Nashville in January for the ribbon presentation and to view her art in a museum for the first time.
The fourth grader hopes to continue growing her artistic skills and one day become an animator.
Students and teachers at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event on Monday as they welcomed First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as part of their national tour of schools.
Biden and Cardona, alongside Principal Robin Curry, visited the classroom of second-year teacher Kaitlyn Baker to meet students.
“When the press came in, all the students went silent,” Baker said, laughing. “But then the First Lady came in, and she really filled the space in the room and was building relationships with the students.”
Principal Curry said classroom visits are a natural part of a typical student learning walk.
“It was just awesome to be able to let her see our kids working hard and our teachers work on foundational literacy,” Curry said.
Biden also spoke with teachers in a small roundtable about educational support.
Farragut Intermediate special education teaching assistant Karol Harper discussed her experience entering the field through Tennessee’s unique Grow Your Own initiative, the state’s apprenticeship plan for preparing professionals transitioning into teaching positions.
The program was a major focus during Biden’s visit to the University of Tennessee later that day.
But the classroom visit and roundtable weren’t the only items on the agenda at Sarah Moore Greene. Biden and Curry had a surprise in store for the staff. Together, they unveiled a renovated lounge space featuring a calming color palette and comfortable furniture.
“I’m just grateful,” educational assistant Rachel Rodgers said. “To be able to go somewhere and sit and recharge and to enjoy your lunch. It’s a blessing to be able to have that.”
The new space has also helped to build community between teachers.
“Before, third grade teachers would sit with third grade. Fourth grade would sit with fourth grade,” Baker said. “But I’ve gotten to talk with other teachers too because we have a common space for when we don’t have students with us.”
All in all, Principal Curry hopes this visit inspires a long-lasting change in the community.
“I’m just hoping that we continue to focus on the great things that our community has, with our school being one of them,” Curry said.
The First Lady and Secretary of Education continued their tour with stops in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
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