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VOL. 38 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 10, 2014

Goodpasture celebrates 50th anniversary

By Hollie Deese

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Aijalon Carter, 15, still remembers her first day as a timid 3-year-old at Goodpasture Christian School. Crying and scared, she was greeted by Miss Jill, her new preschool teacher and immediately felt better.

“Miss Jill made it so welcoming for me,” says Carter, now a high school sophomore. “She is still my favorite teacher to this day. But I have built many relationships here, not only with students but teachers as well.”

While Miss Jill Moles is still at the school, there are many things that have changed in the 12 years since Carter started as a toddler. In fact, about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Madison school has quietly evolved over the years, becoming an academic standout.

“We have added a lot of AP classes and dual enrollment [courses that earn college credit while in high school], so for students who want a more rigorous, challenging, educational environment, they are leaving us with 20, 30 – some even have nearly 40 college hours,” says school president Ricky Perry.

“One recent graduate who was accepted to the law school at Belmont received a scholarship to finish her law degree there, but finished her undergrad in a little under three years.”

In the last five or six years, 100 percent of the graduates have gone on to attend college. Last year was a standout year for the school in terms of scholarships, and the record 101 graduates received a combined total of $7.5 million in scholarships. That is an average of about $75,000 for each student.

“We had a lot of happy parents last year,” Perry says.

Goodpasture was founded in 1965, and was originally called East Nashville Christian School. It was renamed just three years later to honor the preacher and writer Benton Cordell Goodpasture, a graduate of Nashville Bible School, now Lipscomb University.

The school started with about 150 students in grades 1-6. Today, there are nearly 1,000 students, faculty and staff covering preschool through high school. There are currently about 200 students who are children of alumni, with many families in the schools’ history heavily involved in the country music industry.

Sophomore Aijalon Carter, right, with Goodpasture students Tatum Fox, a junior, and Jordan Goff, senior, says the school is like a big family.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Goodpasture Christian School

“We have had the children of Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Roy Orbison and several others,” Perry recalls. “Kitty Wells’ grandchildren have been a part of the school.

“We have had a natural affinity to the country music scene, and not just the performers. The people who produce, the people who write. (Country singer) Thomas Rhett is one former student who brings that forward, and his mother teaches here.”

Academics a priority

Goodpasture has a rigorous curriculum with each grade’s academics carefully planned to fully prepare students for the next grade up to graduation.

Elementary students have numerous rotation classes, including art, music, STEM lab, Mandarin Chinese, technology lab, PE, and library/research, as well as introductory Spanish.

“Our kids actually love it,” says Dianne H. Sturdivant, academic superintendent, of the advanced studies. “They love being introduced to Mandarin, which is the No. 1 spoken language in the world. A lot of our students will end up going into some sort of international career, and we feel it is great to at least expose them to that so they are familiar with the language.”

Because of the school’s dual enrollment and AP [Advanced Placement] programs, students have an opportunity to earn up to 45 hours of college credit before they even graduation. Last year, Sturdivant says the senior class earned 392 hours of college credit.

Sturdivant says the school is moving more toward dual enrollment as opposed to AP, which requires an exam. “We have a high success rate on the test for all the AP courses that we teach, but dual enrollment means guaranteed college credit and you are actually being taught by college professors,” she explains.

Another benefit is advanced degrees for staff in order to teach at a college level.

“Then they can act as an adjunct professor for that university, and we have chosen to do that as much as we can so that our own faculty are adjunct professors for Lipscomb University,” Sturdivant says.

Jordan Goff, 17, a senior who transferred to Goodpasture last year, says he was blown away by how much tougher academics were at his new school. He had been attending a small public school, Riverside in West Tennessee, when his father took a job coaching football and baseball at Goodpasture.

“The academics for me have been a big, big change,” Goff says. “Last year, in the first nine weeks I got smacked in the face with my progress report. My first grade in English was like an 82, and I wasn’t used to making those grades. I was usually one of the smarter kids in public school. But it challenged me, forced me to work harder. I didn’t realize how much I could work, and how much homework I could get done - what studying really was.”

Goff ended up taking an AP US History class last year, and dual-enrollment composition writing. This year he is in dual-enrollment speech and dual-enrollment literature and will have 15 college hours and more confidence.

“I loved the composition writing,” Goff says. “Of course it was tough when I was in there, but if I hadn’t taken that I would still have no idea how to write. But I ended up doing really, really well and ended up getting the class award for it. I ended up getting it together, and my teachers made me. I could tell they were disappointed in me and knew that I could do better.”

Tech a growing focus

A large variety of electives are offered at Goodpasture including video and audio production, graphic design, computer programming and pre-engineering. Students in grades 7-12 have individual iPads, and students from age 12 months through sixth grade are given classroom carts with iPads to use for instruction. In addition, smart boards, inter-write boards, and student remote systems can be found throughout the wireless campus.

“A lot of schools lease the devices they get and give them back at the end of the year, a lot like text books,” Perry says. “Our parents want the children to have access to these things over the summer, so they wanted to purchase their own devices.”

Even 3-D printing technology is found on campus for students in the STEM lab, engineering and physics classes to utilize.

“It is our goal to incorporate the latest educational technology into our program on an ongoing basis,” says Sturdivant, a graduate of the school. “Over the last six or seven years we realized that in the world of education, and the world itself, there is a heavy emphasis on technology.

“So we try to stay close to the cutting edge. We found that it engages the children. In the world in which they have grown up, there is so much technology around them, so you can fight that or embrace that. So we really embrace that and incorporate that.”

Acceptance fuels individuality

As much as senior Goff’s academics have flourished, what he appreciates most about the school is the fact his peers seem totally uninterested in slotting kids into the typical jock/geek roles he had experienced before.

“No one is afraid to step out and do something new,” he says. “There is no such thing as cool kids and nerdy kids and jocks. The people here aren’t afraid to play football and tennis and baseball and then do the plays.

“It is really, really different from what I am used to. At my old school there was a lot more separation between this clique and that clique.”


Carter agrees.

“My favorite thing about Goodpasture would be the big family that we are,” she says. “We are all different and all have our own group of friends, but we all somehow come together. It is not a bad thing for an underclassman to come talk to a senior – it is like we all know each other and are one big family.”

Junior Tatum Fox, 16, transferred to Goodpasture her freshman year. She had previously attended Meigs Middle Magnet School and was on her way to Hume-Fogg when she decided on the change based on what she had heard from her friends at Donelson Church of Christ.

“I came in a little bit later, but it was a really easy transition,” she says. “I loved how welcoming everybody was. There just wasn’t any of me trying to find a group to be in – everybody just welcomed me in.”

And faith is a priority at the school, which the students find liberating.

“The best thing is being able to talk about God and be whoever you want to be here,” Fox says. “It is accepted, and it is encouraged, actually. You don’t have to worry that someone is going to judge you – no one is going to put you down for it.”

Goff says it is one more example of how students are not labeled.

“I just really appreciate that it keeps Christ on our mind throughout the day,” he says. “You can forget as you are going [through the day] what your purpose is, but being at a Christian school like this, you can really keep it on your mind while you are here.”

Perry says all faiths are welcome at the school, and many are represented.

“I think in this day and age, you read a lot about colleges and businesses who need value and integrity,” he says. “They want to work with young professionals with a high degree of integrity, and are finding it hard to find.

“Our tradition of being a Christian school that bases what we do on the life of Jesus and biblical principles, it really promotes that honesty, that work ethic. And people are finding out that is a very desirable trait, and that is something that has been a part of our school since its inception.”

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