MNPS Voices Carole Scates

MNPS Voices Carole Scates
Posted on 04/12/2021

Carole Scates is an educator with an outstanding trajectory in MNPS. She grew up in a family of educators in a small rural town in southern Illinois. As a youth and in her teenage years, Scates worked on her family farm, driving a tractor and doing office and field work.

“My dad was part of a farming operation with his dad and five brothers, and my mom was a teacher and actually my teacher all four years of high school - two years of English and two years of Spanish - and my great aunts were my teachers in second and fifth grades,” she said.

Though Scates’ parents lived in a small community without a lot of opportunities for experiencing cultural differences, they were intent on making sure everyone in the family was aware of the diverse world around them. Her parents were district coordinators for Youth for Understanding, a foreign exchange program that placed students in homes around the U.S.

“We hosted exchange students from all over the world in my elementary, middle, and high school years, and that was the beginning of my love for global diversity,” Scates said. “Having my family as role models, being an educator was in my blood.”

Scates taught kindergarten in her hometown after graduating from Murray State University in Kentucky. When she moved to Nashville in 1988, she was a substitute teacher and worked in the retail and restaurant industry before joining MNPS in 1993 as a sixth-grade teacher, then a kindergarten teacher at Lockeland Elementary School.

She continued her successful career by teaching third grade at Lakeview Elementary. Then she moved to Mt. View Elementary when the new building was built in 1999. There she taught third, fourth, and then second grades, EL support, and parent engagement until 2017.

For the past four years, Scates has specialized in EL support and parent engagement for multiple grades at Hickman Elementary School, where she has been selected as Teacher of the Year. When asked about this designation, she said, “Being selected as Teacher of the Year is an honor, but especially with the last year of uncertainty, distance learning, and return to in-person learning, every teacher deserves to be recognized as a Teacher of the Year. We are all in this together, and we support each other!”

One of the moments when Scates has felt most proud revolved around her school’s response during the tornadoes that hit Nashville last year. “I was fortunate to have administrators at my school that had already initiated a ‘navigator’ program, so our faculty and staff were out in the neighborhoods the week the tornadoes ravaged Nashville, assessing needs and providing assistance any way we could,” she said. “We had no idea that we would continue this service for the next year!”

For Scates, the pandemic has highlighted the need for connectedness between the schools and the families they serve.

“I most definitely want them to know that they are not alone, and there are many resources available to them and we can help them acquire those resources. We have helped families find food, clothing, household supplies, assistance with utility bills, medical/dental needs, housing, and even moral support. We want to assist, and if we communicate with our families on a regular basis, they will be more likely to reach out when there is a need.”

Scates was proud to serve as a volunteer with Hands on Nashville from March until September, delivering meals and school supplies to students. She felt privileged to stay in contact with her families during this uncertain time through distanced home visits. Moreover, she found the need to improve her skills in technology, since so many of her students/families needed assistance with computer navigation and connections to complete their work.

“As a whole, I know that my role as an educator doesn't end with the end of the school day, week, or year. Our students and their families need to know that we are there for them beyond the confines of the school building,” she said.
When asked about any advice to new MNPS employees toward a successful career, Scates responded, “The first thing I would like to say is that most of what we learn about our students is not through overt information. We have to be vigilant about meeting the educational and personal needs of our students, and the best way to do that is through daily SEL practices. Focus on the whole child! SEL can vastly alter a child's academic, social, and even health experiences. Much of what we need to know is revealed to us in the ‘down’ time of our school day. Keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open at all times. Sometimes the students that need us most are the quietest ones or those that show us their needs in the most trying of ways.

“Secondly, every child has strengths and weaknesses. It is up to us to help them capitalize and build on their strengths and improve or work through their weaknesses. Thirdly, never stop learning! You learn from other teachers, administrators, professional development, and most of all, you learn from your students!”

Scates also emphasizes the importance of internal and external partnerships to better help our students and families. To secure or expand collaborative opportunities among fellow employees and community stakeholders, she believes open communication is the key to work as a team for the benefit of all students/families.

“I don't know of one fellow employee or community stakeholder that would not be happy to help or assist with anything to improve a student's educational experience. Sometimes, they just don't know how to help, but ideas can come to fruition through coordination of efforts, communication, and implementation. Together, we can accomplish anything!”

As a final thought, Scates wanted to emphasize the profound convictions and values that have shaped her life.

“Ultimately, I want to reinforce the belief that my parents have instilled in me all my life. Each human being we meet (no matter the country of origin, religious or political views, or economic status) has something unique to offer this world. Unless we make it our mission to find out what that is, we may have the misfortune of never knowing. That ... would be a great tragedy.”

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