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.
Hardin Valley Academy Celebrates Future Teachers

Hardin Valley Academy Celebrates Future Teachers

Hardin Valley Academy senior Amaya Martin, who plans to become a teacher, celebrates at a college signing ceremony with her mother, Tiffany Martin; former teacher Suzanne Sherman; and her father, Chris Martin.

Hardin Valley Academy held a college signing ceremony on Monday – to celebrate a group of future educators!

The event celebrated 10 HVA seniors who are planning to return to the classroom as educators when they graduate from college.

  • Amaya Martin, who will attend Middle Tennessee State University, participated with her parents, Chris and Tiffany Martin, along with former teacher and school librarian Suzanne Sherman.

Martin said her former teacher made sure that students were always heard, and during a lesson on children’s literature she incorporated a book that featured a Black family – helping Martin feel that she was represented. “That really stuck with me,” she said.

  • Knox County Schools has made it a priority to identify and support high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in education. In some cases, college students who participate in the district’s “Grow Your Own” program can receive a salary, health care and credit toward retirement while completing their college degree.

Hope Johnson – whose mother, Maria Johnson, is a former teacher – is planning to attend Tennessee Tech, and has already spent many hours in the classroom as part of the district’s Teaching as a Profession program.

The HVA student particularly enjoyed working with elementary students, because they are just starting to learn how the world works and where they fit in:  “It’s so cool to be the avenue that opens that up for them.”

During a ceremony on April 11, HVA student Hope Johnson and her mother, Maria, celebrated Hope’s decision to attend Tennessee Tech.

Fundraising effort helps Karns students take AP exams

Fundraising effort helps Karns students take AP exams

Karns teacher B.J. Arvin and junior Lyndsey Dodge helped raise funds to offset the cost of Advanced Placement exams at the school.

A fundraising effort at Karns High School is working to broaden access to Advanced Placement classes. 

The initiative was sparked last year, when social studies teacher B.J. Arvin heard about a Karns student who had completed an AP class, but chose not to take the exam because of the cost. 

When he learned of the situation, Arvin recalled later, he thought to himself “We’re not going to have this happen again.”

The result was a fundraising campaign which led to:

  • A $1,500 donation from TVA Employees Credit Union;
  • A $500 grant from the Junior League of Knoxville; and
  • A Homecoming campaign by KHS junior Lyndsey Dodge, which netted $750.

Dodge sold items including hair ties and bracelets as part of her campaign, and has also taken several AP classes during her academic career.

While the classes are more rigorous than a standard high school course, a good score on the AP exam can lead to college credit for high school students.

  • I know how beneficial AP programs can be for college and for peoples’ future,” Dodge said. “So I figured I would help out.”

AP exams cost $96, although discounts – at a price of $62 – are available for students in financial need. But Arvin pointed out that many students take multiple AP classes in a year, and the testing costs can add up.

He said that in his AP Human Geography class, every student was able to take the test this year, and another fundraising campaign is planned for next year’s Homecoming.

  • “The ultimate goal is we do this for a few years, word gets out, and then we start getting kids who maybe wouldn’t normally take an AP class because of the financial aspect of it – they start enrolling.”

Gibbs Students Earn DECA Honors

Gibbs Students Earn DECA Honors

Gibbs High School teacher LeeAnne Kepper, freshman Mary Anne Cooper and senior Sidney Vass helped the school’s DECA Club gain national recognition this year.

A campaign to promote Career and Technical Education (CTE) helped students at Gibbs High School earn some national recognition in recent weeks.

The school’s DECA club — which prepares students for business-oriented careers — was the only one in Tennessee to earn the DECA Advocacy Award, in honor of a promotional campaign to highlight the value of CTE programs. The campaign included:

  • Digital marketing on the school’s electronic marquee;
  • Social media marketing;
  • Interviews with CTE teachers; and
  • Promotional messages on the school’s morning announcements.

Sidney Vass, the club’s president and a senior at Gibbs, said it’s important for students to find activities they’re passionate about, and that the club has helped her make new friends.

  • DECA’s helped me reach out to other people and experience a whole new, different world — finding other people that are passionate about wanting to help people and also go into the marketing field or the business field.”

The Eagles also gained recognition for their Chapter Campaign and took steps to boost school spirit this year, including a Valentine’s promotion that provided candy to faculty and staff, and a carnation sale — in partnership with the Future Business Leaders of America — which benefited cystic fibrosis philanthropy.

9th-grader Mary Anne Cooper said it can be hard for students to find their place in high school, but DECA helped her make connections.

  • “I’ve met a lot of really diverse, different people in our group. It’s not just like one grade, it’s not just centered around one certain group of people … I’ve gotten to meet all kinds of different people that I wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise.”

Students do not have to enroll in marketing classes to join DECA, and teacher LeeAnne Kepper said she tries to emphasize that students can participate in the club while also participating in other activities such as sports or dance.

Kepper said she is also proud of the efforts club members make to show kindness and to reach out, adding that “We just have a lot of fun.”

A-E Educator Receives National Teaching Award

A-E Educator Receives National Teaching Award

Melody Hawkins, an assistant administrator at Austin-East Magnet High, was honored on Tuesday as the National University Teacher of the Year. (Photo credit / Justin Johnson)

A Knox County educator was in the spotlight after earning a national award, a $50,000 prize and an appearance on a daytime talk show!

On Tuesday, Melody Hawkins, an assistant administrator at Austin-East Magnet High, was recognized as National University’s Teacher of the Year. Hawkins previously served as a teacher at Vine Middle Magnet School, before joining A-E as an administrator last fall.

The announcement was made on “The Drew Barrymore Show”, and Hawkins was able to celebrate with her students after watching the episode in a classroom at A-E.

In the televised interview, Hawkins talked about her passion for teaching, the lasting impact of a former student, and the influence of educators in her own life – including her mother, who was also a teacher.

During the celebration at Austin-East, Hawkins showed students the replica $50,000 check that she received, and highlighted a scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree which is part of the award.

Lazaire Nance, a 9th-grader at A-E who was previously one of Hawkins’ science students at Vine Middle, said she wants to pursue a career as a doctor and a biochemist, adding that Hawkins has played a big role in her life: “She really inspired me to be who I want to be and let me know I could do it.”

Students also talked about Hawkins’ encouragement to pursue academic achievements in fields like science, where women of color are often underrepresented.

Hawkins said Tuesday that she was happy to see students have been listening to that message: “I encourage them to be themselves unapologetically, without question, without shame,” she said. “Be who you are, show up as who you are and everything else will take care of itself.”

Fulton Courses Give Insight Into Criminal Justice Careers

Fulton Courses Give Insight Into Criminal Justice Careers

Caleb Andrist, who helped launch a Criminal Justice curriculum at Fulton High School,
gives students instruction on how to make an arrest.

As the City of Knoxville builds a $57 million Public Safety Complex in North Knoxville, the facility is expected to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students in a new criminal justice program at Fulton High School.

The program is led by teacher Caleb Andrist, a former law enforcement officer with agencies including the Brentwood Police Department. Three courses are currently offered:

  • Level 1, an introductory course that focuses on policing, the courts and corrections;
  • Level 2, a hands-on course that covers topics including handcuffing, traffic stops and vehicle searches; and
  • Level 3, a forensic science course.

Eventually, students who complete all three courses will be able to enroll in a work-based learning course in partnership with the Knoxville Police Department, which will move its headquarters to the new Public Safety Complex when construction is finished.

  • “When you’re talking about any high school anywhere in America, getting kids to a work-based learning opportunity in criminal justice is going to be difficult,” said Jonathan Egert, principal of the Skilled Professions Small Learning Community at Fulton. “For us, it’s a crossing of the street when that KPD office is open.”

On a recent afternoon, Andrist walked students through the basics of using handcuffs in an arrest situation, then gave pointers as they took turns practicing.

And while issues related to policing can be challenging, Andrist said in an interview that he doesn’t shy away from “the hard stuff”, and that approach builds trust within the classroom.

  • “If there’s a bad situation in police work we will absolutely talk about that, just as much as we’ll talk about the good stuff. And the kids see that and they know that, and that’s where that trust comes from.”

The approach appears to be paying dividends. Egert said there is a buzz around the program among students, who are seeing a different side of policing than they get on social media.

Alayna Roberson, a Fulton senior who is hoping to study criminology, said Andrist has a way of making the material interesting, and that she has enjoyed the class a lot.

“It made me want to know why people do what they do.”