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Education Commissioner visits West TN

EDUCATION COMMISSIONER Penny Schwinn speaks to an audience of teachers from Milan and neighboring school districts at the FEMA building in Milan. The Milan Special School District hosted the visit as part of the Tennessee Department of Education’s “Accelerating TN 2021” bus tour across 50 school districts in Tennessee. Photo by Caleb Revill.

Education Commissioner visits West TN for ‘Accelerating TN 2021’ bus tour

By Caleb Revill

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn visited with teachers across several West Tennessee school districts as a part of the “Accelerating TN 2021” bus tour. The Milan Special School District hosted Schwinn’s visit at the Milan FEMA building on Monday, June 21.

According to a press release, the Tennessee Department of Education launched the tour spanning 50 school districts over the course of three weeks with the goal of highlighting summer learning opportunities. 

Following an unprecedented pandemic school year, legislators in the Tennessee General Assembly’s extraordinary legislative session passed the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation  and Student Acceleration Act in January 2021. This act set forward a path for all districts’ current and future summer programming opportunities to benefit students.

Throughout the tour, Commissioner Penny Schwinn, department staff and others met directly with students, educators and stakeholders to learn more about how schools are accelerating student achievement. Just before Schwinn’s visit to Milan, teachers from Milan and some neighboring school districts participated in an early literacy training that included updates to the curriculum.

“One of the things that I really care about is making sure that every child can read,” Schwinn said. “I did not think that we would have a full house this summer after the year that you all have had, I genuinely didn’t. I was hopeful that we would have a lot of folks who would be interested, but it’s been a really hard year for everybody.”

Schwinn spoke to the resilience displayed by teachers during an especially difficult year, and the teachers who participated in summer training.

PERSONABLE CONVERSATIONS – Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn speaks with two teachers participating in summer training at the FEMA building in Milan Monday, June 21. Schwinn took the time to speak one-on-one with teachers all around the room to answer questions and hear concerns. Photo by Caleb Revill.

“We love kids, and it looked different (this year) and you all changed on a dime … I think about when my team saw this, I cried a little because it just shows that you all care so much. I’ve got two kids that are in public schools right now, and their teachers are in summer training. It feels like the biggest moment of pride for me, not for what we’ve done as a state, but for how proud we are for what you all have accomplished and that you continue to be committed to children.”

Looking ahead, Schwinn sees a bright future for Tennessee education and expressed her appreciation for educators across the state participating in summer training.

“I do believe that we will be so much better off on the other side of this, and I believe that our state will be leading the country in what it means to teach children how to read,” Schwinn said. “That’s because, even after this year, you all are here this summer for summer school and you’re doing the work because of your love of children. More as a mom, plus as a commissioner, I am very, very grateful.”

After addressing the educators, Schwinn traversed the room and took time to speak with teachers about any questions or concerns they may have had.

MSSD Superintendent Jonathan Criswell commented on the commissioner’s visit to Milan.

“We are honored to host Commissioner Schwinn and her team on their Accelerating TN 2021 Tour,” Criswell said. “Commissioner Schwinn had the opportunity to see our district’s continued investment in foundational literacy training. We are thankful for what the Commissioner and her team do at the state level as we unite across the state to ensure all students are provided the best education possible.”

Some planned highlights of the Accelerating TN 2021 bus tour include visits to the Summer Learning Camps and After-School STREAM Mini-Camps, as well as the Reading 360 Early Reading Training. Additionally, on numerous visits, the Commissioner and guests will partake in district leadership roundtables discussing federal stimulus investments as well as events highlighting state, regional or district work.

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