Great Things Happening at Overton High School: A Principals' Perspective

John Overton High School has long prided themselves as excelling in academics, athletics, and the arts.  Certainly this year has been no exception in that tradition.  They have had students competing at the State and National level in VEX Robotics, Science Olympiad, and HOSA.  This spring they swept District 12 with championships in Baseball, Softball, Soccer, and Tennis.  They even had two All-American Marching Band members!  Yet the most amazing accomplishments may have come without any special medals and ribbons.  These accomplishments center around a solid culture of social and emotional learning. To set the scene you must know that John Overton High School is the most diverse school in Tennessee.  Students from 63 different countries speaking over 50 different languages walk the hallways of this school.  In some schools this amount of diversity could be seen as a challenge, but at Overton High School it has been embraced as an asset.  There are two real keys to making this happen.  The first is a staff of caring and competent teachers who reach out to build relationships with students every day.  The other is the structure of Career Academies that support a sense of family.

In the Academy model students are able to select a career academy and pathway that aligns with their interests.  As they progress through school they are able to make more connections between the curriculum that is taught in school and the needs of the adult and business world.  Project-based learning is a cornerstone of this model.  Project-based learning, or PBL, allows students to find ways to apply their learning to real-world scenarios--they have more voice in how they demonstrate mastery of standards while receiving feedback from their teacher, peers, and stakeholders in the community.  Students see more purpose in their learning and stay more engaged.  This level of engagement with students has resulted in significant increases in student attendance while simultaneously decreasing student disciplinary referrals.

This spring John Overton High School hosted a tour of educators from around the nation to learn more about their success in this model.  During this tour many administrators and teachers commented to Overton Executive Principal, Dr. Shuler Pelham, “the students just seem so happy here—they really love their school”.

Overton Student Mohamad Obaid

Last month State Senator Steve Dickerson visited John Overton High School and had the opportunity to meet several students.  During his visit, Overton Senior Mohamad Obaid shared with him “Overton has been the best 4 years of my life.  My academy is like my family—I wake up in the morning and I can’t wait to get to school.  I wasn’t always like this—but my teachers just kept believing in me and telling me what I could do, and eventually I came to see it.  I just love it here!”  Mohamad will graduate this spring and plans to attend college at MTSU where he will major in computer science.