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Grahamwood's Grand Happenings:

2018 Happenings


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!

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.

Grahamwood Hosts a Mardi Gras Parade


Grahamwood Elementary hosts its multicultural Mardi Gras Celebration!


As February began, Grahamwood Elementary hosted our annual Mardi Gras Parade. Grahamwood Music Teachers Danyelle Harris and Melissa Elsholz partnered with Dr. John Bass of Rhodes College’s Mike Curb Institute to engage students in a historical study of the music, traditions, and the cultural diversity that is Mardi Gras. Grahamwood’s Art Department contributed to the festivities by immersing students in creating costumes and masks while classroom teachers tied this experience to the Social Studies curriculum. The celebration drew parents and community members who cheered the Jazz Band and students as they marched and danced to the music. Like the New Orlean’s event, Grahamwood Elementary’s Mardi Gras celebrates diversity and the many cultures that comprise our community.


Grahamwood’s Principals get into the Mardi Gras Spirit           Rhodes College Professors and Students provide the Music

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!”


Students and Judges at Grahamwood Elementary’s 2018 Spelling Bee

Grahamwood Elementary’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!”

Grahamwood’s Community Outreach


               Grahamwood Elementary students have had a busy first half of a school year giving back to the community. Rachel Helton’s 1st grade students organized a surprise for the residents of Dorothy’s Place Alzheimer & Dementia Center and the Kennedy Park Center by getting students in every grade to make holiday cards for them. The residents were thrilled! Grahamwood’s Teaching Assistant Kelly George held a fundraiser for St. Jude and collected a little over $9,400 for the hospital. P.E. instructors Andrew Martin and Jo McCawley collected $12,222 through Hoops for Hearts and Jump Rope for Hearts for the American Heart Association (AHA). As a result, Grahamwood Elementary was honored as a Top 3 School in West Tennessee for donations by the AHA. Way to go Grahamwood’s family of students, parents, and stakeholders!


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.

Art Abounds at Grahamwood



Grahamwood visitors admire the community ceramics                Ms. Carboni works to create innovative art projects


Grahamwood Elementary’s Optional program focuses on Enriched Academics with an emphasis on Creative Arts. As a result, there is a constant cross curricular blending of the school’s art program and core instruction. This was never more evident than in a recent collaboration between local artist/parent Yancy Villa-Calvo, Memphis 3.0, and Grahamwood’s art teacher Livia Carboni. Memphis 3.0 is the strategic planning group designing the look of development and growth for our city. Keeping this in mind, Ms. Carboni and Ms. Villa-Calvo collaborated to help students apply learned concepts to real-life by having them research and map-out what their ideal community would look like. The students drew playgrounds, libraries, schools, pavilions, stores, gardens, dog parks, and so much more. The artists then transferred the students’ drawings on to ceramic in creating vases, pitcher and glasses. These were then showcased at a school art event for all the community to see how each element intersected. “We started by brainstorming what a neighborhood is and then, moved the idea into how neighborhoods create community,” stated Ms. Carboni. “We are really proud of the kids. They were both creative and innovative in thinking outside the box!”

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!”



Pre-K CLUE Thrives at Grahamwood Elementary School!


Janis Pankey working miracles in Grahamwood’s Pre-K classes!

   Pre-Kindergarten CLUE is beginning its second year at Grahamwood Elementary. The program, led by educator extraordinaire Janis Pankey, is growing by leaps and bounds. This year we expect to max out at 40 students participating in the program. “We are proud to have Pre-K CLUE as one of our academic options,” states Principal Pete Johnson. “Ms. Pankey is amazing and I am always amazed at the high level she gets these young students perform at.” Children qualify for Pre-K CLUE by testing in as state qualified gifted students. Most of her students are 4 years old. These students meet twice a week at Grahamwood Elementary for a total of 5 hours of advanced academic instruction and discovery learning, specifically designed to challenge their gifted abilities. Many of these students go on to qualify for Grahamwood’s Optional program. If you are interested in finding out more or applying for Pre-K CLUE, please contact Dr. Tommie Yelvington at 901.416.0155.

Briarcrest Volunteers at Grahamwood!



Briarcrest High School students do a day of service by helping at Grahamwood Elementary

   Grahamwood Elementary Principal Pete Johnson has forged numerous beneficial public-private partnerships between the school and community organizations. One long-standing partnership is with Briarcrest High School where each year, Briarcrest students commit to a day of community service at Grahamwood. “I began this partnership with the support of a colleague of mine Eric Sullivan, Principal of Briarcrest High School,” states Johnson. “I appreciate how this ongoing relationship between our two schools, one public and one private, has faculty and students working on projects that benefit both of our educational organizations.”  This year, a dozen Briarcrest students helped Grahamwood teachers with classroom projects, created hallway displays, mentored students, and helped supervise a Book Character Sock-Hop. A fun and academically enriching time was had by all!

Grahamwood Elementary Hosts a Marvelous ESL Night!


Latino Memphis Shares Community Resources with Families  


   “Diversity is one of the many strengthens that makes Grahamwood Elementary one of the great Shelby County Schools,” states Principal Pete Johnson. “We welcome and celebrate this uniqueness daily.” This was never more in evidence than earlier this month when Grahamwood Elementary School’s English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers welcomed all of our ESL learners as well as their families to our annual ESL Night. Parents, grandparents and other stakeholders participated by the hundreds in an evening of information, shared opportunities, and fun. A number of community sponsors joined us including the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, MIFA, The Exchange Club Family Center, Tennessee Strengthening Families, WGU, Multi-National Ministries, Community Legal Center, Well Child, Tennessee’s Imagination Library, and Latino Memphis. Attendees were treated to hotdogs, beverages and snacks as well as being introduced in their native language to Grahamwood’s teachers and administration. ESL Teacher Robbin Gunn says, “We do this each year so that our ESL families get a chance to meet our faculty. Additionally, we invite organizations and nonprofits to this event to inform our ESL parents of community resources that are available to them.” All in all, Grahamwood Elementary’s ESL Night was a huge success!


ESL Night attendees are provided a plethora of information

Grahamwood Reads for the Record!


Librarian Fields (left) is proud of her Read for the Record readers!


   Grahamwood Elementary Librarian Alicia Fields is to be commended for putting together an amazing literacy event for our primary students. The 5th grade members of Grahamwood’s Student Council were recruited to read Quackers by Liz Wong to the Kindergarten through 2nd students as a part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record. The students read Quackers in both English and Spanish to over 400 students! Each year millions of elementary students around the world read the same book on the same day attempting to set a new Guinness World Record. “It was really fun,” stated 5th grade reader Carolina Calvo, “because there were a lot of active kids raising their hands and asking questions. They really liked the book and the coloring sheets we gave them about the story.” As a culminating activity, the readers asked questions to check for comprehension and to gather students’ thoughts on the story. A grand time was had by all!

Grahamwood Teachers Save Student’s Life!


Chambers, Nico and Hart (pictured l-r)


   Grahamwood Elementary is home to a couple of 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.  

Grace Henderson Loves Donor Choose


Ms. Henderson bringing more technology to her classroom


   Donors Choose has proven to be a wonderful resource for Optional 5th grade teacher Grace Henderson. Being a teacher early in her career, Ms. Henderson has not amassed all the resources that more seasoned colleagues have acquired over the years. To make up for this deficit, she turned to the crowd source funding website, Donors Choose allows educators to make online requests which if the viewers find worthy are funded through their donations. Over the last few months, Ms. Henderson has received funding for 7 Kindle Fire tablets plus heavy duty cases and 2 Chromebook laptops for her students to use. “One anonymous donor gave over $280,” stated Ms. Henderson, “and left this wonderful comment: ‘I went to Grahamwood as a child and attribute part of my success to the excellent education provided. I would like to pass this on to future generations.’” Way to go, Ms. Henderson!       

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 Elementary’s Walk to School Day!




   Grahamwood Elementary had a huge crowd of 502 students and over 100 parents join in the annual International Walk and Bike to School Day. Local Fire and Police precincts helped lead the way as students walked, biked, strolled and cheered their way from the Big Lots parking lot on Summer Avenue through the local neighborhoods and on to Grahamwood Elementary School. The neighboring Kroger donated 500 bananas, cookies and bottles of water to participating students. The event was organized by P.E. teachers Jo McCawley and Andrew Martin. Ms. McCawley explained, “Parents were encouraged to participate with their kids and to show support for our school while celebrating the benefits of walking.” This year saw the biggest crowd yet to join in Grahamwood’s annual Walk to School Day!

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 Teachers Rock!

Ms. Helton is the Volunteer of the Year!


   We are pleased to announce that three of Grahamwood Elementary’s distinguished teachers were recognized for their extraordinary efforts in educating children. Second grade Optional teacher Rachel Helton was honored by the Porter Boys and Girls Club of Memphis as their Volunteer of the Year. “It was definitely a surprise!” stated Ms. Helton. She earned the award for teaching etiquette and life skills to high school students via STEM and ACT Prep related activities during cultural outings and college tours.

   Grahamwood Elementary School Resource teacher Melissa Idleman was honored last week by the Shelby County Schools (SCS) Board of Education for having perfect attendance. She was selected from a pool of teachers with perfect attendance. Ms. Idleman received balloons, a basket of goodies, and a paid day off of school. “The award was greatly appreciated. I typically do not miss school,” says Ms. Idleman. “The presentation was nice since it included one of my former colleagues. It was very touching.” We all appreciate the extraordinary efforts of Ms. Idleman on behalf of her students!

   Last but not least, we are all proud of Grahamwood Elementary’s P.E. teacher Andrew Martin for being awarded the Health, Physical Education, and Lifetime Wellness Teacher for SCS. Coach Martin was selected by his supervisors as the most outstanding SCS P.E. Teacher!



Ms. Idleman is honored for her dedication!                               Coach Martin is named P.E. Teacher of the Year!

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!


Shirley Kong with her award winning Rooster drawing

Partnering to Read


The EL Reading Club sharing stories and friendship!


This year Grahamwood Elementary has made an extra effort to reach out far and wide to its community partners to create literacy opportunities for all of our students. Our ESL Department who are now tutoring nearly 30 English Learners (EL) a week. They have partnered with a Therapy Dogs program and have incorporated a multitude of other approaches to encourage literacy. For example, their students have begun reading to pet stuffed animals. Next, the Optional Coordinator reached out to a couple of Lausanne seniors, Davis Jack and Aaron Hunt, who have tutored over a half-dozen students in reading during the first months of 2017, the literacy programs have grown exponentially. Beyond this in February, a weekly EL Parent-Student Reading Club was established where parents partner with EL students to read and be read to. Currently, about two dozen EL students and parent volunteers are participating in this before school literacy opportunity with new students and volunteers being added weekly. Additionally, many students have joined their parents in becoming volunteer EL readers. Reading Rocks at Grahamwood Elementary!  

UM Basketball Players Share Secrets to Success


UM basketball players Moffatt and Rhyhoek discuss secrets of success with Grahamwood students


   Through the efforts of P.E. Instructor Andrew Martin, Grahamwood Elementary students got to meet two University of Memphis (UM) basketball players--Alex Moffatt and Chad Rhyhoek. During their visit, they talked with 5th graders about their educational and athletic experiences, and about the adversity they faced when injuries almost derailed their careers. Most importantly, these athletes talked about how they had to persevere to overcome these obstacles to get a second chance at success. “I thought it was pretty nice that Alex came to my school,” said 5th grader Alice Moffatt—Alex’s cousin. “He told us in order to be a good sports player, you need to put in hard work.” Further, the players discussed the importance of having long term goals and dedicating yourself to doing what it takes to maintain good grades in order to achieve success. When they graduate, Alex wants to be a head coach on the collegiate level and Chad wants to play basketball professionally. Coach Martin states, “We wish them nothing but success in all that they do and hope to have them back at Grahamwood in the future.” 

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.”      

Jumping for Healthy Hearts

Grahamwood Elementary Students Jumping for Healthy Hearts!


   Students at Grahamwood Elementary over the years have shown an admirable and unwavering support for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Hearts program.  Amazingly, Grahamwood students have raised over $32,000 in just the past 3 years! In fact, in the last two years, Grahamwood Elementary has raised more money for this cause than any other Shelby County School for the American Heart Association. This year, our school had 600 students participate in this event raising $12,100 for this noble cause. Physical Education teachers Jo McCawley and Andrew Martin have done an incredible job in nurturing this awesome community service project to the point that it is the role model for all of Shelby County. “We salute all of our students, parents and stakeholders who have contributed in any fashion to make all of us a bit more aware of healthy lifestyles,” states Principal Pete Johnson.

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!”       


A Pre-K Student Sculpture Display at Board of Education

Grahamwood Elementary School’s Pre-K Students Shine!


   Grahamwood Art Teacher Ann Kling is amazing! Check out the sculptures she has teased out of our Pre-Kindergarten students. Their artwork is now wrapping up a month long display at the Shelby County Schools Board of Education. We are proud of our youngest learners and their remarkable accomplishments!

Students Give B.A.C.K. to the Community

Grahamwood students give back to the community!


   On April 29th, Grahamwood Elementary students Melanie Johnson and Nicholas Brown from the Building Active Confident Kids (B.A.C.K) program completed a service project at a senior living facility. They planted flowers and spent time hanging out with the residents. Everyone enjoyed this outreach experience as witnessed by the smiles on the faces. The residents were very excited and grateful for the flowers. Grahamwood’s Cory Johnson, who founded and initiates B.A.C.K activities, wants to continue the partnership with the Ashley Total Care Center. "It was great to show the kids that doing small things can make a huge impact," states Mr. Johnson. Assistant Principal Tia James stated, “I am extremely proud of all of our students and educators community outreach efforts.” A very special thanks goes to Pre-Kindergarten teacher Sharon Long, Occupational Therapist Marion Gleadhill, and parent volunteer Gabrielle Woods-Clark who all helped to make this remarkable learning experience possible.      

Grahamwood Goes to the Dogs

   Grahamwood Elementary 4th grade CLUE students have been studying all about canines. “The students participated in the Dog Days of CLUE,” stated CLUE teacher Laura Wilons. “A dog expert panel was assembled and visited the school providing insight on various topics about canines.” Mid-South Therapy Dogs, with the help of two handlers and two therapy dogs, came to teach what a therapy dog does, the differences between therapy and service dogs, and the training involved in raising and owning a therapy dog. Amy and Dena from Real Good Dog Rescue brought two canine pals to teach our students about what a rescue organization does, why it is important to rescue animals, and how they help the Humane Society and Animal Shelters. Finally, Matt Womack from Memphis Humane Society talked what they do, their facilities, and responsible pet ownership. To help the Humane Society, the students collected and donated three boxes full of food, treats, and supplies. “Grahamwood’s faculty is always looking for new ways to reach out to community organizations to provide unique learning opportunities for our students,” states Optional Coordinator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell. “This experience was a real bonus where students also discovered how their families can help others (in this case animals) in need.” 

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.

2016 Happenings

Pre-K CLUE Comes to Grahamwood Elementary School!


Pre-K CLUE teacher Janis Pankey engaging her gifted students.


   Beginning this school year, Grahamwood Elementary is proud to announce that it has added Pre-Kindergarten CLUE classes to its list of academic options. We are excited to have Janis Pankey, a much heralded Shelby County Schools Pre-K teacher, join our faculty to head up this endeavor. “I already have 32 students in my program and I expect this number will increase as more parents learn about it,” states Pankey. Children qualify for Pre-K CLUE by testing in as state qualified gifted students. These students meet at Grahamwood Elementary twice a week for a total of 5 hours of advanced academic instruction and discovery learning designed to challenge their gifted abilities. “Pre-K CLUE is a remarkable program,” says Robyn Maxwell, a mother of two Pre-K CLUE graduates. “My children loved going and couldn’t wait for Pre-K CLUE days. It got them off to a great start that positively impacts them to this day. They are both honor students and my son is taking AP classes at White Station High School.” We are thrilled to offer Pre-K CLUE at Grahamwood and to have such a talented educator as Janis Pankey leading this program. If you are interested in finding out more or applying for Pre-K CLUE, please contact Dr. Tommie Yelvington at 901.416.0155.

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!”

Briarcrest Students Do a Day of Service at Grahamwood



   Principal Pete Johnson during his tenure at Grahamwood Elementary has played a crucial role in forging numerous public-private partnerships between the school and community organizations for the mutual benefit of both. One long-standing partnership is between Grahamwood Elementary and Briarcrest High School. Each year, Briarcrest High School students commit to a day of community service. As a part of this commitment, Briarcrest students spend a day at Grahamwood. “I began this partnership with the support of a colleague of mine Eric Sullivan, Principal of Briarcrest High School,” states Johnson. “I appreciate how this ongoing partnership between our two schools, one public and one private, has faculty and students working hand-in-hand on projects that benefit both of our educational needs.”  This year, 20 Briarcrest students chose Grahamwood where they helped teachers with classroom projects, created hallway displays, mentored students, and as a bonus participated in our literacy promoting Book Character Sock-Hop. A great day of learning, fun, and the making of new friends was had by all!

Shakespeare Comes to Grahamwood Elementary


   The Tennessee Shakespeare Company performed at Grahamwood Elementary School this week introducing our 5th grade students to some of Shakespeare’s most famous works. The actors mixed in lessons on the English language and the power of words as well as other notable speeches from the likes of Abraham Lincoln. 5th grade CLUE students have been learning about Shakespeare and his plays over the past few weeks. They learned his unique language, read through a comedy and a tragedy, and completed creative activities that have extended their thinking beyond the text. The Tennessee Shakespeare Company always provides an incredible educational experience for our CLUE students. We feel that seeing live theater in an intimate setting provides unmatched exposure to the Bard. The actors were not only extremely knowledgeable about Shakespeare and his works, but also interacted with our students to expand their understanding and appreciation for Shakespeare and the English language.

Grahamwood Elementary Votes!



   Grahamwood Elementary students in Artis Walker’s 2nd grade class held a mock election with different types of candy as candidates. Students had to sign-up to get a Voter Registration Card with a photo ID. Students made campaign posters for their choice of the candy candidates—Twix, Laffy Taffy or Nerds. Second grader Valarie Gray stated, “We wrote questions to ask the candy candidates.” As it turns out, each candy candidate had a student as their spokesperson who fielded these questions. Valarie adds, “My favorite part was when we voted. I voted for Nerds!” Although it was a close race, after all the votes were tallied the Nerds won with Laffy Taffy coming in second. Afterwards, the students wrote a paper comparing and contrasting their candy candidate election to the real U. S. Presidential election and shared their findings with their classmates.

Grandparents Visit Classrooms


Ms. Paris’ students’ enjoy breakfast and learning with their grandparents


   Barbara Paris (1st grade) and Rachel Helton (2nd grade) hosted a Grandparent Day celebration in their Optional classrooms on Friday, September 9th in honor of national Grandparents Day. Ms. Helton stated, “I feel it is important to invite grandparents into the classroom because they sometimes feel left out of the educational process. Grandparents who visit my room do activities such as being interviewed by their grandkids, where the students learn more about their grandparents’ lives.” In all over 50 grandparents and grandparent surrogates (visitors for those students without available grandparents) attended. Snacks were served and attendees learned about the daily routine of the students, recent activities, and students and grandparents worked together on cooperative projects. Ms. Paris said, “I have hosted Grandparent Day celebrations for 25 years. Many of the grandparents who visited are actually former Grahamwood students. The grandparents compared and contrasted how elementary school is today as to how it was when they were in school.” This is one of the many traditions that makes the educational experience unique at Grahamwood Elementary School.  Principal Pete Johnson summed it up by saying, “The students were thrilled to have their grandparents spend a day with them in their classroom. It is fun events like this that keep students interested in school and engaged in the learning process.”

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.

ColorCycle Makes Recycling Fun!



   At Grahamwood Elementary, we are working to teach the concept of being green at an early age. CLUE teacher Peggy Woods is coordinating the Crayola ColorCycle recycling program this year. This amazing program takes used markers and turns them into energy! “We want to encourage Grahamwood’s stakeholders to collect used markers, highlighters and dry erase markers that are ready to be discarded,” says Woods, “and my students and I will send them to a facility where they will be converted into clean fuel. This fuel can be used to power vehicles, heat homes, cook meals and more!” Drop-off boxes are located around the school to collect the markers. “The Crayola ColorCycle program will help keep tons of plastic out of landfills each year. Remember, don’t throw out that used marker,” declares Woods, “ColorCycle it!

Grahamwood Wins National Chess Championship!


Chess Coach Jonathan Beatty & some of his 2016 National Chess Champions!


   Last year, Grahamwood’s Chess Team won both the primary and intermediate divisions of the 2015 Tennessee State Chess competition. Building on this amazing accomplishment, the students entered the annual national chess competition. Grahamwood Elementary students competed in a number of divisions. The national tournament was held in Nashville, Tennessee this May. Coach Jonathan Beatty who began coaching in 2003 when he was only in 7th grade had himself won a national 1st place as an elementary student at Grahamwood. This year Grahamwood’s 4th -5th grade team in the Champion division came into the competition ranked about 25th in the nation. By the end of the competition, they won 4th place for the whole United States. Even more remarkable, Grahamwood’s kindergarten to 3rd grade Novice Team finished 1st and were declared the 2016 National Chess Champions! Coach Beatty is quick to say, “I am not done, yet.” He wants all of his Grahamwood teams to win 1st place nationally. Grahamwood Elementary’s Principal Pete Johnson stated, “What an incredible performance! I want to thank Coach Beatty and all he’s done to encourage such an awesome performance by our unbelievably talented students!”

Grahamwood Grants Keep Rolling In

       Grahamwood Elementary Grant Writer Dr. Maxwell


   Grahamwood Elementary’s Optional Facilitator Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is on a roll. Since the beginning of the school year he has been helping Grahamwood Elementary secure grants for the benefit of its students from a variety of sources. The $1700 Junior League’s Innovative Teaching Grant he was awarded will be used to engage students in hands on exploratory research on Memphis history. The $700 Target Fieldtrip Grant he received will provide the transportation to historical sites and landmarks such as Beale Street and the Rock and Soul Museum. Finally, along with Grahamwood’s PLC coach Yolanda Taylor, Dr. Maxwell helped secure a $82,500 SIG Grant which will be used to help at risk students reach their potential. “With the year only halfway done,” states Dr. Maxwell, “hopefully this is only the beginning!”

Ms. Smith’s Class Honored for MLK, Jr. Contribution!


CMOM Education Director Felica Peat and Ms. Smith with the winning Dr. King poster!

   Under the leadership of teacher Claire Smith, the 2016 Dear Dr. King Dream Project Award goes to Grahamwood Elementary School’s 4th grade classes. Her students are to be commended for creating the winning poster on the values espoused by Dr. King. For their noble efforts, Ms. Smith and her students were presented a $50 check from the Children’s Museum of Memphis (CMOM) to use for whatever purpose they chose. Rather than opting for a pizza party or some other reward, the students made the admirable decision to donate the money to the children of St. Jude.  As her students have demonstrated, Ms. Smith is to be applauded for impressing not only the need for creativity and quality work but also instilling empathy and charity in her students.

Rikki Tikki Tavi Visits Grahamwood Elementary


Grahamwood Elementary students love Rikki Tikki Tavi & Friends!

   “It was wonderful!” exclaimed 2nd grader Addie Scoggins. “It taught us to share with other people like in the play where the bird learned to share its garden.” Addie echoed the feelings of all Grahamwood Elementary students who were treated to a performance of Rudyard Kipling’s classic Rikki Tikki Tavi. Thanks to a generous Tennessee Arts Grant secured by Grahamwood Elementary CLUE teacher Laura Wilons, Playhouse on the Square performers were able bring this remarkable production the school. Second grade Optional teacher Sylvia Albert notes, “The Tennessee Arts Grant bring arts integration into the classroom. They expose many students to the arts who might otherwise never be exposed.”

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 Partners with Heifer to Fight Poverty


CLUE teachers with some of their generous students visiting Heifer International!


   A big round of applause is in order for the students of Grahamwood Elementary CLUE teachers Sherry Coates, Laura Wilons and Lisa Ziegler. The students took a trip to Heifer International and learned about the plight of many of the less fortunate people around the world. In an effort to help end hunger and poverty, their 5th grade CLUE classes partnered with Heifer International and raised $330. With this money, the students voted to purchase a goat, a llama, and a flock of geese to aid those in need. Principal Pete Johnson congratulated the teachers for their “excellent work instilling in our students a sense of empathy and the value of giving to others.”

Grahamwood Hosts Fantastic Cinco de Mayo Festival!



   Grahamwood Elementary’s English as a Second Language (ESL) department threw one incredible Cinco de Mayo Celebration. Hundreds of parents, students and stakeholders descended on the Grahamwood pavilion and grounds for a day of food and fun. Students dressed in celebratory clothing, played traditional instruments, and engaged in crafts such as creating piñatas. The ESL faculty and parents provided homemade food, drinks, candy, entertainment, and a discussion of Hispanic cultural contributions for the attendees. Principal Pete Johnson was impressed saying, “What a huge success! The turnout and participation was awesome with everyone having a great time sharing in our school’s amazing diversity!” ESL teacher Robbin Gunn noted, “The Cinco de Mayo Festival was the culmination of our lessons on the importance of Hispanics and the Hispanic culture to U.S. History. Of course not all of the Latino families at Grahamwood are of Mexican descent, but this celebration’s goal is to bring all of us together to recognize and appreciate the contributions of the many Hispanic cultures within our community.” Thanks to the amazing success of this year’s program, the Cinco de Mayo Celebration looks to become one of Grahamwood Elementary School’s ongoing signature events.

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 Students Win State Poetry Awards


CLUE Teacher Peggy Woods with Ari (l) and Danielle (r)


   The Poetry Society of Tennessee recognized two Grahamwood Elementary 3rd grade students for their creativity. In the category of “2016 Student Awards for Excellence in Poetry”, Ari Taub in Blaise Scott’s classroom won 3rd Place for Bridges and Danielle Parker in Denise Young’s class earned Honorable Mention for the similarly titled poem Bridges. Both students work was submitted by their CLUE teacher Peggy Woods. In addition to the recognition, Ari Taub won a $10 cash prize. “We are always proud of our students at Grahamwood,” says Principal Pete Johnson. “However, it is especially nice when the greater community recognizes our students’ remarkable abilities and achievements.”

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!

2015 Happenings

Lulu Takes Cooper-Young Artist Award


   Lulu Kling-Wilson, a 1st grade student in Barbara Paris’ Optional class, was awarded 3rd Place in the Cooper-Young Artist Contest. She competed against 1st – 4th graders from across the region. The theme this year was Memphis Music and Lulu, even at such a young age, is a big Memphis music fan who regularly sees live music at the Levitt Shell and at Rock & Romp shows. So, she created a record designed blue ice cream cone because as Lulu says, “Memphis music is cool!” Lulu is the daughter of one of Grahamwood’s talented Art teacher’s Ann Kling who states that of the 15 years that the Cooper-Young Artist Contest has existed, Grahamwood has participated in 14 of these with an impressive number of our students winning awards. Way to go, Lulu!

Ms. Paris' First Thanksgiving

   Grahamwood Elementary School students in Barbara Paris’ 1st grade Optional class re-enacted the First Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. After researching information on this event, the students made and decorated costumes. The boys dressed as Native Americans and the girls as Pilgrims. The Pilgrims thanked the Native Americans for all the help they provided and welcomed them to the feast. Over two dozen parents attended, bringing food similar to what was served at the original Thanksgiving Feast. Ms. Paris has been holding First Thanksgiving re-enactments with her students for over 20 years. One parent described the event as “a magical moment.”

Les Passees' Kids on the Block


   A rranged by Grahamwood Elementary’s School Guidance Counselor Kimberly Henderson, students were recently treated to a unique puppetry program. The shows were presented by Les Passees whose mission is “to provide advocacy and support to enhance the quality of life for children and their families.” To this end for over 20 years, Les Passees has been presenting Bunraku Japanese style puppet theatre for schools and libraries in Memphis. Bunraku puppeteers are dressed in black to blend into the background while they conduct lifelike 2-3 foot puppets through plays designed to provide life lessons on topics from learning disorders to dealing with disabilities to bullying. Susan Irvin who has been a longtime puppeteer says, “Our goal is to help children learn important life lessons in a fun way.” Grahamwood’s students were transfixed by the program.

Leathercrafting in the Cafetorium!

Students show off wristbands they made at a leather crafting demonstration 


   Jean Cardenas of the Tandy Leather Factory paid a visit to Grahamwood Elementary School. Claire Smith’s Optional students were one of the 4th and 5th grade classes who participated in this hands-on educational event. After a lesson on the history of leather and leather crafting, the students learned of the different hides used around the world to make clothing, shelter, tools and decorative items. In fact, every student got to engrave their name or a design on their own leather wristband using actual leather crafting tools. “This is so wonderful because it connects directly into what we are learning about Native Americans in Social Studies,” stated Ms. Smith, “as well as Science where we are studying adaption.” This unique opportunity allowed students the chance to explore, discover and learn about the world outside the normal confines of the classroom.

GPTO & P.E. Team Up to Score!


   Grahamwood’s Parent Teacher Organization put up the money to purchase soccer goals so that the P.E. department could create a soccer field for the students. “I proposed that they do this and it was approved by them,” said Andrew Martin. “My desire to have the soccer goals at Grahamwood is to give the P.E. program a set place to practice soccer and for recess kids to have an additional area to play.” The students have been excited ever since learning that a soccer field with goals was going to happen. Both P.E. teachers, Martin and Jo McCawley, agree that seeing the students’ faces when they actually saw the soccer goals made all the hard work worth it. The P.E. teachers, along with all of Grahamwood’s faculty, constantly strive for the betterment of students whether through fitness or academics. Martin sums up his feelings by saying, “I have the best job in the world and providing the students with their very own soccer field is something that means the world to them.”

Grahamwood Researches Memphis via Downtown Tours

    Grahamwood Elementary’s 5th Grade Optional students were welcomed this past week with open arms to the Smithsonian sponsored Memphis Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum to learn not only of Memphis’ music history but also its worldwide cultural impact. The visit was a part of a larger field exploration of downtown that included a docent led tour of the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art as well as a historical walking tour of the Beale Street area. The students took field notes of the notable places, events and Memphians they encountered who have made our city what it is today. Students brought their field notes back to Grahamwood and are using these to conduct research that will lead to the creation of a calendar that details the different aspects of Memphis history our students discovered. This project was headed up by Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell, Grahamwood Elementary’s Optional Facilitator, and two grants (Junior League Innovative Teaching Grant and the Target Field Trip Grant) awarded to him, Brett Emerson (5th Grade Optional Teacher), Carolyn Owens (Computer Instructor) and Alicia Fields (Librarian).

Grahamwood Alumna Joins U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Grahamwood Alumna Dorie Turner Nolt


   Grahamwood Alumna Dorie Turner Nolt who attended our school’s Optional program for 4th-6th grade (1989-1991) is now the Press Secretary for President Obama’s U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Grahamwood Elementary gave me a creative environment where I could thrive academically…My love of writing started at Grahamwood, and I am grateful to the teachers I had there who helped me discover my life’s passion so early.”

Grahamwood's Robotic Team Competes


   Under the guidance of 1st grade Optional Teacher Kristina Jones, Grahamwood Elementary’s Junior Lego Team participated in their first showcase at the University of Memphis’ Lego League Robotics Competition. Grahamwood was Shelby County School’s first Lego League Team entered. Our team members shared their simple machines, descriptive tri-fold, structural design and motorized pieces with the judges. The judges were duly impressed! Way to go, Ms. Jones!

Entrepreneurs' Day @ Grahamwood



   Grahamwood Elementary’s 4th grade Optional students have been studying entrepreneurialism. Inspired by Moziah Bridges, the student who created Mo’s Bows, students came up with businesses with names such as Hawaiin Hangout, Fizzle Pops, and Creative Clothes. As a culminating project, the students developed business concepts, created business plans, designed advertising campaigns, and wrote jingles they presented to potential investors who just happened to be their parents. The program highlighted the rigor of Grahamwood’s Optional Program whereby students studied a topic, researched its components, developed a real-world application, proactively pursued the concept to its practical conclusion, and then presented their findings via the 3rd Annual Young Entrepreneurs Presentation Day. All of the 4th grade Optional teachers are to be commended for making this unique learning experience a reality for their students.

White Station High School Visits Grahamwood

   On November 10th, a group of high school students from White Station in Harold Bouldin’s Honors Marketing II class brought a presentation to Grahamwood Elementary on entrepreneurship. The event was organized by White Station High School students Jordyn Lubin, Marcell Wierdl, and Elie Linder. Elie Linder described their goal, “We have developed hands on activities to teach the principle of entrepreneurialism.” To this end, they were successful in that Grahamwood 4th graders were treated to six stations operated by White Station students that detailed different aspects of starting and running a business including a discussion with an actual entrepreneur!


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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