Nashville, TN

Nonprofit Names 2023 Public Schools Hall of Fame Award Recipients

Advocate Andy

Honorees include educators and organizations making a difference in public education in Nashville

The Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF) has announced the winners of the 2023 Public Schools Hall of Fame awards. The winners include both educators and organizations making a positive impact on Nashville public schools.

This year's honorees include Inspiring Educators Dr. Jessica Abarquez-New and Lauren Binkley, Inspiring Innovation Honorees Voces de Nashville and Water Walkers, and Inspiring Leader Dr. Brian Mells.

“We are inspired by these change agents who dedicate their service and hard work to creating a lasting impact for our students,” said Katie Cour, Nashville Public Education Foundation, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “Each of these honorees works tirelessly to ensure our students can thrive in our public schools every day.” 

More on the award recipients:

Dr. Brian Mells, principal of Whites Creek High School, will be named as the 2023 Inspiring Leader. Under Mells’ leadership, graduation rates and ACT scores have increased and, for the first time in Whites Creek’s history, the school received an overall growth rating of Level 5 from the Tennessee Department of Education, which is the highest rating a school can receive.

Dr. Jessica Abarquez-New, a lead teacher for the Academy of Health and Hospitality and teacher for English Language learners at Glencliff High School. Jessica has worked in Metro Nashville Public Schools for 13 years. Prior to her current role, she served as an English tutor, long term substitute, interim English teacher and former tennis coach at Glencliff High School. She is also a Teacher of the Year award winner. Jessica serves as the co-creator and ongoing leader of the COLT Team program which pairs new educators with advisors to foster professional growth and support in the field.
Lauren Binkley, a teacher for English Language learners at Eagle View Elementary School. She worked in Metro Nashville Public Schools for 15 years, focusing on culturally responsive practice, rigor, and equity. Lauren is an MNPS Blue Ribbon Teacher and two-time Teacher of the Year award winner. She has served in leadership roles in the district and the state, including as a Tennessee SCORE Educator Fellow and as a Center for Strategic Leadership SEED Fellow in Educational Leadership.

Organizational winners are:

Voces de Nashville, a member-owned cooperative that trains Latina community members to teach Spanish classes to adults. MNPS faculty and staff can learn Spanish from student’s family members and parents. Founded for women by women, the organization aims to unite Nashville’s multicultural communities through language learning to empower women with the tools to teach their home languages and cultures.

Water Walkers, a watersports and adventure-based youth tutoring and mentoring program. The organization has expanded their outdoor adventure activities while also addressing the needs for basic necessities, academic support and tutoring, managing a leadership development program for older teens, and collaborating with a behavioral health agency to provide counseling services.
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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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