How the Sabers Stepped Up Their Game, Even After Success

The department works to honor Tennessee teachers every day, but we are especially excited to celebrate educators during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 5-9.

Amy Owen is the director of special projects in the office of the deputy commissioner, but she is also a former Tennessee educator. Here Amy reflects on the colleagues that always pushed her to be better.

By Amy Owen

Amy with her former colleagues at Sunset Middle

It’s natural to want to ease your foot off the gas and coast when things are going well at work or school.  The Tennessee teachers and administrators I appreciate the most do the opposite.  Prior to my time at the department of education, I taught at Sunset Middle School, a Reward School for Performance in 2013, in Williamson County.  Rather than simply touting their students’ achievements and shifting into cruise control, my colleagues at Sunset Middle stepped up their efforts every day to better support students’ academic and behavioral needs.

Sunset teachers utilized a variety of academic strategies to maximize student potential.  From BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) to formative and benchmark assessments, teachers tried new techniques and, more importantly, took the time to reflect on what went well and what to improve for the future.  Not every innovation was an immediate success, but teachers continued to collaborate, refine their practice, and share ways to push students to new heights.

Sunset faculty also sought ways to improve the school climate.  An enthusiastic team of principals, counselors, and teachers led the rollout of the Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports (PBIS) program that encouraged students to show respect, responsibility, and best effort.  To celebrate students’ growth and progress, teachers and parents coordinated a whole-school field day at the end of the year.  It’s not easy to get middle school students to think that anything adults planned is cool, but the contagious excitement of teachers made over 800 pre-teens and teenagers totally buy in.  The final tug-of-war homeroom challenge, complete with teachers and students collapsing on the field in united but exhausted effort, remains one of my favorite Sunset memories.

My colleagues demonstrated the meaning of continuous improvement every day.  The Sunset Middle teachers and leaders created a positive school culture that encouraged adults to devote their own best effort to students.  Students benefited not only from the academic and behavior programs at school, but also from watching their teachers experiment, reflect, collaborate, and grow. My Sunset Middle family still inspires me to find ways to work harder and focus more on what will help Tennessee students every day. Go Sabers!!