HVA Teacher Receives National Guard Promotion

HVA Teacher Receives National Guard Promotion

Lt. Matthew Riddle with his wife, Jillian, at his graduation from Officer Candidate School in August 2022.

Earlier this year, Hardin Valley Academy math teacher 2nd Lt. Matthew Riddle celebrated a promotion to an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard following a year and a half in Officer Candidate School (OCS).

Riddle joined the National Guard three years ago as an 09 Sierra, with the intention of becoming an officer. 

The lieutenant said he has always felt the calling to join the military. He was a part of Carson-Newman’s ROTC program and was ready to commit when his plans were abruptly put on hold.

“My younger brother got diagnosed with lymphoma in his brain,” Riddle said. “I felt like joining the Army and my brother, not knowing what was going to happen there, was not a great time to join up and possibly get deployed somewhere.”

Riddle then finished college, began teaching high school math, and got married before once again pursuing the military and OCS.

“The year and a half of OCS was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to accomplish,” he said.

Officer candidates attend monthly sessions throughout the program and two sessions of field operations training during the summers.

“It’s two and half weeks of miserable,” Riddle said. “And every single month, being able to mentally prepare yourself and stay physically fit and injury-free, it’s just very taxing.”

Riddle earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the Tennessee Army National Guard during a ceremony on August 13.

As difficult as the path to become an officer has been, leadership has always been a driving force for Riddle. He has adopted leadership positions in other areas of his life as an athletic coach and math teacher.

“I think it’s really a passion of mine as somebody that wants to lead, to be able to grow other people,” he said. “I like being able to push those that are younger to reach whatever their potential is.”

One way he leads his students is by educating them on the military and its benefits, so they consider it as a potential postgraduate pathway.

“KCS is pushing for this movement that not every kid has to attend a four-year university, and that’s okay,” Riddle said. “We need those trade schools, and we need those people that are willing to join the military.”

Riddle now looks ahead to a 16-week Basic Officer Leadership Course to further his career as a military intelligence officer. He is also pursuing a doctoral degree in mathematical education.

“I don’t know how I’ll introduce myself,” he joked. “At that time, it’ll be Dr. 1st Lt. Matthew Riddle.”

Iron Chef Competition Provides Hands-On Training

Iron Chef Competition Provides Hands-On Training

Culinary students from Karns High School participated in an “Iron Chef” competition on Oct. 19, an event that also provided hands-on training for students from the school’s A/V Production class.

On a recent Wednesday morning, students from Karns High School gathered in the school’s commercial kitchen as teacher Jacob Neblett gave a countdown: “Your time starts NOW!”

With that cue, a flurry of activity began as two groups of students opened packets of military-style MREs and rushed through the kitchen to gather additional ingredients.

The occasion was an Iron Chef-style competition at Karns, which was sponsored by the Tennessee Army National Guard and that offered hands-on training for students in the Culinary and A/V Production programs.

Students were challenged to transform the MREs – or “meals-ready-to-eat” – into a culinary creation by using the secret ingredients in the packets along with fresh ingredients from the kitchen. As they worked, Neblett offered advice and guidance, at one point reminding them to “Always be tasting, always be plating!”

At the same time, students from teacher Chris Wade’s A/V Production class gathered video, photos and interviews, which will be used in digital media content promoting the school.

The competition also served as a recruiting tool for 9th-grade students from the KHS Freshman Seminar, who watched from one end of the kitchen and got a pitch from Neblett that emphasized the hands-on, high-energy vibe in his classes.

The event parallels the goals of the district’s “865 Academies” initiative, which aims to provide strong connections between classroom knowledge and workplace success. Launched with support from Knox Education Foundation, the initiative’s ultimate goal is to make students “865 Ready” for college enrollment, enlistment in service to their country, or employment in a high-wage, high-demand field.

Julie Langley, the academy coach at Karns, said the culinary program aims to give students a vision for entrepreneurial career options, including work as chefs, restaurateurs or caterers.

“We want students to be able to imagine themselves in a high-paying, high-demand field,” said Langley. “We’re not trying to turn out food-service workers, we’re trying to emphasize the ‘art’ in Culinary Arts, or the entrepreneurship of Culinary Arts.”

As participants energetically stirred sauces, shot video and chopped vegetables, the appeal of a hands-on class was apparent. And when the winning dish was announced — taquitos with homemade tortillas, and fried churros with chili chocolate sauce — the room erupted in cheers.

Haley Matthews, a 9th-grader who observed the competition during her Freshman Seminar, said she enjoyed watching students work together as a team, adding that she thinks culinary arts “would be a cool class in high school.”

The event had the frenzied feel of a cooking competition on the Food Network, and Wade said his long-term goal is for A/V Production students to produce a full-length show similar to “Iron Chef” or “Chopped”.

In the meantime, the content they produce is providing valuable experience. The video production industry has a robust presence in East Tennessee, and Wade said there is strong demand for employees including production assistants, camera operators and lighting directors.

And even before they graduate, the participation in dynamic, work-based learning helps to promote student engagement.

“Getting to see the advanced students do all that cool stuff, that’s just a great way to get younger students excited about coming to school,” Wade added.

Culinary teacher Jacob Neblett told freshmen that his Culinary Arts class is ideal for students who enjoy a high-energy, fast-paced environment.
Math Field Day Provides Fun With Numbers

Math Field Day Provides Fun With Numbers

During Math Field Day at Karns High School, the Iron Fit Challenge allowed students to analyze data generated by a weight-lifting exercise.

Field Day got a new twist at Karns High School this week.

On May 20, KHS hosted a Math Field Day for 9th-grade students, an event that aimed to build awareness and interest in math through a variety of hands-on activities and challenges at the school’s football stadium.

  • At an Iron Man challenge hosted by the Tennessee Army National Guard, students completed deadlift, ball toss and sprint-drag-carry challenges, then completed the assignment by performing math calculations to analyze the data they generated.

Another booth highlighted the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding it. 

Posters and fliers highlighted ways that the sequence occurs in nature, and students – led by art teacher Caitlyn Kingsbury-Gomez – used a large-frame loom to create a tapestry that incorporated the sequence.

Julie Langley, an instructional coach at KHS who organized the event, said the school wanted to find creative ways to increase achievement using high-interest activities.

  • “These are … primarily student-facilitated activities, which makes it a lot nicer and kids are sometimes more approachable than a teacher you don’t know,” she said.

Math Field Day included 42 events, with nine local businesses present on-site while another six collaborated on specific activities.

Yuleesa Kennedy, who plays on the KHS softball team, participated in a softball hitting challenge in which students used results to calculate batting averages.

Kennedy said she enjoyed the events, and there was also a nice year-end perk – the Field Day event provided students the opportunity “just to get outside.”

Yuleesa Kennedy takes a turn during the softball event at Math Field Day.
Bearden Student Earns Solo Wings

Bearden Student Earns Solo Wings

Sarah Stanley, a sophomore at Bearden High School, recently completed her first solo flight and is pursuing her pilot’s license. (Submitted photo)

For many high school students, spring is the season to make memories at prom, in a school musical or on the graduation stage. But for a sophomore at Bearden High School, her most memorable achievement came in the air.

On April 16, Sarah Stanley logged her first solo flight, taking off from Island Home Airport in a Cessna 172 and flying for about 15 minutes before returning to the same airport. 

The short journey marked the culmination of a long process. Stanley, 16, got her start in a mechanics program for teenagers that was offered by the Skyranch Youth Aviation Program, in Alcoa. She met a flight instructor through Skyranch, and began taking lessons at the age of 13. 

For her first solo flight, Stanley received a scholarship from the F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, which helped cover the $1,600 cost by matching the funds that Stanely raised by washing planes and babysitting.

Stanley said the most challenging part of flying is the landing, but that her favorite part is the feeling of freedom that comes from being in the air, because “when you’re flying, all that matters is that you’re flying.”

“You don’t have to think about anything else that’s stressing you out or aggravating you … In my mind, it’s just like ‘That’s on the ground.’”

Stanley’s next goal is to earn her pilot’s license, and while she’s leaving her career options open, she hopes to continue flying: “I definitely want to keep doing that for as long as I can.”

According to aviation tradition, flight instructors commemorate a student’s first solo flight by cutting off their shirt tail, indicating that they can fly without direction. In the early days of aviation, instructors guided their students by tugging on the back of their shirts. (Submitted photo)
Farragut Student Chosen As Knoxville Youth Poet Laureate

Farragut Student Chosen As Knoxville Youth Poet Laureate

Melody Dalili, recently chosen as the Knoxville Youth Poet Laureate, said poetry is “a universal language.”

Melody Dalili has been writing poems for years, but she didn’t begin reciting them publicly until a spoken-word performance last August.

Since then, the Farragut High School junior has gotten several opportunities to perform her work, and this month her literary journey led to a groundbreaking honor – recognition as the City of Knoxville’s first Youth Poet Laureate!

Dalili has always loved poetry and has a collection on her phone with more than 250 poems, beginning with pieces that she wrote in the third grade. (Her first? A poem about two rabbits who were in love.)

She credited two sources with boosting her confidence as a writer: co-workers and leaders at The Muse, where she works, and Elizabeth Toth, her advanced creative writing teacher at FHS.

Dalili said she began performing after her manager at the Muse introduced her to an organizer of the SEEED Knoxville poetry slam, who invited her to participate in that event. “I was like ‘No, I love poetry but I would never say it out loud.’ And they said ‘Why don’t you just give it a shot?’”

That performance was last August, and it led to other spoken-word opportunities in the months since. At the same time, Dalili took Toth’s advanced creative writing class last year, and said the ELA teacher has been a constant support by attending her events, helping her craft a speech and staying after school to prepare for the Youth Poet Laureate competition.

“Being a teacher and really making that extra effort for one of your kids was a huge part in my journey here,” she said.

Toth said Dalili’s work is insightful and creative, and that when given a writing prompt during class, she would often ask if she could complete the assignment in poetry. 

“She is definitely immensely talented, she really draws from her own personal experience and her own feelings about people that are important to her and that have shaped her life,” Toth said.

Earlier this month, Dalili and Knoxville Poet Laureate Rhea Carmon shared a poem as part of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon’s budget address, the first of many appearances she will make as a literary ambassador for the city.

Asked why she loves poetry, Dalili said it is a universal language: “Poetry is just something with its arms wide open, and it’s just waiting for people to come in and join and to be united through our language. I really think that it’s just such a privilege to be able to be a part of that and to commemorate that in what I’m doing.”

Video: Watch Melody give a spoken-word performance on the KCS YouTube channel

Twin Sisters Share Academic Honors At Karns

Twin Sisters Share Academic Honors At Karns

Jeanne Seibel (left) and her twin sister, Emily, will be honored as co-valedictorians when the Karns High Class of 2022 graduates on May 27.

Jeanne and Emily Seibel grew up singing together in church, they’ve performed in musical theater productions together at Karns High School and in the fall they’ll attend Freed-Hardeman University together.

  • But before starting the next chapter of their lives, the fraternal twins will be honored together as co-valedictorians of the Karns High Class of 2022!

The achievement caps a stellar academic career for the sisters, who said they have always been best friends even though they aren’t exactly alike.

  • Emily Seibel has an aptitude for math and plans to major in the subject at Freed-Hardeman, while Jeanne Seibel was more inclined toward science and plans to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

And while both are efficient, they agreed that Emily’s highly organized approach to tasks – “I’m a total perfectionist” – is a contrast to Jeanne’s more laid-back style.

We help to bring out each other’s strengths and we complement each other in a lot of ways,” Jeanne said.

“Hopefully we cover up each others’ weaknesses too when we can,” Emily added.

Karns principal Brad Corum said that while the sisters are competitive they also cheer for each other, and described them as good ambassadors for their school.

  • “They’ve always been very good students and more importantly than that, they’re great people,” Corum said.

Emily and Jeanne Seibel, pictured holding childhood photos, said they have always been best friends.