NPEF Names Finalists for “Inspiring Innovation Award”

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The Nashville Public Education Foundation has announced three finalists for its Inspiring Innovation Award:

  • The Educators’ Cooperative
  • Fall-Hamilton Enhanced Option School
  • Plant the Seed

These initiatives were chosen from dozens of applicants for their innovative programs that are moving the needle for public education in Nashville. They were named after a community selection panel interviewed eight semifinalists, determining the top three candidates.

This year’s winner will be announced at the Public Schools Hall of Fame luncheon, presented by First Tennessee, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the Omni Nashville Hotel. The Inspiring Innovation Award was launched in 2016 to recognize individuals, groups or organizations doing particularly innovative work to strengthen and improve outcomes for public school children. The goal of the award is to showcase promising work and help scale and grow the things that show particular promise. The 2017 winner was the Nashville Public Library’s Limitless Libraries – recognized for the first-of-its-kind partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Nashville Public Library. The program is proactively helping combat the classroom book shortage in MNPS by opening the library’s 2 million-item collection to teachers and students.

This year’s Inspiring Innovation Award is presented by Nissan North America, Inc., with the winner receiving a $10,000 grant to scale up and expand programming to reach additional schools and children in the city.

“This award is truly what the NPEF is all about – shining a spotlight on those who are shaking up the status quo and moving the needle for public education in Nashville,” said Shannon Hunt, NPEF president and CEO. “Even in the award’s third year, we continue to be blown away by the strides being made in our community by so many incredible organizations. Each year it gets harder and harder to choose the finalists, but these three really stood out for their bold ideas and ambitious visions for improving education in Nashville.”

The Educators’ Cooperative is a network of teachers across Nashville that supports, collaborates, and develops best practices in teaching and learning. The Cooperative creates the time and space for teachers from a diverse range of schools across all sectors to work together to find solutions to real instructional dilemmas, experience the joy and learning found in the design thinking practice, share their insights and experiences planning together, participate in discussions with local mindfulness-in-education leaders, and create working groups across all school types, disciplines, grades and years of experience. The Educators’ Cooperative is innovating the way teachers collaborate with one another on behalf of all students in Nashville, creating stronger schools and a new avenue for teacher leadership in the process.                                                         

Fall-Hamilton has dramatically changed the way teachers and administrators interact with their students, families and each other, on a daily basis. The school’s trauma-informed practices acknowledge the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that impact a child’s ability to be at their best in the classroom – 60 percent of Nashville’s children have experienced at least one ACE. Fall-Hamilton has created a culture that addresses the social, emotional and academic needs of the entire school community by creating innovative strategies that are emerging international best practices. For example, students needing extra attention are paired with teachers who meet with them at the beginning and end of every school day, each classroom has a “peace corner” to act as a sanctuary for students experiencing turbulent emotions, and teachers have a tap-in/tap-out system that allows them to text a peer when they need a small break during the day, to name only a few. Since implementing these changes, a survey of the students found that 98 percent felt supported and that there is an adult who cares about them at school. These barrier-breaking measures have also translated to real academic improvement, shown in the way Fall-Hamilton outperformed peer schools on the Achievement Network’s English language arts measures in 2016. The work of Fall-Hamilton has been highlighted by Edutopia, National Public Radio, Nashville Public Television and Education Week.  

Plant the Seed transforms public and school gardens in some of Nashville’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, creating outdoor classrooms where students can learn and grow both academically and socially. When students work in one of the organization’s gardens, they experience hands-on learning that also supports their academic curriculum through over 35 seasonally relevant lessons connected to pre-K through second-grade curricular standards. Plant the Seed teaches its students to give back to their community, instilling in them the belief that everyone has a right to fresh, affordable, culturally relevant foods. This organization is a pioneer when it comes to designing and implementing garden-based education into school curriculum, and is providing a truly transformative early educational experience for nearly 1,000 Nashville students.

The Public Schools Hall of Fame, which has become one of the city’s top annual events celebrating public schools, recognizes community leaders who are committed to the advancement of public education in Nashville and raises funds to strengthen and improve public schools. The presenting sponsor of this year’s event is First Tennessee Bank.

Additional supporters for the event include: Adams & Reese LLP; Belmont University; Bone McAllester Norton PLLC; Bridgestone Americas; Michael Carter; Cat Financial; Cigna; Colliers International; Ron Corbin; Dollar General; Education Networks of America; ESa; Jeffrey and Donna Eskind Family Foundation; FirstBank; Jennifer & Billy Frist; HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health; H.G. Hill Realty Company, LLC; Ingram Charities; Lipman Brothers and the R.S. Lipman Company; Lipscomb University; Nashville Electric Service; Neal & Harwell, PLC; Nissan North America, Inc.; Pinnacle Financial Partners; Anne & Joe Russell; Regions Bank; Rogers Group Inc.; The Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation; Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison, PLC; Synovus; Market Street Enterprise; Trauger & Tuke; UBS; UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee; Vanderbilt University; The Enchiridion Foundation.

To purchase tickets, visit or call 615-727-1515. All proceeds support the NPEF’s work to better our public schools.