Recognizing that some of the most innovative classroom ideas come from teachers, Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF) created the Teacherpreneur program as a means to annually award seed money to implement or scale the best ideas from teachers. This year’s winner is Dr. Jennifer Love from East Nashville Magnet High School. Her concept bested 11 other finalists to take home the top prize.

Love’s idea is to incorporate a social-emotional learning curriculum for student athletics in an effort to provide increased access to mental health support for high school students. As the first place winner, she earns a $10,000 cash prize, and some additional funding to help her implement her concept as a pilot program.

Second place went to Nathan Fields of Hillsboro High School, whose idea was to increase science engagement by creating a Bio Badge program designed with students that awards badges for completing specific science learning opportunities outside the classroom. An example would be a conservation project-based learning and science gaming opportunity. Bio-Badge Rangers will track progress in their very own Metro Nashville Naturalist Notebook, allowing them to integrate grade-level reading, writing, and math skills into their science learning.

Earning third place was Sarai Ovalle, an 8th-grade teacher at Antioch Middle School, who came up with an idea to increase EL (“English learner”) students in academic magnet schools by adjusting an existing academic screener. A “screener” is a short, informal test given to students in order to determine whether further testing is needed.

NPEF Executive Director Katie Cour told The Tennessee Star, “Teachers are best positioned to drive change in our schools because they see the challenges and opportunities our students face every day in their classrooms. Teacherpreneur gives teachers the chance to help solve some of our toughest challenges and we are so proud of this year’s amazing cohort.”

The NPEF Teacherpreneur project was created last year in an effort to recognize and elevate educators’ voices and harness their expertise, passion, and innovation in developing creative solutions to some of public education’s toughest challenges.

The top three winners were selected by a panel of judges representing a wide spectrum of education and entrepreneurial expertise – Harry Allen, Shani Dowell, Dr. Renita Perry, Courtney Ross, and Dr. Michelle Springer.

In addition to the top three finalists, a community favorite award is given each year. This year, that ward went to Kellee Hill, a White’s Creek High School science teacher, who came up with a program for science teachers that translates and explains STEM words that are not easily accessible to EL students. These would be words, like science terms, that don’t have a translation and are thus confusing for EL students.

The Nashville Public Education Foundation is an education non-profit celebrating its 20th anniversary year. For two decades, NPEF has worked to improve public schools first through fundraising and more recently by supporting teachers and leaders, celebrating success, and advocating for change. Annual events include a dinner honoring inductees into the Nashville Public School Hall of Fame and awarding teachers recognition as Blue Ribbon teachers. It is the policy of the organization to not make a distinction between public charter schools and traditional schools.

In the past, the organization tried to exert pressure on Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), while advocating for specific policies. They paid for the search that led to Dr. Shawn Joseph being hired as MNPS director of Schools. Under the guidance of Cour, they’ve transitioned into more of a support and education role.

The Teacherpreneur program is presented in conjunction with internet retail giant Amazon.

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]. He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photo “A Teacher Reading a Book to a Student” by Adam Winger.