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.