D-B EXCEL among first 15 Tennessee STEM Schools

D-B EXCEL social studies teacher Jay Conkin, left, in February of 2017 helps then-junior Jonothan Hargroves with a lesson. This was at ribbon cutting and open house for its new location.

NASHVILLE — D-B EXCEL in Kingsport is among 15 schools to receive the first Tennessee STEM School designations, announced during a conference in Nashville Tuesday. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, D-B EXCEL for Dobyns-Bennett excellence in a creative environment for learning.

Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen on Tuesday announced the schools, 14 public and one private, received the designation, developed in collaboration with the STEM Leadership Council and the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. It is designed to recognize schools that promote and implement rigorous STEM-related learning opportunities for all students that lead to post-secondary achievement and high-quality careers.

“STEM-related careers are among the fastest growing in Tennessee and right now too many jobs are left unfilled, meaning our graduates are missing valuable opportunities for their futures,” McQueen said in a prepared statement. “I am proud to recognize these fifteen schools as STEM Designation Schools because they are providing students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in high-demand STEM careers in our state.”

D-B EXCEL, the only Northeast Tennessee school on the list, was founded in the fall of 2014. It uses blended learning, a combination of in-person and online instruction. It moved to its new campus in the Press Building downtown, next to the Administrative Support Center, in early 2017 after being co-located with Cora Cox Academy.

"The designation of D-B EXCEL as a Tennessee STEM School is a tremendous honor that is reflective of the innovative STEM instructional practices taking place in KCS," Kingsport City Schools Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said. "To be recognized as a leader in this area is an honor and represents our commitment to providing students pathways to college and career readiness."

Shanna Hensley, principal of D-B EXCEL, was in Nashville to receive the designation. 

"I’m so proud of our students and teachers for their commitment to D-B EXCEL and our vision." Hensley said in a prepared statement. "Working through the STEM Designation Rubric has helped us work toward meeting our school’s vision: Providing an innovative approach to personalized learning. We are excited to receive this designation and look forward to what the future holds for D-B EXCEL." 

Each applicant school was evaluated through a rigorous process. Schools were asked to complete a self-evaluation, participate in interviews and host site visits with the Tennessee STEM Designation review team. The designation rubric included five focus areas: infrastructure; curriculum and instruction; professional development; achievement; and community and posts-secondary partnerships.

As a part of the process, schools were required to submit a plan of action for implementing and sustaining STEM education for the next five years. All K-12 schools serving students in Tennessee, both public and private, were eligible to apply.

STEM in teaching and learning fosters creativity and innovative thinking in all students. It is focused on building critical and creative thinking and analysis skills by addressing how students view and experience the world around them. Strong STEM teaching and learning opportunities rest on inquiry, technology and project-based learning activities and lessons tied to the real world.

For more information about the STEM school designation process or how to implement STEM education, contact Deborah Knoll, manager of advanced manufacturing, information technology and STEM career cluster program manager at Deborah.Knoll@tn.gov.

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