Meet the fourth class of Governor’s Academy for Leadership fellows

On January 25, aspiring principals from across the state will begin their one-year fellowship in the fourth Governor’s Academy for School Leadership (GASL). First announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in late 2013, GASL is a partnership between the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and local school districts to build a pipeline of highly-trained school principals to ultimately improve school effectiveness and support educational opportunities for all students. In addition to training sessions one weekend a month and a week-long summer institute at Vanderbilt, participants have been paired with an experienced principal mentor and will intern three days a month at his/her mentor’s school. Upon completion of the academy, participants will be expected to pursue placement as a school principal in their district or region.

We are proud to introduce the fourth class of GASL fellows!

Jessica Bigham

Jessica Bigham works as the assistant principal at Mayfield Elementary in the Cleveland City Schools district. She has an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction and is less than 3 months away from her final dissertation defense to earn an Ed.D. Her topic of research is early literacy and the Read to Be Ready program, which was launched in Tennessee in 2016. She has successfully written grants for the Read to Be Ready summer camp program to be hosted three times at her home school. In addition to being enrolled full-time in her graduate program at Liberty University, she is a mother to three amazing kids. Jessica credits her extra energy to her youngest son, Maverick, who keeps her on her toes.


Tara Brooks

For the past 24 years, Tera Brooks has proudly served the Putnam County School System in various roles including elementary school teacher, county-wide gifted specialist, and most recently, assistant principal at Northeast Elementary. She earned a B.S. in elementary education and an M.Ed. in instructional leadership from Tennessee Technological University. TTU holds a special place in her heart, as it is where she met her husband, Sam, and where her first born son, Will, currently attends and serves as a student athlete. Some recent accomplishments include being chosen as an Innovative Educator in the Innovative Educator Network, as well as serving in the 2017-2018 Innovative Leaders Institute. Being a part of these groups, combined with her love of creating valuable experiences for students, inspired her to aid in the development of a STEM Curriculum at NES. Her greatest accomplishment will always be her family. She has been married to Sam for 24 years and is blessed with two children: Will (20) and Halle (13).


Trina Bruns

Trina Bruns is the assistant principal of Pond Gap Elementary, in Knox County. She holds a B.S. in education/intervention sepecialist and a graduate certificate in autism spectrum disorders from Bowling Green State University. She also holds an M.Ed. in educational administration from Grand Canyon University. Trina’s professional accomplishments include working with a collaborative team at Pond Gap that has significantly reduced office referrals (40%) and suspension rates (65%). Trina’s personal accomplishments this past year include completing several races (including Cades Cove and Austin half marathons), as well as exploring over ten states and two countries.


Shannon Bryant

Ms. Shannon Bryant has been proudly serving as assistant principal at Montgomery Central Middle School in the Clarksville Montgomery County School System since 2006. She also served as assistant principal at Montgomery Central High School and Cheatham County Central High School and taught biology at Northeast High School, where she started the girls’ soccer program. She received her B.S. in biology with certification to teach, an M.Ed. in administration and supervision, and an Ed.S. in educational leadership from Austin Peay State University. Shannon completed advanced leadership training for assistant principals in 2016 and works closely with science teachers at her school to implement new science standards and plan for effective instruction. Travel is a passion of hers and she will be visiting at least nine countries in 2019. Sharing adventures with her two daughters is at the top of her favorite things list. Mission work and volunteering to help those less fortunate are also areas of focus for Shannon. She is excited about the opportunity to serve as a GASL fellow.


Aaron Christian

M. Aaron Christian is currently the assistant principal at Boones Creek Elementary School in Washington County. He holds a B.B.A. in corporate finance from East Tennessee State University and an M.S. in education administration from the University of Tennessee. Aaron is the proud father of two sons, Luke (6) and Levi (2). He recently completed facilitator training for the Artisan Teacher, Dr. Mike Rutherford’s feedback and coaching lab training. Aaron is also a U.S. Army Gold Star Family member. His younger brother, SSG Rusty Christian of the U.S. Army Special Forces, was KIA in 2010.


Rachel Cook

Rachel Cook currently serves as assistant principal at West Elementary in Wilson County. Rachel grew up in Wilson County and enjoys serving in the community that she loves. She holds an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from Middle Tennessee State University, an Ed.S. in education leadership from Lipscomb University, and is currently completing an Ed.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from East Tennessee State University. One of Rachel’s greatest accomplishments is helping to lead West Elementary from a level one school to a level five reward school. Rachel is incredibly proud to serve as an educator in Tennessee!


Farrah F. Cope

Farrah Fite Cope is in her fifth year as assistant principal at Austin Peay Elementary School in the Tipton County School District. She has a B.S. in education in integrative studies (K-8) from the University of Memphis, an M.S. in education administration and supervision from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and an Ed.D. in instruction and curriculum leadership from the University of Memphis. She is married and has an eight-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.


Matt Cowan

Matt Cowan is an assistant principal at Aspire Hanley Middle School in Memphis. He has taught 6th and 8th grade humanities and was recently promoted to assistant principal of student services, which makes him responsible for student discipline and school culture. Matt earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis in business administration. Shortly after graduating, he applied for Memphis Teacher Residency and earned a master’s in urban education. During his last year teaching, 80% of Matt’s student grew a least 1.5 years on reading MAP. His school TVAAS went from a level one to a level five within the first year of a new administration. In his first year as an assistant principal, he also decreased the student suspension rate by 8%.


Kyle R. Craighead

Kyle Craighead is an assistant principal at White House High School in Sumner County. He is in his first year in administration after teaching science classes at Gallatin High School and Merrol Hyde Magnet School, both in Sumner County. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Lipscomb University in biology education and educational leadership, respectively. The professional accomplishment of which Kyle is most proud is implementing common formative assessments at Gallatin High School using the framework of John Hattie’s Visible Learning. His most recent accomplishment is restructuring the way professional learning communities are used at White House High School by creating a PLC/classroom walkthrough monthly cycle.


Christopher Enix

Christopher Enix has worked at both Lake City Elementary and Lake City Middle Schools in the Anderson County School District. He earned his B.S., M.A., and Ed.S. degrees at Tennessee Technological University. Christopher is married to his high school sweetheart, Charity, who is also a teacher. They have two children, Luke and Noahlynn, and both are deeply committed to serving their community in Rocky Top. Christopher is also the bi-vocational student pastor at Clinch River Church in Rocky Top.


Ben Foust

Ben Foust is an assistant principal at Campbell County High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree and Ed.S. from Lincoln Memorial University and earned his master’s degree from Union College. Before becoming an assistant principal, he explored innovative programs and solutions that resulted in more productive outcomes for Campbell County School Systems. One program is the Blended Learning Academy that currently serves students who are unable to attend school, allowing them to remain enrolled and succeed. After realizing that some students were not able to finish their diploma, Ben developed the Second Chance Diploma Program, which has had a 96% success rate. Ben also served as head teacher of Campbell County’s GAP program, which serves seniors who confront a wide range of obstacles and distractions. Campbell County High School was able to see its graduation rate increase from 77% to 94% between 2011 and 2015 under Ben’s guidance.


Mark Gonyea

Dr. Mark J. Gonyea works in Rutherford County Schools as an assistant principal for Smyrna Primary School. Mark joined the administrative team last year and previously spent 23 years in the classroom teaching everything from 7th grade math to senior AP calculus and AP computer science. He has had multiple works published in bio-med and robotics journals, as well as writing computer science curriculum that has been published on teachengineering.com. Mark has been a high school wrestling coach for 20 years and coached soccer for six years. He also serves as the Rutherford County safety coach in charge of wrestling and soccer.


Derica Griggs

Derica Griggs is the assistant principal at Napier Elementary. She has worked in the Metro Nashville Public Schools system as an elementary school teacher and now administrator. Derica earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s and doctorate degrees in administration and supervision from Tennessee State University. She loves working with both students and teachers and is honored to serve as the assistant principal at Napier where she taught earlier in her career. At Napier, Derica has helped launch two new curricula, reduce student suspension rates, and remove Napier Elementary from the priority list. She is excited to have been selected as a GASL Fellow and is looking forward to the experience.


Theowauna Hatchett

Dr. Theowauna Hatchett has more than 11 years of experience as a special education teacher, school administrator, and strategic planner. A graduate of Rutherford County Schools, she is excited to serve the families and students within her home district. Theowauna holds a B.A. from Maryville College, an M.Ed. from Middle Tennessee State University, an instructional leadership license from Bethel University, and an Ed.D. from Lipscomb University. She has served as the assistant principal for Stewarts Creek High School and is now the head principal at Smyrna Middle School. She has helped launch an attendance policy for combatting chronic absenteeism, a teacher mentoring program, and an instructional team to support their special education population. Theowauna is looking forward to collaborating with other administrators to address the challenges impacting student success.


Lain Hinson

Lain Hinson is an assistant principal at Summertown Elementary in Lawrence County. He is currently scheduled to complete his Ed.S. in school leadership at MTSU in the Spring of 2019. He is married to his wife, Ally, and together they have a son, Ezra, and are expecting their daughter, Poppy, in April of 2019.


Michelle Howell

Michelle Howell is an assistant principal at Bolivar Elementary School in the Hardeman County School District. She received a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Union University and a Master of Arts in instructional leadership from Bethel University. Her accomplishments include being accepted into the GASL program, becoming a great aunt to a precious little girl, and starting a successful family apparel business. She enjoys being able to lead teachers and showing love to children to help them grow socially, emotionally, and academically.


Jamelie Johns

Jamelie Johns served as the assistant principal at Nolan Elementary in Hamilton County. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and her education specialist degree from Tennessee Technological University. She is currently working on her doctorate at Carson Newman University and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Jamelie has served as the elementary math and science director for her district and as a math coach. Recently, she collaborated with a group of math educators from across the state in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education to create documents that help teachers better understand the standards. Jamelie has a two-year-old daughter and loves spending time with her family.


Kaytee Jones

Kaytee Jones is the assistant principal of Fairmont Elementary in Johnson City Schools. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and recently recieved her Ed.S. from Lincoln Memorial University. Kaytee began her teaching career at Cedar Bluff Elementary with Knox County Schools. She taught first grade for six years, served as the grade level chair, and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2010. The following year she moved to Johnson City where she taught first, third, and fourth grades at North Side Elementary. She has collaborated with teachers, coaches, and principals throughout the state as a TN Core Coach and a content coach for Instruction Partners. Kaytee is elated to be part of GASL.


Kyle Loudermilk

Dr. Kyle Loudermilk is an associate principal at John Sevier Middle School in Kingsport City Schools. Dr. Loudermilk is currently in his fifth year of administration. Prior to joining KCS, Dr. Loudermilk worked in the First CORE region as a data analyst. He began his career in education as a fifth grade teacher with Sullivan County Schools. Dr. Loudermilk holds a B.S. from East Tennessee State University, an M.A. from Union College, an Ed.S. from Lincoln Memorial University, and an Ed.D. from ETSU. Dr. Loudermilk helped support the creation of Warrior Academy, a behavior intervention program. Dr. Loudermilk and his wife Julie (also a teacher) are blessed with two wonderful daughters and enjoy spending family time together.


Nancy Parker

Nancy Parker is the assistant principal at Sullivan South High School in Sullivan County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida, master’s degree in educational leadership from East Tennessee State University, and is currently pursuing her doctorate at Milligan College.


Jessica Rittenhouse

Jessica Rittenhouse is in her second year as assistant principal at Cherokee Middle School in Kingston. She holds a B.S. in Bible and teaching English as a second language from Johnson Bible College, an M.A. in teacher education from Johnson University, and an Ed.S. in instructional leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. In addition, she is currently working on her Ed.D. at Lincoln Memorial University. Three accomplishments or events for which is she is most thankful are her acceptance into the GASL program, her journey through the doctoral program, and the strong relationships built along the path that she travels. She desires to serve, lead, and do all things for God’s glory.  


Amber Ryan

Amber Ryan works at Dorothy and Noble Harrelson School in Henry County. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in middle school education. Professionally, she recently lead a school-wide implementation of RTI2-Behavior (PreK-8th grade). In addition, Amber is very excited to have been chosen as a GASL fellow. Personally, she is most proud of her three children: Liam (age 9), Lillian (age 6), and Anne Elizabeth (age 4).  


Trikelle Salvant

Trikelle Salvant is the assistant principal at Germanshire Elementary School in the Shelby County School District in Memphis. She received her B.A. from Southern University at New Orleans, her M.A. from the University of Northern Iowa, and her Ed.S. from Union University. She has 23 years of experience as a teacher, instructional facilitator, professional learning coach, and a program manager of a district-wide teacher incentive program. She was instrumental in developing and implementing Memphis City Schools’ first teacher incentive program based on teacher effectiveness and student growth. Trikelle finds her highest level of professional success when she has the ability to work directly with students and teachers. She is the proud parent of a son, Mr. Terry J. Salvant, III.  


Meghen Sanders

Dr. Meghen Sanders is the principal of the Academy of Entertainment Management at Pearl-Cohn High School in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Dr. Sanders earned her B.A. in English education from Wright State Uniersity in Dayton, Ohio, and her M.Ed. and Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Sanders is a second year principal resident in the MNPS Principal Residency Pipeline program, and the Academies of Nashville recognized her with the 2018 Academy Assistant Principal of the Year Award. Dr. Sanders is passionate about school transformation, and she spends her free time chasing her two-year-old twins, Adeline and Bryson.   


Trae Weiss, III

Dr. Trae Weiss is in his first year as an assistant principal at Dickson County High School in the Dickson County school system. He earned his B.S. in exercise science, M.A.T., and Ed.D. in leadership and professional practice at Trevecca University. Dr. Weiss taught at Independence High School in Williamson County for four years before becoming the assistant principal at Dickson County High School.


Jed West

Jed West serves is an assistant principal over the career and technical education programs at Heritage High School in Blount County. Jed holds a B.A. from Maryville College and M.S. and Ed.S. degrees from Lincoln Memorial University. He worked as a social studies teacher at Heritage Middle School before serving as a part-time assistant principal and part-time social studies teacher there. In 2013, Jed became the principal at Walland Elementary School, where they were recognized by Blount County Schools with an award for Excellence in Instructional Leadership. In 2016, Jed became an assistant principal at Heritage. Since then, the Heritage CTE programs have grown post-secondary opportunities to include all 28 program areas. Jed lives in Maryville with his wife, Kacie, and their three children. 


Brandye A. Williams

Brandye A. Williams is a native Memphian and a graduate of Craigment High School in Memphis. Ms. Williams serves as the assistant principal of Downtown Elementary,in the Shelby County School District. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human ecology and a master’s degree in child development from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and an educational specialist degree from Union University. She is most proud of being accepted to represent Shelby County in the GASL program, successfully completing a professional development program for the educational assistants at Downtown Elementary, and most importantly, being a mom to a beautiful 10-year-old little girl.