Instructor of the Month

October 2017 - Rick Duvall

Rick Duvall

Rick Duvall joined the District 5 Adult Education team as a part-time instructor who was fired-up about the work he was doing. Duvall quickly transitioned into a full-time position and played an integral role in moving into our new classroom space. He willingly teaches IELCE and HSE classes. Duvall is passionate about seeing our adult education students succeed. Because his background is in collegiate instruction, Duvall is always eager to guide students towards post-secondary education. His musical background contributes to his unique style of teaching. From time to time, Duvall will use music to inspire the students, especially with their writing. He desires to connect with each student and create a learning environment that caters to each learner individually.

Duvall has a special relationship with his IELCE students. They come to class every morning excited to learn. Their excitement stems from wondering how he will teach class each day. Duvall’s unique way of connecting with these students leaves them wanting to come back for more. Earlier this year, he taught a lesson in which they discussed birthdays. Little did he know, his students would document his birthday! The students planned a surprise birthday for him during one of the class periods where they all brought a dish from their home country. This goes to show that they value him as their instructor and come to class anxious to learn every day.

Duvall’s entrepreneurial and marketing background strongly contributes to the growth of our program. He recently presented multiple ideas to the district in hopes of contributing to the growth of the adult education program. It is very clear to see that he is dedicated and excited about his future work with Tennessee Adult Education. Duvall is a team player. He values the relationships he has made across the district. He continues to seek out opportunities to grow in this role and to serve his students to the best of his ability.

Congrats to our October Instructor of the Month, Rick Duvall!


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September 2017 - Janice Dunn


Janice Dunn is a classic teacher. Her teaching style is confident, steady, and warm. Her personality shines through in her teaching. She is a hard-working, dutiful, and trustworthy individual whom our students need in their lives. Because the students deal with so much transition, having someone so solid like Dunn is a gift for them. She connects with the students on a deep level. Dunn excels when explaining math to people who hate math!

To Dunn, teaching is not just a means to make money. She invests in the lives of her students, and she leaves an impression that they do not forget. Dunn makes all new students feel welcome. She is a friend to all.

Congrats to our September Instructor of the Month, Janice Dunn!



August 2017 - Cookie Tankersley

Cookie Tankersley

Carolyn “Cookie” Tankersley is a highly skilled instructor who has taught mathematics for over 10 years. Always encouraging, she does not give up on her students until they earn their diploma. When students fail to attend classes, Tankersley contacts each one to encourage them to return. She establishes a positive relationship with all her students, so they know someone cares about their future.

One example of Tankersley’s relentless, genuine concern is when a student with regular class attendance was suddenly absent. After a brief search, she located the student in the county jail. Tankersley arranged for him to return to class upon his release. Once he returned to class, he successfully passed the HiSET.

Tankersley believes that teaching students is her ministry. She knows the lasting effect earning a diploma has on the students and their families. At times when a student’s motivation may begin to falter, Tankersley is there to keep them going. Every student is inspired by her caring nature.

Congrats to Cookie Tankersley,  August’s Instructor of the Month!

July 2017 - James Calhoun

James Calhoun

James Calhoun is a person of incredible depth: depth of knowledge, character, and commitment to his students’ success. He has the ability to connect with students from diverse backgrounds. As he teaches, Calhoun develops an encyclopedic knowledge of his students as individuals. He knows where they excel and struggle, what personal barriers they face, and what motivates them to do the finest work. Just as he does with his students, Calhoun knows how to push his colleagues to achieve greater successes. He always seems to know when to offer support, encouragement, or unvarnished, constructive assessments of a situation that propels our program forward.

Calhoun is very generous with his time and resources. He can frequently be found at the Central Library on Saturdays meeting with students on his own time or devoting time before or after class working with a student. Calhoun’s personal convenience comes second to a student’s needs; he has often incurred personal expenses to ensure that his students have what they need to succeed.

Perhaps what is most striking about Calhoun is his attitude toward his work and opportunities for growth. He is the kind of person who will never stop learning. As he evaluates and assesses what does and doesn't work with each student he serves, Calhoun is always ready to turn around and apply those lessons immediately to help the next student waiting in the wings.

Congratulations, James Calhoun, July’s Instructor of the Month!

June 2017 - Robert McKinney

Robert McKinney

Robert McKinney always makes his students feel at ease by using humor throughout his lessons. He is a man who lives out his faith in every aspect of his life. McKinney constantly receives rave reviews from students. As one student said, “if I had had a teacher like Mr. McKinney in high school, I might have been able to graduate.” But McKinney does not teach adult education for the praise; he teaches because he believes in the life-changing mission of adult education.

After retiring from Eastman Chemical as a mechanical engineer, McKinney sought out a position that would fulfill his desire to help others. He was approached with the possibility of lending his talents in math and science to the Washington County Adult Education program. His expertise in math and science has guided students through the daunting topics of these subtests. Though McKinney tentatively agreed to work with Adult Education, he quickly realized that he could help change the direction of his adult students’ lives.

Even after working part-time with Adult Education, McKinney spends every weekday afternoon tutoring underprivileged K-12 students at his local community center. For over 20 years, McKinney has selflessly lent his expertise in math and science to the K-12 students, changing their lives in the Appalachian region. Through his work with TN Adult Education, not only is McKinney changing the lives of young people, he also helps change the lives of their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles as well.

McKinney’s uncanny ability to help students of any age understand math enables many people in the economically disadvantaged region of Northeast Tennessee to rise out of poverty and subsequently creates a positive generational change.

Congratulations, Robert McKinney, June’s Instructor of the Month!

May 2017 - David Hodgen

David Hodgen

It’s been said that a good man is hard to find, but we have a good man working with the District 3 Adult Education team. David Hodgen is a retired teacher who now fills his time as a part-time instructor in Fentress County. A true team player, he is always willing to fill in or help out in any way possible, even at a moment’s notice. Hodgen may be the person ordering pizza for his students’ lunch on test day or the kind voice you hear on the phone when the paraprofessional is at lunch. Above all, he is a dedicated teacher who genuinely cares about the students and their success.

Hodgen maintains a positive attitude and goes the extra mile to help current and potential students. He recently set aside time on a Saturday to meet with one of his students who could not make it to the regularly scheduled class. 

He teaches a traditional class as well as a jail class. There is no doubt Hodgen is making an impact in the lives of the inmates at the Fentress County Justice Center through his positive, personal approach. One of his students was recently brought to tears when she was told she had passed the test. “I’m glad you believed in me because I sure didn’t,” she told Hodgen. 

Hodgen consistently encourages students to strive toward their goals and never give up. He has honed the art of individualized instruction, and effectively targets weak areas to help students succeed as quickly as possible. Hodgen has touched many lives over the course of his career, and has certainly made a positive difference in Fentress County.

Congratulations David Hodgen, the May 2017 Instructor of the Month!

April 2017 - Sherri Barnhart

Sherri Barnhart

Sherri Barnhart is the lead instructor for the National College campus in Antioch, TN. This campus is home to the largest and most diverse population of students in Nashville, with 30 unique countries represented in the student body. Walking into a classroom of this scope could easily overwhelm any instructor, but Sherri is able to use the diversity of the class to strengthen her students’ academic abilities. To do this, Sherri uses an “all-of-the-above” approach to teaching. On any given day in Sherri’s classroom, you may see students collaborating in pairs and small groups, working on computers, or even receiving one-on-one instruction. Outside of the classroom, Sherri is an effective leader for her part-time instructors and paraprofessional team members. She is relentless in making sure everyone has the tools and resources they need to be successful in their role.

Over the summer, our program received a notice that Nashville State Community College would not be renewing our MOU with them. This lead us to search for a new home in the Antioch community, which was eventually discovered at National College. After packing up and moving our offices and classrooms one Friday, we unpacked and continued classes the following Monday morning. Throughout this transition, our student population had shrunk to only a handful of students. Sherri, along with her team, began texting, calling, and emailing each and every student that had walked through our doors but hadn’t completed the program. After seven months, the campus is now flourishing with students!

In addition to Sherri’s outreach and engagement efforts, she demonstrates a highly differentiated model of instruction in her classroom. She is constantly reflecting on her own approach to teaching in order to cast as wide of a net as possible for her students. Her classroom is truly a blended learning environment.

Sherri Barnhart is a selfless person, who constantly displays her dedication to her community through her instruction and leadership. She takes ownership of the growth of her campus, but requires no recognition in return. Sherri has also taken on a subsequent role as the head of our graduation committee and secured a location at Trevecca Nazarene University for our Davidson County program to hold multiple graduation ceremonies per year. We are extremely proud and humbled to have her as part of our team.

Congrats Sherry Barnhart, our April 2017 Instructor of the Month!

March 2017 - Brandi Sexton

Brandi Sexton

Brandi Sexton, a lead teacher in District 2, is driven to excellence. She expects perfection in herself and strives to instill it in staff and students. Sexton brings a positive attitude and a willingness to share her knowledge with others to work everyday.

Sexton works with the smaller counties of District 2 that were not meeting monthly goals. She works with staff diligently and shares her processes to help them improve. Because of her hard work and dedication, those programs are now successful.

Sexton is caring, encouraging, and supportive. She works with students and staff so that everyone can achieve their goals. After years of no graduates, the Hamblen County jail, under Sexton’s lead, had 4 graduates the first quarter. She is the kind of teacher that others wish to emulate. 

Congratulations to Brandi Sexton!

February 2017 - Adrienne Morrell

Adrienne Morrell

Adrienne Morrell is a skilled instructor who goes the extra mile for both current and potential students. She serves as a lead instructor to a large geographic area, consisting of three counties. Her rural areas have a statistically low population of growth and/or change. Despite the statistics, Morrell actively seeks new and creative ways to reach students in need of their high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. She has worked with local libraries, establishing short term classes with flexible schedules in outlying communities. These classes serve students who can not commit to attendance at the established class location due to transportation challenges. Morrell has also demonstrated exemplary skill in working with students with disability issues. She provides the necessary accommodations within her classroom, ensuring valid assessment and progress, as well as working with the appropriate students to provide documentation that allows testing accommodations from HiSET.

One young man in Morrell’s class was in need of several testing accommodations for the HiSET exam. She assisted him with the required paperwork and documentation, working with the new chief testing examiner to schedule an individual-accommodating schedule that allowed the test to be completed in one week. Morrell worked with this student in class, using the accommodations, so he would be both academically-prepared and confident in using the approved accommodations. To meet this goal she was flexible with class times, meeting the needs of this student, as he could not participate in a group setting. Ultimately, Morrell’s dedication to this particular student was rewarded when he earned his HSE diploma in December.

When attendance in Morrell's public classes dropped, post her students earning their diplomas, she began to seek ways to support the needs of incarcerated students in the area. She has done so by adding additional testing support at the Wayne County Jail and the men’s program at Buffalo Valley. She has also reached out to local county jails, establishing a new class at the Lewis County Jail and Buffalo Valley women’s program. To support the unique needs of these additional classes, Morrell recommended bi-monthly HiSET testing. This would allow students in the 30-day Buffalo Valley programs to take their test before being discharged.

As a pro-active go-getter, who will do whatever is needed to ensure the needs of the students in her area are being met, Morrell is an exemplary lead instructor in District 6!

Congratulations to Adrienne Morrell, February’s Instructor of the Month!

January 2017 - Carolyn Stanley

Carolyn Stanley

Carolyn Stanley, a part-time instructor in District 5 for Rutherford County, has the skills, compassion, and motivation one needs to be an outstanding adult education instructor. When Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director for Read-to-Succeed in Murfreesboro, was contacted last summer concerning our need for a part-time instructor she shared the job announcement with her staff and tutors. Finding Stanley through this community partner proves that helping each other is a win-win for all of us.

Stanley embraced her new job by studying AE curriculum, pouring over HiSET materials, and seeking out best practices. She teaches morning and evening classes at the Rutherford County Adult Education Center with remarkable retention rates.

In addition, Stanley took on the challenge of teaching at both correctional facilities in Rutherford County, where she flourishes as well. Due to her instruction, one of the female inmates scored 20 on three subtests and a total score of 96 on the HiSET. She seems to be a perfect fit for any class she is asked to teach.

Congratulations, Carolyn Stanley, January’s Instructor of the Month!

Amy Miller

December 2016 - Amy Miles

Amy Miles is a dedicated teacher at the Polk County Jail. Miles, a retired school teacher, desired to serve her community. After learning about an already existing adult education jail program, she and her husband John contacted the Polk County Sheriff Office to begin adult education classes in the Polk County jail. Miles has taught countless students and touched many lives. Because of her efforts, many students have received their High School Equivalency Diploma.

Miles is a cancer survivor and an inspiration to all who meet her. She learned the Tennessee Adult Education program from the ground up. Miles teaches from the heart and mind. As a volunteer teacher, she never asks for compensation for teaching countless hours. If you ask Miles why she teaches, she will tell you, “the Lord called me to do this, so I’m doing it. I didn’t survive cancer to just sit around. I have a purpose and this is it.”

Congratulations Amy Miles, December’s Instructor of the Month!

Karla Prudhomme

November 2016 - Karla Prudhomme

Karla Prudhomme creates an atmosphere of success in all areas of her job as a Lead Instructor for District 1. She is dedicated to her work with Tennessee Adult Education. Prudhomme’s daily drive is a 35-mile winding 2-lane highway over the mountain from Johnson to Carter County, which takes about 1.5 hours.

Her can-do attitude is reflected to each of her students. Prudhomme inspires them to reach their goal despite any obstacles. With a hug and a push, she inspires all of her students with words of encouragement, phone calls, and extra help outside of class.

Prudhomme effectively completes any task in a timely manner no matter the obstacles. When Johnson County’s former adult education building had been condemned, Prudhomme saw this as an opportunity to have a new adult education site for her students. After speaking with the Mayors of Mountain City and Johnson County, Prudhomme secured a new free site that needed a few upgrades. She made arrangements for an ADA sidewalk to be constructed and restroom facilities to be added to the building. Prudhomme even visited a local building supply company asking them to donate the bathroom fixtures. Once she had the fixtures, she organized a group of volunteers who worked diligently to install the new donated bathroom fixtures. Prudhomme’s hard work and dedication to Tennessee Adult Education is evident in the lengths she will go to make sure her students have a place to learn.

Congratulations Karla Prudhomme, November’s Instructor of the Month!

Nancy Cavness

October 2016 - Nancy Cavness

Nancy Cavness may have retired from Henderson County Schools, but she never stopped teaching. When Cavness started as a part-time instructor with the Henderson County Adult Education Program, she taught at the local adult education center and the Henderson County Jail in Lexington, TN. Ten years later, Cavness has worked with hundreds of adults, helping them earn their High School Equivalency Diplomas.

Her dedication to adult education continued when she started the Christian Women’s Job Corps mentoring program, which pairs incarcerated women with female mentors. Cavness is a shining light for the women she works with and many of her students have gone on to take post-secondary education courses.

Cavness deeply cares about her students and mentors them through the tough times they experience as they transition out of incarceration.

Congratulations Nancy Cavness, October’s Instructor of the Month!

Julia Goss

September 2016 - Julia Goss

With her easygoing demeanor and beaming smile, Julia Goss, Lead Instructor in District 3 for Cumberland, White, and Van Buren counties, is a solution-finder. She is not one to sit and complain or find fault, but is a team builder. Goss’ direct but non-confrontational style is calming both in and out the classroom.

Her ability in the classroom is evident through proven results. Even through the process of the AE transition, Goss’ classes are still on target to reach the HSE quarterly goal. In the true spirit of a Lead Instructor, she has taken the initiative to work with other teachers in her district to develop a common syllabus for all levels and classes to reference while planning and implementing the new curriculum maps. Though soft-spoken, Goss does not shy away from respectfully addressing members of the community regarding the benefits of educating adults and advocating for her students.

She is great at getting things done while building others up and nuturing relationships with students and teachers alike. Goss is a true champion of adult education and District 3 is very grateful for all her talents.

Congratulations to Julia Goss, September’s Instructor of the Month!

Jennifer Rouse

August 2016 - Jennifer Rouse

Jennifer Rouse is a doer. Her students quickly achieve their goals in her classes. Rouse has a very positive attitude and it reflects in her pass rate.

She has shown the leadership qualities needed to move District 2 forward. Through this transition, Rouse has adapted and continued working to help students achieve their goals. She is working with other teachers in the district to show them her process.

Rouse is organized, thoughtful, and a team player.

Congratulations Jennifer Rouse, August Instructor of the Month!



July 2016 - Kelly Gould

Kelly GouldKelly Gould came to our program in March of 2015 with a graduate degree in education, an empty nest at home and plenty of ambition to pursue her true love, teaching! You can walk by her classroom at any given time and see the enthusiasm she has for what she does. Gould’s classes have the most students, as they all vie for as seat in her class!

She has a positive outlook on everything in District 4, constantly encouraging and continuously assisting students and staff. She is excited about adult education and gives 100% of herself every day. Gould comes to work even on days she is not scheduled because she is very dedicated to the adult education philosophy. Everyone admires her level of energy and her character. Gould gets excited about staff development, and when it’s time for the next training class, she is the first one to sign up and encourages everyone else to do the same! Gould keeps all curriculum materials in order, speaks with all the teachers on a daily basis, sets up and trains other teachers on the use of HiSET Academy, keeps up with all attendance sheets for our office manager and meets with any student when necessary. When asked why she does all this, she always responds, “I love my job and that’s why I’m here!”

Congratulations to Kelly Gould!

June 2016 - Robbie Hunter

Robbie HunterRobbie Hunter continually inspires her students to come back to class each day, ready to learn. Her retention rates are the highest among the teachers at the Rivergate Learning Center and her students continue to show academic growth. Hunter has fostered an open and positive learning environment in her classroom. Due to the safe and encouraging atmosphere, she has created, her students share their opinions on various issues. Hunter engages with the community by teaching ESL classes for the Institute for Educational Volunteer Programs.

Hunter puts countless extra hours at RLC, arriving early and staying late every day. She also helps students after hours and spends even more time planning for her next class sessions. Hunter has gone beyond the expectations of an adjunct instructor to make sure her students succeed. Hunter has been an integral part of the Rivergate Learning Center, and she has maintained a positive and flexible attitude when dealing with setbacks or changes that have occurred since the Center opened. Hunter is not here for the paycheck but to help her students succeed.

Congratulations Robbie Hunter!

May 2016 - Michelle Frownfelter

Michelle FrownfelterMichelle Frownfelter demonstrates excellence in teaching in many ways. She is constantly researching, reading, and developing ways to make connections between the students and the subjects she teaches. Frownfelter also spends many hours after leaving her classroom, preparing for the next day. Her students know they can depend on her to provide them with the skills and instruction needed to help them meet their goals.

she began teaching Adult Education in 2006 and is always willing to help a student register for the HiSET test, assist the AE staff in preparing materials, as well as substitute teaching when needed. Frownfelter oversees an orientation class, as well as the current distance education instruction. She is dedicated to her job and cares for her students. She teaches all levels of language arts and math on a rotation basis, as well as all levels of men's and women's classes in the Henry County Jail. She is a great teacher, motivator, and coworker.

Despite going through a difficult year personally, Frownfelter was unfaltering in her dedication to her work. Each day she came ready to teach and assist the students. It is very clear to all the staff the commitment that she has to all students.

Congratulations to Michelle Frownfelter!

April 2016 - Julia Keeley

Julia Keeley Julia Keeley continuously goes above and beyond Webster's definition of a teacher. She is always cognitive of each student and their individual needs. Keeley prepares lesson plans to fit the student and their individual learning requirements. Knowing there are specific learning styles, she tries to ensure each person is treated as an individual.

Keeley works with adult offenders during their incarceration and teaches at the Adult Education Center in Lauderdale county. She is always researching new and innovative ways in which to teach the adult population. Keeley was chosen to participate in a study group to review the Adult Education curriculum and how it relates to the current HiSET curriculum. This will allow her to make recommendations on new initiatives, ensuring we remain in alignment with the new standard requirements.

Keeley is always willing to chip in and go the extra mile. She is not only available to her student population but her coworkers as well to assist them in anyway they need.

Congratulations, Julia Keeley!Keeley!

March 2016 - Marie Gessini

Marie GessiniEveryone that adult education students are diverse. Adjusting to diversity is what makes Marie Gessini stand out. With almost 11 years of experience in teaching adult education, she has taught students at all levels in day and evening classes at the Rutherford county Adult Education Center in Murfreesboro as well as off-site classes at LaVergne Library, and Rutherford County Jail and Work Center. Marie has also instructed ESOL students in various classes throughout her career in adult education.

This summer when Marie's home air conditioning unit stopped working her insurance company sent out a young man, Howard Prater, to inspect the job. Howard and Marie were both surprised to see each other. Marie had helped him to pass the GED in 2010. Afterward he went on for training/certification at the Tennessee Technology Center (now TCAT). Howard now owns his own company, K&H Heating and Air. This is only one example of how Marie has motivated and empowered her students to continue to set goals so that they can achieve success. Countless students in Rutherford county are leading more productive lives because Marie Gessini helped them earn their diploma.

With 34 years fo teaching experience in public schools, adult education was blessed the day that Marie Gessini decided to leave retirement and teach adult education part-time. She has helped many students successfully pass the GED through the years and the HiSET more recently. Her teaching strategies and style are admired by her coworkers and younger teacher welcome her advice as a mentor.

Congratulations to Marie Gessini!

February 2016 - Drake Melson

Drake Melson Drake Melson is an active teacher who helps those who do not understand the concepts and challenges those who do. When Drake is not teaching, he is contacting students who have not been to class in a while or engaging with the community to establish relationships with potential partners. He works diligently on designing curriculum that will directly benefit all of our students.

One of our recent students from Drake's class, Matthew, had to deal with some particularly difficult health problems during his time with our program. Drake did not want his health to stand in the way of his efforts to study for the exam. As a solution, Drake live-streamed his class online so Matthew could participate from his hospital bed. After class and on his way to his second job, Drake delivered the materials from class to Matthew at the hospital. Matthew ended up regaining his health, passing the HiSET on his first attempt and walking across the graduation stage in December. Drake's commitment to his students not only drives him to come up with creative solutions to his students' barriers but is a clear example of how one teacher can affect real change in a student's life, simply by showing how much he cares.

Congratulations, Drake Melson!

January 2016 - Tonya Garrett

Tonya Garrett Tonya Garrett always works tirelessly with students to help them achieve their goals and to ensure they understand the process to gain the skills needed to pass the HSE. Her classroom teaching style motivates students to learn. Ms. Garrett is very process-oriented and that is reflected in the way she teaches. She reaches all learning styles with her creative teaching style.

Ms. Garrett goes above and beyond paperwork duties. If I ask Ms. Garrett to create PowerPoints, mentor a new teacher, or drive to another county to cover for an absent instructor, she does it willingly. She creates innovative curriculum that helps all teachers in SDA 18 be successful. She is a true mentor and does not hesitate to share her knowledge with others.

Congratulations to Tonya Garrett!