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Grahamwood's Grand Happenings:


2019 Happenings

Grahamwood is AMPED!


Coach Andrew Martin winner of the AMPED award!

   We are pleased to announce P.E. teacher Andrew Martin received notification that Grahamwood Elementary was one of only 25 schools nationwide selected by PHIT America to receive its AMPED grant to get students engaged and active. “The grant is worth around $4,000 and comes with thousands of incentives to give our kids who participate in this program,” says Coach Martin. “I'll receive a stereo system and other pieces of equipment from the grant to aid in putting the program together.” The main goal of AMPED is to get students active through walking and running several days a week prior to the start of school to promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage achievement. “At Grahamwood, we are all very excited that Coach Martin is bringing another high quality program to our school that will undoubtedly benefit our students,” stated Principal Pete Johnson.  

Shakespeare Modernized for Festival


Grahamwood’s students perform Shakespeare with a decidedly modern twist 

   As a culminating event to celebrate the end of their study on William Shakespeare, 5th grade CLUE students at Grahamwood Elementary wrote and performed their own modern versions of classic Shakespeare tragedies. With the help of CLUE teachers, Sherry Coates, Shannon McOlgan and Laura Wilons, students re-imagined scenes from Shakespeare’s most famous works and performed them for parents, community members, and fellow students. The production included versions of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Sam Nied, who acted in Macbeth said, “It was cool being someone I am not in real life. It made me act different and use my imagination.” A grand time was had by all!


Chinese New Year Celebrated at Grahamwood


Ms. Chen shares the history and customs of how Chinese New Year is celebrated

   Yesterday, Binhua Chen, the mother of Optional student Annie Chen, visited Grahamwood Elementary’s 3rd grade to present on how their family celebrates the Chinese New Year. “She came and talked to our students about this holiday,” stated teacher Grace Henderson. “She taught our children about the Chinese New Year and how wonderful our cultural differences are.” Grahamwood Elementary is unique in that it has one of the most diverse student populations anywhere in the Midsouth region. The school is diverse culturally, ethnically, socioeconomically, religiously, and even, geographically. We routinely highlight this uniqueness through student and parent lead presentations that both inform and celebrate. 

Skate Club Comes to Grahamwood!


Grahamwood Elementary Starts a Skating Club!


   Andrew Martin, Grahamwood Elementary’s award winning P.E. teacher, shared “I wanted everyone to know that the latest club we’ve started is generating a wave of excitement amongst our students. We’ve formed a partnership with the Cordova Skating Club!” Along with parent NaKesha Bond, Coach Martin has arranged for students to have weekly practices to enhance their skating skills. “The idea for creating a skate club is to give our students another outlet to be physically active and develop friendships with classmates.” The skate club is one of two dozen extracurricular activities that Grahamwood offers.

Grahamwood Elementary’s Spelling Bee


Neha Kodali is the runner up and Max Ding the winner of Grahamwood’s Spelling Bee (l-r)


   Organized by CLUE teacher Laura Wilons, Grahamwood Elementary School held its annual Spelling Bee on Friday, January 18th. The 4th and 5th grade competitors were cheered on by parents, grandparents, friends, and classmates. This year’s winner was Max Ding (5th grade) from Greg Birdsell’s class with Neha Kodali from Allison Martin’s (5th grade) class earning runner up. The winning word was dissertation. Max qualified to participate in the next round at the University of Memphis. The winner of this contest will advance to the 2019 Shripps National Championship in metro Washington, D.C. “We are proud of all of the students who practiced and participated in the Spelling Bee,” stated Principal Johnson. “All of us at Grahamwood Elementary wish Max the best as he moves on to compete at the next level.”

Rapper RobenX Disses Bullying


Rapper RobenX speaks out against bullying


   Memphis-based rapper RobenX payed Grahamwood Elementary’s aftercare programs a visit to share his anti-bullying message. Throughout grade school, RobenX was bullied and called names because of his albinism. In fact, at age 9 he was knocked unconscious by a group of middle school bullies. This treatment led Robdarious Brown to create his alter ego and stage presence RobenX, as a way to escape his torments. Today, he raps about his struggle to overcome pain and depression. “If I die today, I know why I was born,” says RobenX. “I was born to speak out against bullying, build awareness about albinism, and share my love for music with the world.” His story and music were welcomed by Grahamwood’s students. RobenX’s next stop will be Geneva, Switzerland where he will share his message with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.   

Memphis Symphony Performs at Grahamwood


Grahamwood Elementary students enjoy a visit from the symphony!


   Students at Grahamwood Elementary were treated to a performance by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. They played music while our very own 1st grade Optional teacher Rachel Helton read the accompanying story, I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll. “The performance is a part of the symphony’s schools outreach program called Tunes and Tales,” informed Grahamwood Orff teacher Melissa Elsholz. “It was a wonderful experience and a great discussion followed the program!” Grahamwood is proud of its long-standing tradition of seeking out community partners who can create unique learning opportunities to expand our students’ horizons. We applaud Grahamwood’s Orff Music teachers for making this possible.


Grahamwood Focuses on Health & Safety



Grahamwood educators reach out to community groups to promote healthy and safe lifestyles for students


   Grahamwood Elementary School throughout the year hosts safety and health oriented learning opportunities for our students. For example, Guidance Counselor Kimberly Henderson has been sponsoring a three-part program by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for the 4th grade students that focuses on helping children make smart choices. Discussions between students and Sheriff Officers have covered age appropriate topics such as bullying, truancy, and curfews for minors. Upon completing the program, students will earn a badge and certificate.

   Similarly, P.E. teacher Andrew Martin arranged for an anti-smoking presentation coordinated by the organization #WeDon’tPuff and the Shelby County Health Department. Students in 4th and 5th grade were presented with factual information on the dangers of first, second, and third hand smoke. “Students were engaged in an open dialogue that allowed them to better comprehend the perils of tobacco,” stated Martin. “Students accepted the pledge of ‘We Don’t Puff’ and left with a fuller understanding of the dangers of smoking.” Grahamwood strives every day to ensure our students make healthy and safe lifestyle choices.

The 100th Day of School at Grahamwood



                           Grahamwood Elementary’s kindergartners celebrate the 100th Day of School!


   Grahamwood Elementary’s kindergarten students celebrated the 100th Day of School last week by dressing up as they imagine they will look at age 100. Additionally, their math lessons highlighted the number 100 and for art, they created necklaces of 100 beads. “It was great seeing the kindergarten kids dressed up and having fun while creatively learning about the number 100,” observed Assistant Principal Tia James. “I’m happy to report that the 100th Day of School celebration has become a beloved annual tradition for our kindergartners at Grahamwood.”

Celebrating Dr. King



   On Friday, January 18th Grahamwood Elementary School hosted A Day of Remembrance. Students, teachers and parents celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The program was presented by Grahamwood’s 2nd graders. The students took turns reciting passages of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. They then led nearly 200 adults in a moving version of the song, “Tear Down the Walls.” Optional teacher Sylvia Albert who coordinated the program stated, “For several years I have had a vision of our 2nd grade students performing Dr. King’s speech. This year, my teaching team and our music department were able to make it a reality. The program was even featured on three local news broadcasts. I am so proud of my students!”


2018 Happenings

Grahamwood Teachers Awarded $10,000


Grahamwood’s Grace Henderson & Lindsey Rothenbach are awarded $10,000!


   We are proud to announce that two Grahamwood Elementary teachers, Grace Henderson and Lindsey Rothenbach, were awarded $10,000 on the football field during the University of Memphis’ victory over South Alabama on Saturday. The Extra Yard for Teachers Award recognition took place during the 1st quarter in front of nearly 30,000 fans. The College Football Playoff Foundation, the American Athletic Conference, and combined efforts to award one Mid-South school’s teachers $10,000. Grahamwood Elementary Principal Pete Johnson and other members of the faculty joined the teachers on the field to accept the award. “I am over the moon excited about winning this award,” says Ms. Henderson. “I use Donors Choose quite frequently because it’s no secret that teachers are not handed a blank check to fill their classroom with everything we need. However, with resources such as this, I am able to give my students unique ways to engage and keep learning current.”

The award winning Grahamwood Elementary crew representing at the Memphis Tigers Game!

CLUE Students Help Those Less Fortunate


   Grahamwood Elementary teachers regularly strive to impart a sense of social responsibility and empathy for others into our students’ education experience. Recently, 5th grade CLUE students and their CLUE teachers (Sherry Coates, Shannon McOlgan, and Laura Wilons) just completed a study on Sustainability and Heifer International. As a culminating activity for the study, students hosted a pajama day to raise money for Heifer International. They raised over $1,600. This money will be used to provide farm animals, such as chickens and goats, whose eggs and milk will offer sustainable sustenance to communities in need around the world.  “Many thanks to all who supported this effort!” states Ms. Coates.

Roller Coasters at Grahamwood


Parents assist students in creating roller coasters to model kinetic energy


   Grahamwood Elementary School’s teachers pride themselves on incorporating hands on activities into their lessons that ensure students are regularly engaged in project based learning. Recently, a 3rd grade Optional teacher, Grace Henderson, arranged for parents to unexpectedly show up at school and help their children construct roller coasters. “We had been studying energy in Science class and these roller coasters were a way to model kinetic energy,” states Ms. Henderson. Third grade student Max Loeffler said, “I learned about energy in forming my roller coaster. The more twists and turns, and the ball rubbing on the tubes causes friction and the ball to slow down.” Ms. Henderson adds, “The students were surprised to have their parents come and help. We all had so much fun learning by doing!” 


Grahamwood Students Build Award Winning Bridges!


   Grahamwood Elementary students, under the leadership of 3rd grade teachers Gabby Davis and Grace Henderson, participated in the annual University of Memphis STEM bridge building competition. About 15 elementary and middle schools were represented. Two teams of Grahamwood students used the KNEX rods to construct a bridge that could withstand 36 pounds for 3 minutes. Students had 30 minutes to build their structure before the weight test. Grahamwood Elementary was a top finisher with Ms. Henderson stating, “Unlike most of the other competitors, both of our teams were successful in building bridges that supported 36 pounds for the full time.” Way to go, Grahamwood!


The Grahamwood Community Walks to School!


   Approximately 20 years ago, Grahamwood Elementary became the first Memphis school to host an International Walk to School Day event. This year, FedEx, Safe Kids Inc., Le Bonheur, and City of Memphis officials joined in as students walked, biked, strolled and cheered their way from the Summer Avenue Kroger to Grahamwood. The event was organized by P.E. teachers Jo McCawley and Andrew Martin. Ms. McCawley explained, “Parents and community members were encouraged to join the kids to show support for our school while celebrating the benefits of walking.” A huge crowd of 700+ participated in the Walk to School Day event. Kroger generously donated bottles of water and cookies to those who completed the walk.

   After the walk, FedEx Senior Vice President Lance Moll, Special Assistant to the Mayor Director Ike Griffith, and Le Bonheur’s Director of Injury Prevention/Safe Kids Coordinator Susan Helms presented Grahamwood’s Principal Pete Johnson with their plans to make the streets leading to the school safer. These organizations, working cooperatively along with Shelby County Schools and Grahamwood Elementary, will add flashing street lights, signage, enhanced crosswalks, and reduced speed limits around the school. All-in-all it was a win-win day for engaging students, the community, and a host of stakeholders in raising safety awareness and making Grahamwood Elementary’s school environment safer for everyone!

Hundreds Attend a Remarkable ESL Night!


Grahamwood’s Cultural Diversity on Display


   As September ended, Grahamwood Elementary held its annual ESL Night. ESL teachers welcome our ESL learners and their families to a night fun, food, information, and community-school bonding. Approximately 300 attendees were treated to performances by ESL students’ Flags of the World, Chinese Aftercare ang, Bollywood Club danced, Grahamwood’s Cheerleaders cheered, Class Piano played, and door prizes were awarded. ESL teacher Robbin Gunn said, “Each year we bring a wide range of community organizations together in one place for our parents. This allows them access and a chance to get information and answer questions that otherwise might be out of their reach.” Grahamwood is an extraordinary diverse school with families from Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, China, Korea, Vietnam, India, Russia, Croatia, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, and many other places. One parent was overheard saying, “Grahamwood’s students look like the world!” Additionally, two dozen community sponsors joined us to provide information and offer services to Grahamwood families. Some of these were the Midtown Legal Clinic, Family Safety Center, Catholic Charities, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Multi-National Ministries, and MLGW. Families enjoyed pizza, fruit, beverages and snacks. “Diversity is one of strengthens that makes Grahamwood a great Shelby County School,” states Principal Pete Johnson. “We welcome and celebrate this uniqueness daily.” All in all, Grahamwood’s ESL Night was a wonderful success!

ESL Night attendees are provided a plethora of information

Grandparents Day at Grahamwood


 Grandparents came by the 100s to celebrate Grandparents Day at Grahamwood!

   On September 14th, Grahamwood Elementary hosted a school-wide Grandparents Day. Hundreds of grandparents converged on the school to have fun and lunch with their grandchildren. Principal Pete Johnson and Assistant Principal Tia James served the food to the grandparents. “It’s inspiring to see so many of our grandparents come to the school to support our students and their educational efforts,” stated Principal Johnson. “It’s obvious by the looks on the kid’s faces they are happy to have them here.” Additionally, the Parent-Teacher Organization sold memberships and a raffle was held to support arts programs for students at Grahamwood.

TAR WARS Comes to Grahamwood


UTHSC Medical Students discuss the dangers of tobacco with students


   University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) medical students and professors visited Grahamwood Elementary to present TAR WARS. TAR WARS is an anti-tobacco, anti-drug presentation designed to education students on the harmful effects of tobacco and drugs. The comprehensive program covered everything concerning tobacco from the addictive effects of nicotine in smoking, chewing and vaping to associated health risks to the industry’s deceptive advertising. “This program was spot on in catching the attention of my 5th graders as they get ready to transition into middle school where they are likely to be exposed vaping and smoking,” stated teacher Adam Coleman. “The hands-on activities really demonstrated how harmful drugs and tobacco can be.” UTHSC’s Dr. Beth Choby organized the medical students’ visit and plans to make Grahamwood Elementary’s 5th grade classrooms an annual TAR WARS stop.

And the Winner Is… Grahamwood’s Andrew Martin!


Award-winning Coach Martin and some of his students


   Grahamwood Elementary School is happy to announce that our own P.E. teacher Andrew Martin was nominated and won the Memphis Parent Magazine’s Outstanding Teacher Award! An article on Coach Martin will be published in the magazine’s September issue. “The article discusses programs I've established at Grahamwood and the great opportunities I've created for our students,” states Martin. “It will also provide insight into how I started my teaching career and how my professional practice has evolved to allow me to create many award-winning programs.” Andrew Martin is a true credit to his profession and an asset to Grahamwood Elementary and Shelby County Schools. Way to go, Coach Martin!

Backpacks donated to Grahamwood Kids!


Pastor Payne shares smiles with students receiving backpacks


   Many of Grahamwood Elementary’s students were the recipients of over a hundred backpacks stuffed with school supplies. This remarkable donation was the work of Pastor Shaun Payne of Missiodei Church Memphis. More than $4000 was collected at an event he arranged with church and community members. Their largesse allowed for the purchasing of school supplies that some families could not easily afford. “I was amazed at the generosity of those who opened their wallets to help our students,” says Principal Pete Johnson. “I really appreciate Pastor Payne for making this happen!” 


Principal Johnson & Guidance Counselor Kimberly Henderson accept donated backpacks from Pastor Payne (l-r)

Grandparents in the Classroom!



Students were thrilled to have their grandparents visit Grahamwood!


   Grandparent's Day in the classroom was held last week in Grahamwood Elementary’s first grade Optional classrooms. In Rachel Helton’s class, grandparents and even some parents visited and shared stories of their elementary school days and participated in learning activities. In Barbara Paris’ class, students and grandparents ate donuts and spent time learning about their grandchildren’s day in school. Another activity included a family-themed word search game that grandparents and students solved together. Over a dozen family members participated in each class. “I had the pleasure of joining the grandparents,” states Grahamwood’s Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “The teachers goal was to get the extended family involved in our students’ education. It was obvious that this worked and a most excellent time was had by all!”

Shakespeare Visits Grahamwood Elementary!



   The Tennessee Shakespeare Company returned to Grahamwood Elementary this week for their performance, “Shakes, Rattle, and Roll.” The actors mixed in themes of Shakespeare’s plays with classic Memphis songs by the likes of Elvis and Aretha Franklin. The event was organized by CLUE teacher Laura Wilons for 5th grade students. “The students were able to hear the beautiful words of the Bard and even got to see the actors use real swords in a fight on stage!,” noted Ms. Wilons. The students were amazed at the enthusiasm of the actors and their knowledge of Shakespeare, and showed their appreciation by laughing, clapping, and cheering the performers along. “Grahamwood prides itself in partnering with numerous organizations throughout the state and beyond to provide our students with unique learning experiences that you just can’t find at other schools,” stated Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell, Grahamwood Elementary’s Optional Coordinator. A grand time was had by all!

2018 MLGW Art Poster Award Goes to Om Iyer!


Om Iyer with his artwork, parents and Art Teacher Ms. Carboni at MLGW Award Ceremony!


   On May 2nd, Om Iyer, a 2nd grade Grahamwood Elementary Optional student, was honored by a host of dignitaries at the MLGW Board Meeting for his artwork titled: The Natural Gas Safety Squad. He won 1st place for primary grades in the 2018 MLGW Art Contest. His work was submitted by Grahamwood’s Art Teacher Livia Carboni. Om’s winning work was framed, he received an award certificate, and both teacher and student were presented a check for $125 in art supplies from the Art Center. Dr. Cynthia Alexander-Mitchell represented SCS at the event noting the district’s long association with MLGW and thanking the assembled guests for honoring these talented SCS students. Om’s artwork along with the other winning submissions were prominently displayed in MGLW’s Atrium. “We are incredibly impressed with Om’s accomplishment and with the artistic guidance provided by Ms. Carboni,” states Grahamwood’s Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “We are thankful for the amazing efforts our teachers and parents make on behalf of our remarkable students!”

Teacher Appreciation Day at Grahamwood Elementary


Emily Easley receiving appreciation gifts from Superintendent Hopson

   Teachers at Grahamwood Elementary are having a week of being appreciated. It started with a visit by Superintendent Dorsey Hopson to Emily Easley’s 1st grade class. She dressed up as the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley as part of the Teacher Appreciation celebration and caught Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s attention. For her efforts, she received an Apple Watch and Grahamwood Elementary’s teachers were given SCS 901 water bottles to help beat the heat! On Tuesday, Teacher Appreciation Day started with Crayola’s “Thank A Teacher” initiative. James Wells, a parent of a student in Barbara Paris’ Optional class and a Crayola employee, visited the school giving each teacher a gift, a thank you card, and presented the school with a voucher for $500 of Crayola products! This was part of Crayola’s national campaign to thank a million teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day. Finally, Grahamwood Elementary’s administration provided teachers a catered appreciation lunch. “Our teachers are the best,” states Principal Pete Johnson. “The work they do with our students every day is nothing short of miraculous!”  

Crayola’s James Wells (c) presents Principal’s Tia James (l) and Pete Johnson (r) with gifts for Grahamwood’s teachers!

Grahamwood Develops Student Entrepreneurs



   Jessica Tate’s Optional 4th grade classes held their annual Entrepreneur Showcase. This year all of her nearly 100 Optional students researched and developed a marketing plan for a company they would like to start. In teams, the students presented their business concept to parents, grandparents, stakeholders, and peers. Their pitch included PowerPoint presentations, mission statements, description of the product, a jingle, and identified potential investors, customers, and supporters. The students’ business plans ranged from pet treats to gaming software to designer deserts and beyond. Grahamwood’s Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell states, “Innovative teachers and creative students are two of the trademarks that make an education at Grahamwood unique. Ms. Tate’s annual business showcase presents students with deep, immersive learning opportunities that frankly, aren’t found at most other schools. Ms. Tate and her students are amazing!”   

Charitable Giving Flourishes at Grahamwood!



Coach Andrew Martin (left) receives award along with other honorees from Ron Childers(right)! 

   Grahamwood Elementary School’s P.E. instructors Andrew Martin and Jo McCawley are awesome. Thanks to their remarkable efforts our students received an award from the American Heart Association at the Heart Walk 5K in downtown Memphis at the Redbird’s AutoZone Park. The award for Grahamwood Elementary was presented to Coach Martin by Action News 5’s Ron Childers. “Amazingly, our students raised over $17,400 for the American Heart Association through Jump Rope for Hearts,” states Coach Martin. “We were the #1 school for all of SCS and #2 in Western Tennessee!” Way to go, Grahamwood!

Grahamwood Students Learn through Exploring



Grahamwood Elementary’s students present on cultures from countries around the world! 


   Throughout the year, students in the 5th grade Optional program give presentations on different countries. The goal is to improve students' research and presentation skills as well as have the students learn about the world. As presentations occur, students scratch off the country they present on from a giant scratch off map. This inspires students to learn about countries that are not well known. The projects require extensive research, reading and making graphs, as well as preparing a lesson that engages all students in experiences that are a part of the culture from their chosen country. “It’s been impressive to see the variety of cultural lessons that the students come up with,” states 5th grade Optional teacher Katelynn Bernardini. “We have had everything from dances to cooking, rocket launching, games, balancing baskets on our heads, elephant racing, and water filtration. I have found that not only are students gaining a new knowledge of the world around them, but they are also gaining a new level of compassion for people who live in diverse conditions.” The projects finish in May with students giving their final presentations. As a culminating activity, the students will explore how to help different groups in America as well assisting countries around the world by raising money for causes like providing clean water in Sudan through The Water Project.

Opera Memphis Visits Grahamwood


   Opera Memphis performed their version of “The Ugly Duckling” for Grahamwood Elementary School’s K-3rd grade students. Second grade Optional teacher Sylvia Albert arranged for the visit through the Grahamwood Arts Fund. A dozen Grahamwood students were selected and dressed up as ducklings to perform with the Opera Memphis’ singer/actors. Ms. Albert states, “Opera Memphis tells the best stories through music! Our students are exposed to most of the different types of arts but not opera. Opera Memphis’ programs give our students a chance to see and hear opera to learn what it is all about.”     

Grahamwood Elementary’s Spelling Bee


Ehman Sandhu spelling “Premonition” to win Grahamwood’s Spelling Bee


   Grahamwood Elementary School held its 4th-5th grade Spelling Bee on Friday, January 26th. Organized by CLUE teacher Laura Wilons, there were 45 competitors with Lisa Zeigler, Sherry Coates and Peggy Woods serving as judges. The event was attended by hundreds of parents, students and stakeholders, and took 5 rounds for a winner to be declared. This year, Ehman Sandhu in Ms. Claire Smith’s Optional 4th grade class was our winner. The winning word was “premonition”. Ehman will move on to compete in the next round in Nashville at the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium. Ehman said of his victory, “I was really surprised to win. I did not expect to get so far. I’m happy I won and now, I get to go to the regionals!”


Grahamwood’s ESL Club Inspires Learning


Grahamwood Elementary’s ESL Teacher Sarah Graves (far left) provides unique experiences for her students!


   Grahamwood’s ESL Club has been busy! This year ESL teacher Sarah Graves’ and her colleagues meet twice a week with a group of students consisting of newcomers to our country and ESL students who need extra academic support. The students who loyally participated in these academically enriching activities were rewarded with an end of semester trip to Bass Pro. Further, these same students, upon completing a study of Antarctica, were treated to a classroom visit by some special guests. Ms. Graves arranged for the students to meet and talk with two recent residents of Antarctica. Brett and Sarah Baddorf presented an insightful PowerPoint on their experiences, answered questions and totally engaged the students through eliciting purposeful discussions. “How often does anyone actually meet or hear from people who got to live in such an exotic place?”, asked Ms. Graves. “What a treat!”

2017 Happenings

Principal Johnson Honored as Educator of the Week!


Grahamwood Elementary Principal Johnson accepts the Tennessee Lottery Educator of the Week Award!


   Congratulations are in order for Pete Johnson, Principal of Grahamwood Elementary, who was honored as Tennessee Lottery Educator of the Week by WREG. The segment featuring Principal Johnson will air at the end of December. He was nominated anonymously with the words, “He does it all—from running the school to standing outside to keep the kids safe as they cross the street to cleaning the floors. The kids love him and so do the parents.” WREG’s Weatherperson Jim Jaggers presented Mr. Johnson with an honorary trophy and a weeklong appearance on Channel 3 highlighting Principal Johnson and Grahamwood Elementary School’s accomplishments. Mr. Jaggers noted that Pete Johnson was one of the only a very few principals to have ever earned this distinction.

The Mexican Consulate Reaches Out to Grahamwood


Grahamwood Librarian Alicia Fields & Optional Coordinator Dr. Maxwell displaying donated books

   The Mexican Consulate in Little Rock, Arkansas reached out to 15 Shelby County Schools to donate nearly 50 Spanish language books to each courtesy of the Mexican government. Being one of the most diverse schools in the region, Grahamwood Elementary was a natural choice. On behalf of Grahamwood, Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell accepted the donation for the school library. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson was on hand to personally thank the Mexican delegation and treat the guests to a “thank you” reception that included music and lunch. “We are thrilled to receive the books and we’ll put them to good use with our English Language Learners as well as with other interested students,” stated Dr. Maxwell. “We thank the Mexican government for their thoughtful donation!”

White Station High Students Team-Up with Grahamwood


    Trevor Maxwell and a group of his fellow White Station High School’s National Honor Society members have been volunteering their time at Grahamwood Elementary School. Trevor, a senior, has organized a program where these students work with Grahamwood Elementary’s B.A.C.K. Club. B.A.C.K. stands for Building Active Caring Kids and was created by Grahamwood Teaching Assistant Cory Johnson. The goal is to develop leadership skills in elementary students. The WSHS students join the club once a week and serve as role models. “We work with the kids on team building activities,” states Trevor. “I like working with the kids and teaching them that by working together they can accomplish more than on their own.” The elementary students take what they learn and give back to the community by participating in charitable and service related activities.



Grahamwood Elementary Art & Taco Night



          Families and faculty join in the fun festivities at Grahamwood’s Art Auction & Taco Night Celebration!


   As the holiday season approached, Grahamwood’s Parent Teacher Organization (GPTO) organized and hosted an Art Auction & Taco Night that was attended by over 400 students, parents, teachers, and community members. A silent auction was held featuring art, gift certificates, jewelry, and dozens of other donations for attendees to bid on. Families wwere entertained with lively Salsa lessons, line dancing, crafts, a photo-booth, and activities for the young and old. The food was delicious with a Taco Bar furnished by Moe’s Southwest Grill. The event was sponsored by Duncan Williams Asset Management and served as a both school-community mingle and fundraiser. “Grahamwood’s PTO is to be commended for creating such a fun event,” stated Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “It was exciting, festive and had something for everyone. My family loved it!”

Coach Martin Brings It Home for Grahamwood’s Kids


Grahamwood’s Cross Country team enjoys their first XC Competition!


   Grahamwood Elementary’s P.E. teacher Coach Andrew Martin has had a very busy start this school year. He has done an admirable job of connecting to the larger community and developing sponsorships that have brought about an outpouring of donations and grants to support and expand the P.E. program. For example, Coach Martin has worked with the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tickets for Kids program and in gratitude, they donated a 1000 Grizzlies’ t-shirts—enough for every student at Grahamwood! The Presidential Youth Fitness Program awarded him $2000 to purchase exercise equipment and accompanying cutting-edge curriculum. Additionally, Physical Best and Brockport provided a grant of another $2500 for more equipment and related instructional materials. Coach Martin has also fielded the school’s first competitive cross country team as well as creating Grahamwood’s wildly popular Running Club. “Coach Martin is a true asset in promoting a healthy lifestyle for our students and in supporting Grahamwood’s Enriched Academics focus,” stated Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “We are thrilled to have him as a part of our faculty!”

Viewing the Eclipse of the Century

   Grahamwood Elementary’s students, faculty, staff, parents and stakeholders had an incredible afternoon viewing the eclipse on August 21st. For nearly an hour beginning at about 12:30 p.m., the whole Grahamwood family used donated eclipse glasses to see an event that had not happened for nearly 100 years. Leading up to the event, Grahamwood’s teachers utilized eclipse related lessons developed by the Pink Palace Museum and Shelby County Schools. Additional information on the event was researched onsite at Grahamwood and shared collaboratively between our teachers. In the end, approximately 1100 gathered on Grahamwood’s lawns to share time watching, discussing and learning from this event. “I think it was awesome,” exclaimed 1st grader Cameron Massengale upon viewing the eclipse. “I learned that when the Moon gets between the Sun and the Earth, the air gets cooler and as it gets darker, some animals think it is nighttime and look for a place to sleep.” Principal Pete Johnson observed, “Viewing the eclipse was a truly amazing experience that built memories our students will carry with them for the rest of their lives!”



Grahamwood Teachers Save Student’s Life!


Chambers, Nico and Hart (pictured l-r)


   Grahamwood Elementary is home to heroes! Last week, 1st grade teacher Cameshia Chambers and Memphis Teacher Resident Eric Hart noticed their student, Nico, beginning to choke on his breakfast. Ms. Chambers immediately attempted to help by patting the student on the back and administered the Heimlich maneuver to no avail. Upon seeing this, Mr. Hart jumped into action as Nico continued to choke and began changing color. He once again employed the Heimlich and this time the food was dislodged to everyone’s great relief. Ms. Chamber’s stated, “It was a real team effort. It was a scary moment and Nico was shaken up but in the end, he was fine.” Nico’s mother was very appreciative. Principal Pete Johnson added, “I am very proud of these two fast acting teachers. Their actions on behalf of Nico were truly heroic!”

Grahamwood Student Awarded Grand Prize by MIM!


Grahamwood’s Lauren Yang posing with her MIM award winning poster!


   The whole Grahamwood Elementary community is excited for 5th grader Lauren Yang who on behalf of the Memphis in May International (MIM) Festival won Grand Prize for all entries in the 2017 International Paper Children’s Poster Competition! Over 200 entries were judged. The artwork included representations of this year’s MIM featured country, Columbia. In addition to the Grand Prize, Lauren also won 1st place in the 5-6 grade category. “Lauren’s prizes were $500 for the Grand Prize plus $200 for 1st place in her category,” stated her Grahamwood art teacher Ann Kling. “Additionally, 100 posters of her artwork will be printed that she will personally sign.” A ceremony was held in the SCS Teaching and Learning Academy’s Auditorium on April 19th recognizing Lauren’s amazing accomplishments.  

Buckaroo Visits Grahamwood!

Elva and Ms. Graves meet Buckaroo


   Elva Trejo and Buckaroo were filmed for an ad for the Humane Society’s Pet of the Week program. Buckaroo is a rescue dog found in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Elva, an ESL 4th grader at Grahamwood Elementary School, was chosen to be featured due to her love of helping dogs and in recognition of academic efforts in school. Elva showed Buckaroo around the school and played with him at Grahamwood’s National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Outdoor Classroom. Buckaroo is the 12th dog highlighted in this joint Shelby County Schools/Humane Society partnership. Eight of the previous dogs have been adopted! “Elva did a wonderful job showing off and reading information about Buckaroo,” stated Sarah Graves, the ESL teacher who coordinated this program. “I am so proud of her!”


Buckaroo takes a walk in Grahamwood’s National Wildlife Certified Outdoor Classroom

Grahamwood’s Kelly George: Volunteer of the Year!


Ms. George assisting a student in Grahamwood’s Computer Lab


   Grahamwood Elementary is proud to announce that our very own Kelly George was selected as the Memphis Redbirds/Autozone Park Volunteer of the Year! She was awarded this honor for her work at Autozone Park through Memphis Pride Cheer and Dance, where her daughter is a cheerleader. When not volunteering, Ms. George works as a Teacher Assistant and Cheerleading Coach at Grahamwood Elementary School.  “Judging from the great work she does at Grahamwood,” states Principal Pete Johnson, “I am not surprised to learn Ms. George was named Volunteer of the Year. All of us at Grahamwood very happy for her. Way to go, Ms. George!”

Grahamwood's Stakeholders Welcome All Students Back!

A Grand Welcome for Grahamwood Students 1st Day of School!


   All of us at Grahamwood Elementary School would like to thank the community for the incredible turn out to welcome our amazingly diverse student population to a new school year. The Church of the Holy Communion, Temple Israel, Mosaic Church, Grahamwood’s Parent Teacher Organization, and dozens of parents were on hand to welcome students to the first days of school. These groups and individuals showed up with uplifting and supportive signs written in both English and Spanish. They personally greeted the children and their families assuring them that Grahamwood is a safe and inviting school for everyone.  “I was extremely impressed and touched by this show of love to our students by the community at large,” stated Principle Pete Johnson. “I am very proud of all the support our parents and stakeholders continually provide our students.”

The Great CLUE Chocolate Exhibition

CLUE students show off their research and what they learned at the 1st annual Chocolate Exhibition!


   Grahamwood Elementary School’s 2nd grade CLUE students participated in a first-ever schoolwide event dedicated to chocolate! Over the last several weeks, students worked in groups and applied research skills to gain a deeper understanding of some aspect of the topic. Topics included chocolate’s history, its medicinal purposes and uses. Students used their deductive skills to determine relevant facts and information from the irrelevant. The students then utilized their writing skills to explain their findings. Through drafting, editing, peer review, and rewriting, students created informative story boards to display their work. Next, they learned how to communicate their findings via different presentation designed to engage a targeted audience. Finally, students presented their storyboards and spoke with community stakeholders (including Superintendent Dorsey Hopson plus SCS Board Members Teresa Jones and Billy Orgel) about what they had discovered about chocolate. Blair Trotz, one of the CLUE teachers who organized the event stated, “The students all did an amazing job!” 

Grahamwood CLUE teachers, Principals and SCS dignitaries’ checkout the Chocolate Exhibition 

Grahamwood's Running Club is Off to the Races

The Grahamwood Running Club Visits their CBU Partners


   Under the leadership of Coach Andrew Martin, the Grahamwood Running Club is off to a great start in 2017. The year began with a $1000 donation from Kohl’s department store. The donation was arranged by the Grahamwood Running Club’s sponsor, Mullins United Methodist Parents Day Out. Coach Martin was thrilled with this gift stating, “I will use the money to buy Nike socks for all the running club members and get new practice equipment!” Additionally, Coach Martin was honored by being featured in the January issue of Marathon Kids. The article discussed how he started the club, its explosive popularity and growth, running tips, and the development of community partnerships such as the one with Christian Brothers University’s track and field team. “Grahamwood is very proud of Coach Martin and all of the students and parents who participate in this fun fitness program,” says Principal Pete Johnson.   

Belz Museum Honors Grahamwood Artists

K-2 Winner Amil Suriyan with her Art Teacher Ann Kling


   The Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Arts at Peabody Place held its annual Chinese New Year’s Art Contest last weekend. This year students throughout the region were invited to submit artwork depicting the Year of the Rooster. Two students from Grahamwood Elementary were honored for their submissions at an awards presentation at the Belz Museum presided over by the museum’s director, Belinda Fish. Second grader Amil Suriyan placed first in the K-2 Art Category and Shirley Kong, in 4th grade, won the People’s Choice Award. “I have had many talented students over the years and often a winner at this wonderful event,” says Grahamwood Art Teacher Ann Kling. “This year was truly special in having two winners. I am so thrilled for my students!” The entire Grahamwood Elementary family is proud of Amil and Shirley for sharing their amazing artistic talents!


Grahamwood Salutes Tennessee History

2nd grader Emoree McFerren relaying the life and historical times of Tennessean Tina Turner


   Students in Grahamwood Elementary’s 2nd grade Optional classes presented the engaging story of Tennessee’s history through important events, state symbols, and tales of its notable citizens. Topics included women’s suffrage, tales of Nashville, the mockingbird, and personalities such as W.W. I Alvin C. York, Vice President Al Gore and Tina Turner. Each student dressed accordingly and described their topic, often including fascinating or humorous anecdotes. “We teach history from books,” states Optional teacher Carolyn Mendillo. “However, by having the students research, dress in costumes, and present on stage, it really brings history to life.” Emoree McFerren added, “It was fun. I learned that Tina Turner is the Queen of Rock-n-Roll and that she gave people good music.” In all, nearly 100 students depicted notable citizens and Tennessee facts to a crowd of parents, students and community stakeholders numbering in the hundreds. “This is just one example of the way our students demonstrate what they have learned,” commented Grahamwood’s Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “Simply put, Grahamwood’s students take learning to the next level by immersing themselves in a topic to gain a true mastery of that subject.”      

Grahamwood Teams with Rhodes for Mardi Gras Parade

Rhodes College Jazz Band Leads Grahamwood’s Mardi Gras Parade


   Dr. John Bass of the Rhodes College’s Mike Curb Institute along with the Rhodes Jazz Band led over 1200 Grahamwood Elementary students, faculty members, parents, community members on the 2nd Annual Mardi Gras parade. The parade took place on the Grahamwood Elementary’s track and was featured on several local television newscasts. The parade and accompanying celebration were used to raise awareness of the cultural diversity at Grahamwood and to “reinforce the importance of community engagement,” stated Dr. Bass. Grahamwood’s art teachers, Ann Kling and Livia Carboni, worked with students to create a wide array of masks and umbrellas that were used for the festivities. Music teacher Melissa Elsholz and Danyelle Harris taught students about music common in Louisiana and beyond to acculturate them to global rhythms. “During music class, I played music typically heard during a Mardi Gras Parades,” said Ms. Harris. “For example, When the Saints Go Marching In is traditional song played during Mardi Gras that I taught the students to better understand and appreciate the celebration of Mardi Gras.” The end result was a unique, collaborative event that immersed the Grahamwood community in a truly one-of-a-kind multicultural learning experience that helps students learn about different traditions and makes them more aware of the larger world around them.  


Family Math & Science Night


Grahamwood Elementary hosted 200 participants in a very successful Family Math & Science Night!


   Grahamwood Elementary had a large and enthusiastic crowd of willing learners young and old attend our annual Family Math & Science Night. This year’s theme was Power UP! Like a Superhero. Students, teachers and parents were encouraged to dress up like a Math or Science Superhero. Grahamwood’s Optional and Scholar teachers set up Math and Science based activities throughout the auditorium. Parents and students participated in enriching Math games and hands-on Science experiments that included using microscopes, playing math bingo, prediction games, and chemical reaction demonstrations. In addition to the activities, the attendees were also treated to ideas and tips on how to help their children with Math (presented by 3rd grade teacher Rica Davis) and Science (presented by 4th grade teacher Greg Birdsell). The program ended with a pizza dinner and students parading across the stage in their Superhero costumes. Principal Pete Johnson observed, “I think this was our largest turn out for a Family Math and Science Night. A big thanks goes out to our PLC Coach Mattie Smith for organizing this event and to our many parents who not only showed up but also took part in the games and experiments with their kids!”       


Valentines for Veterans

Grahamwood Elementary students prepare Valentines for Veterans


   Second Grade Optional Teacher Rachel Helton organized a Valentines for Veterans campaign at Grahamwood Elementary. Students from every grade were asked to participate in creating Valentine cards for veterans. Her inspiration for this outreach project hits close to home. “My father is a Vietnam veteran and my grandfather was a WWII veteran,” explains Helton. “So, veterans hold a special place in my heart.”  While her grandfather and father returned to the country with a very strong support system, she knows that this not the case for all veterans. Some are suffering from PSTD while others are battling different combat related afflictions. “It doesn't take anything to be nice and say thank you,” says Helton, “So, I asked my class and all of Grahamwood’s students to make Valentine's cards for the veterans at the Veterans Hospital.”  In all, 300 Valentine's Day cards were created and delivered to veterans both at the hospital and at their homes. “One of our goals at Grahamwood is to develop empathetic, socially conscious future leaders,” states Principal Pete Johnson. “Our hats are off to Rachel Helton for her admirable efforts in developing these characteristics in our students.”

CLUE Students Make Books for LeBonheur Kids


Representatives from LeBonheur express gratitude to Grahamwood’s students for their Special Donation!


   CLUE students at Grahamwood Elementary have been studying light, its properties, and the importance of sight. To compliment the study, students researched how the children's I Spy books are made. Using these books as a model, the students created their own I Spy pages from items brought from home. Students wrote rhyming couplets to accompany their pages. They then put all of the pages together and published them into professionally bound books. The end product looked amazing! In a special ceremony, these books were donated to LeBonheur Children's Hospital for the patients to enjoy. The culminating presentation took place at Grahamwood Elementary on January 17th with representatives from LeBonheur visiting the school and talking about the life saving work the hospital does. This event saw Grahamwood CLUE students taking a leadership role by using their talents to bring a little happiness to less fortunate children.

Memphis Fire Museum Honors Grahamwood Students!

     Grahamwood Elementary students proudly display the Memphis Fire Museum’s Traveling Trophy


   Grahamwood Elementary students and faculty were recently treated to a pleasant surprise during a school-wide assembly. General Manager Penny McKinney Smith of the Fire Museum of Memphis paid a visit to present the students and school with the museum’s “Traveling Trophy.” Grahamwood Elementary was honored for having the most students participate in the Fire Prevention and Safety course during tours of the museum. Over 1000 Grahamwood students took part this safety awareness program in 2016. On behalf of Grahamwood, Principal Johnson and Assistant Principal Tia James accepted the award. As a bonus, the Fire Museum of Memphis brought their unofficial Dalmatian mascots Izzy and Astro who all the students thoroughly enjoyed seeing and petting!

W.W.II Veteran Shares Experiences


  “When Private First Class Eddie Spencer first walked into my classroom in 2013, he was a spry young 93 year old W.W. II veteran,” stated 5th grade Optional teacher Brett Emerson. “He has been a Memphian since 1947, when he finally settled down post-World War II with his wife, Ann. Mr. Spencer and his wife had a son who attended Grahamwood Elementary in the late 1950's, not long after our school was built in a new eastern neighborhood of Memphis.” Today, Mr. Spencer is still giving back to the community and Grahamwood Elementary in particular. Each semester, he visits the school and shares his first-hand accounts of his experiences during W.W. II. His stories bring history alive for our students, providing them a chance to ask questions and discuss this turning point in history. Eddie Spencer is a great community resource and we are all richer because he cares enough to volunteer his time and knowledge to share his unique perspective and wisdom with our students.

Celebrating Countries Around the World


                                    Charlotte dances the Rhumba                           Daniel uses technology to teach about China                                                                                                                      

   Each quarter as a part of their Multicultural and Social Studies programs, Grahamwood Elementary students in Grace Henderson and Katelynn Meadows 5th grade Optional classes select a group of countries around the world to research. From these findings, the students write a report highlighting key social, political, geographic and historical facts about their country which they present to the class. This quarter over 20 countries were selected. For example, dressed in traditional garb, Daniel Bai presented on China, discussing culture and traditions as well as describing specialty foods. Afterwards, Daniel’s classmates asked him follow-up questions to expand upon what they learned. Charlotte Miller’s country was Mexico. Charlotte wore a traditional Mexican-style dress that she helped her grandmother to make. She taught both peers and parents common Spanish words and phrases plus showed them how to dance the Rumba—which the whole group did! Students along with their parents made food from their featured countries and the celebration ended with a feast shared by all. “I previously taught in an international setting,” states Ms. Meadows, “and I wanted my students to have a similar experience. So, each student had to teach a cultural lesson that included not just facts but an action.” Beyond the writing and history pieces, special cross-curricular multicultural lessons supporting this event were also taught in Math and Science. “The students had a wonderful time and learning experience,” observed Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “The experiential aspect of the lesson was key to showing that the students were able to apply what they had learned through demonstration. Plus, joining in was just plain fun!”

Grahamwood, The Orpheum & Kennedy Center Unite!



  Grahamwood Elementary’s faculty began this school year in a truly unique way. As a part of our 2nd year of an exclusive 5 year pilot program with The Orpheum and the national Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, teachers and administrators spent a day downtown at The Orpheum’s Halloran Center learning about arts integration and how to connect art forms to subject areas. The Kennedy Center’s Jamin Carter introduced teachers via hands-on activities and simulations to the tools needed to effectively utilize arts in the classroom by teaching students to lead. To take this to the next level, Grahamwood Elementary students are being treated to at least 20 classroom visits from Kennedy Center traveling artists to move this concept to reality. Second grade Optional teacher Sylvia Albert and CLUE teacher Laura Wilons are to be commended in their role for making this cooperative venture available for our students.

Project Based Learning Begets Academic Success


Javion, Miller and Lulu proudly show what they learned!

   Students in Barbara Paris’ 1st grade Optional class conclude a study on what animals do in the winter. For their culminating project, students created shoebox dioramas of animals getting ready to hibernate or migrate. Grahamwood Elementary classrooms have for decades employed hands-on, project based strategies that demonstrate students can apply what they have learned. Utilizing best practices such as these have proven crucial to Grahamwood’s long standing tradition of academic excellence.

Grahamwood Joins the Kitchen Community Project

Garden Volunteer & 5th grade teacher Brett Emerson and a group of his gardeners!


   The whole Grahamwood community is grateful for kindergarten teacher Lisa Jorgensen’s efforts on behalf of our students. Ms. Jorgensen is the driving force behind Grahamwood Elementary School securing one of The Kitchen Community’s Learning Garden Grants. Lauren Bangasser, The Kitchen Community’s Garden Educator at Grahamwood, states that the group’s “mission is joining communities to real food. As an organization, we want to work with the community to help students know where food comes from and to increase positive associations with fresh fruit and vegetables.” Grahamwood Elementary is thrilled to be a part of this unique initiative.

Grahamwood’s Blair Trotz wins a SPARK Award!


Grahamwood’s CLUE Teacher Blair Trotz Wins SPARK Award!


   Grahamwood Elementary is proud to announce that CLUE teacher Blair Trotz recently won a SPARK Award. The SPARK Awards honor individuals and organizations that make a difference in the community. It is sponsored and produced by WKNO-TV, the Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, Champion Awards & Apparel, and the Rotary Club of Memphis. Ms. Trotz received the Education-Educator Award for being a “devoted educator and extraordinary creative problem solver.” Specifically, her work in creating Grahamwood Elementary’s Book Club that has sparked students’ imagination and conversation was cited as one reason for Ms. Trotz’s selection for the SPARK Award. The entire Grahamwood Elementary School community is enriched and grateful for the admirable dedication of Blair Trotz!

The Art of Science


   Grahamwood Elementary School’s Optional 5th grade students were invited by the scientists of St. Jude and local artists associated with the Memphis College of Art (MCA) to pilot a unique collaborative project. The project is called The Art of Science (AOS). The project pairs local artists with scientists where scientists’ cutting edge imagery is reimagined by the artists. Together, their works are displayed side by side at the MCA Hyde Gallery at 477 South Main Street.


   Dr. Heather Smallwood of St. Jude facilitated the visit by students from Grahamwood Elementary School. Dr. Smallwood conducted a hands-on experiment with the 95 students while the other participating scientists conducted tours of the art and demonstrated a 3-D printer in the Hyde Gallery. Riya Pramad, age 10, said “I think it was pretty amazing that science can relate to art. I saw how people think about science in a different way. It has inspired me to think differently and be creative.” Morgan Goldstein, also 10, added, “In the gallery, I wondered about the 3-D printer and how it worked. It is amazing technology! It makes me want to be an inventor so I can help people.”

   Overall, the exhibit, presenters and educational experiences were outstanding. Optional 5th grade teacher Allison Martin said, “It was fabulous. It exposed the students to all kinds of new ideas and perspectives concerning combining art and science. It also opened the door for possible careers not on the standard path.”


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