This summer, KCS received news that the district has been chosen as a recipient of the U.S. DOD’s ESGR 2023 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
Representatives of KCS, including Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk and Interim Assistant Superintendent of Business and Talent Jennifer Hemmelgarn, traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to be formally recognized and accept the award at the Pentagon.
The individual who nominated KCS for the award is a Hardin Valley Academy social studies teacher and a Major in the Tennessee Army National Guard.
Mjr. Michael Hicks has “taught for 10 years in Knox County Schools and have been placed on orders or had extensive drill weekends multiple times,” he said. “They have given me and my family 100% support while serving my country and are very deserving of Employer Support Freedom Award recognition.”
Dr. J.D. Faulconer, now the principal at Kelley Volunteer Academy, previously worked as a CTE specialist who oversaw the JROTC programs in the district.
Faulconer believes that hiring military members is a mutually beneficial relationship. Reservists and Guardsmen receive support from the district, and the schools receive highly skilled teachers.
“They want to be a servant leader, they know how to work as a team, and they know what collaboration looks like,” he said. “They know what grit and determination and resiliency look like in the classroom, and right now that’s what our teachers need. I think that’s what Mjr. Hicks brings to the table, and I think that’s what a lot of our veterans bring to the table.”
The ESGR, or Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve office, states the Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers for their support of Guardsmen and Reservists.
Only 15 employers are chosen out of thousands of applicants each year, and KCS is the only school district to earn the distinction this year.
“If we have veterans coming out of military service and looking to continue to make an impact and they are working for a school district that is now known to support Guard members and Reservists, I think it’s a win-win for being able to recruit,” Faulconer said. “And not only recruit but retain wonderful educators.”