By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools
Gifts during the holiday season come in many shapes and sizes—some are expensive, some are priceless; some are store-bought, some are handmade—but the most important thing to focus on is giving meaningful, powerful gifts that will instill joy and positive memories for a lifetime. It makes me so proud and excited to think about the gifts we give students in the Knox County Schools every day in the form of time and education—these gifts help foster a life full of hope and opportunity.
At several of the past community events I’ve attended, it is evident how much support the Knox County Schools receives from our community partners. Our district is more capable of preparing our students for a bright future when we benefit from the gifts, talents, resources, and support of our broader community and all the stakeholders within it. Every day, thousands of volunteers enter our schools to provide enrichment opportunities, read with students, assist in providing tutoring, help teachers, coach athletic teams, and chaperone field trips. Our teachers work extremely hard before, during and after school to nurture and care for our community’s children as they learn and grow. Our KCS team gives so much of their personal time to our students and schools, it is no wonder we are seeing such positive growth in so many areas.
Beyond the traditional classroom instruction, the introduction of personalized learning through the use of technology has caused significant enhancements in the academic environment. Today, most trade or manufacturing jobs have a digital component and it is becoming increasingly more obvious education must go beyond memorizing facts and vocabulary words. We must teach students about thinking critically to solve complex problems while working as a team. Personalized learning through the use of technology prepares students for their futures in this increasingly digital world. But personalized learning is more than just technology. It is about focusing on the specific learning and support needs of each of our more than 58,000 students to ensure they are academically successful, college and career ready, economically competitive and personally fulfilled.
Not only are we continuously working to provide the right academic tools for success to our students, we are constantly reminded of the need to focus on the whole child in order to ensure that success extends beyond the classroom. The Knox County Schools now has 12 Community Schools. These schools are used as a hub for organizing community resources to address the factors that influence community health and quality of life, such as educational attainment, economic vibrancy, crime, physical safety, social connectedness, and community involvement. Research indicates that the benefits of a Community School include improved student learning, health, and attendance; stronger family engagement; an improved school climate; and safer neighborhoods.
Reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next, I am thrilled that the Knox County Schools is positively affecting the larger community by engaging families, nurturing children and serving neighborhoods. Our continual focus is that every student will have the opportunity to successfully reach their highest potential, regardless of whatever challenging circumstances they may face. By giving of time, bringing personalized instruction to the classroom, and equipping children for bright and successful futures, we are making positive impacts on this and surrounding communities. The Knox County Schools is cultivating our greatest resource, our future leaders and decision makers, our future parents and stakeholders. The growth and benefits our community will see because of the success of students in the Knox County Schools is truly a gift that keeps on giving.