Career Day Brings Physics To Inman Middle School


IMG_0564Hair pulled back into a ponytail that reached the small of his back, he wore a purple button-down shirt tucked neatly into a black kilt that swung freely as he stepped his brown cargo boots into Mr. Hamilton’s eighth-grade science class. The physicist had arrived for Inman Middle School’s career day.

“I hope to encourage people who don’t think they could be this,” said Benjamin Jenkins, a senior lab coordinator for the Department of Physics and director of the observatory at the University of West Georgia. “There aren’t any set rules. You don’t have to fit a mold. I want students to say, ‘if this guy can do it looking the way he does, so can I.’”

Monique Martin, eighth-grade school counselor, says Jenkins makes science exciting, and brings what Inman students are learning in the classroom to life.

Jenkins conducted three hands-on demonstrations that explored angular momentum, force and optics. Students then asked questions about his career and science in general.

“I enjoy being able to tell them my particular career path. It’s OK to fall down. I failed my first physics class. It’s OK to have missteps along the way,” Jenkins said. “Even if not a single student became a physicist or an astronomer, I hope to convey that there is usefulness in physics, in the sciences in general.”

Jenkins’ visit to Inman was part of College and Career Motivation Week. He spoke to eighth-grade science classes throughout the day on Nov. 16.

Music Producer/Film Composer Shares His Passion and Gift with Students at Finch Elementary School

matthew-head_finch-es.jpgGrowing up, Matthew Head always knew he had a passion for kids. He also knew he had a gift for music.

Now an award-winning film composer and music producer, Head shared his passion – and his gift – with a group of third, fourth and fifth-grade students at Finch Elementary School on Nov. 15 as part of College and Career Motivation Week.

During his visit to Finch, Head – who currently serves as head music producer for the hit TV show “Greenleaf” on the OWN Network – explained the nature of his work as a music producer and film composer for shows such as “Step Up” and “The Family Business,” as well as the upcoming BET series, “Boomerang.” He also shared how hard work and determination helped him become the successful professional he is today. A former paraprofessional and native of Marietta, Head attended Savannah State University to study education before making the bold decision to leave college to pursue music professionally.

As a music producer, Head told students that he oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer’s music, and as a film composer he writes music based on what he sees on the screen.

Throughout his presentation, Head answered students’ questions and shared his knowledge of music and its powerful impact, while encouraging students to work hard and explore their gifts and passion.


“The cool thing about my job is that I get to see things and create music for it,” said Head, a gifted pianist who attended college on full academic and football scholarship. “Music lends to emotional impact and helps you better understand what you’re seeing on the screen. Music can confuse you, it can build intensity, but sometimes when there are scary movies, there’s no music because that helps frightens you. It helps build the fright intensity.”

At one point, Head showed students a video without music, yet once he began playing music during various scenes, they immediately noticed how the tone and tenor of the video changed. The same is true, he told them, in a movie, TV show, or any other program.

Before the end of his presentation, Head showed students the three big awards that he’s received for his work: an Emmy, Stellar Music Award, and an NAACP Image award.

“These rewards are a reminder of my gift,” he told them. “So, be sure to listen to your teachers and the adults in your life when they tell you that you’re good at something. That made the biggest difference for me when I was growing up.”

Principal Forrestella Taylor said she was humbled and honored to have Head serve as guest speaker for College & Career Motivation Week.

“We’re honored that Mr. Head would want to share his gifts with our students,” Taylor said. “He is such an inspiration to our students and shows just how important it is to follow your passion and dreams.”

Matthew Head_Principal Taylor.Finch ES
Matthew Head and Principal Forrestella Taylor show off his Stellar Music, NAACP Image and Emmy awards.

#APSRace2Read Winner’s Podium (Our Top 10 by Day 10!)


Nov. 16 marked Day 10 of our district-wide literacy campaign APS Race2Read: The 2 Million Minutes Challenge. Four schools have already crossed the finish line, and other schools are closing in quickly! Drum roll, please … 

  1. Crossing the finish line on Nov. 9 and taking the Gold is Cleveland Avenue Elementary School (South Atlanta Cluster)! Students have more than tripled their school goal of 15,773 minutes with 50,680 minutes logged (and counting).
  2. Crossing the finish line on Nov. 14 and taking the Silver is F. L. Stanton Elementary School (Douglass Cluster)! Students have more than doubled their school goal of 12,943 minutes with 25,229 minutes logged (and counting).
  3. Crossing the finish line on the morning of Nov. 15 and taking the Bronze is Fickett Elementary School (Therrell Cluster)! Students have exceeded their school goal of 24,588 minutes by nearly double with 41,556 minutes logged (and counting).
  4. Crossing the finish line on the afternoon of Nov. 15 and taking fourth-place honors is Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy (Washington Cluster)! Students soared pass their school goal of 30,804 minutes with 45,823 minutes logged (and counting).

Individual school goals were calculated based on enrollment, setting a goal for each enrolled student to read 20 minutes a day, five days a week. 

Which schools will cross the finish line next? Morris Brandon Elementary students are closing in with 75 percent of their school goal met, followed by M. Agnes Jones Elementary at 60 percent,  Cascade Elementary School at 57 percent, Sarah Smith Elementary at 56 percent, Finch Elementary School at 49 percent, and Sylvan Middle School leading the way for grades 6-8 at 44 percent of its goal.  

Congratulations to our top 10 schools leading the Race2Read! 

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Through #APSRace2Read, we’re raising the bar for reading as students, staff, parents and community partners race to read a collective goal of 2 million minutes, and cross the finish line by the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. ​Learn more and log your minutes at

APS Celebrates School Psychology Awareness Week

Dr. January FewAtlanta Public Schools recognizes the incredible work of our school psychologists during National School Psychology Awareness Week (SPAW), Nov. 12 – 16. The APS Division of Psychological Services comprises 25 school psychologists who provide evaluations, counseling and consultative services to Pre-K-12th grade students. Each school psychologist serves three-five schools and are active participants in district-wide crisis teams that make decisions regarding educational planning for students.

In turn, cross functional teams work to improve the academic performance and social-emotional functioning of the students in APS’ traditional and charter schools.

In celebration of SPAW, APS school psychologists have chosen to give back to the children and communities they serve. In support of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the Psychological Services staff have raised $400 toward gift cards that will be donated to APS’ homeless families. In addition, several school psychologists are sharing their time and resources by providing social-emotional learning during classroom instruction, donating books to schools, and presenting to high school, undergraduate and graduate students about the field of school psychology.

“School psychologists bring a unique set of skills to school teams,” said MaryAnn Green, coordinator of Psychological Services. “Our practice is a hybrid of education, counseling, statistics and clinical psychology, and we’re often tasked with using our training and skills to aid school teams in difficult decision making that impacts struggling students and schools.

School psychologists also work diligently to address and prevent maladaptive behaviors, such as bullying and school violence, which impact the culture of our schools, Green added. “It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding.”

Our school psychologists are busy! Here’s a sneak peak into their work.

Maurice Granger, Ed.D.

APS school psychologist Maurice Granger, Ed.D. established an innovative program at Forrest Hill Academy to enhance the social-emotional competencies of high school male students through positive interactions with kindergartners at Hutchinson Elementary School. The students serve as teacher assistants while building positive relationships with their assigned classes. The program was established in 2014 and has been featured on WSB-TV Channel 2 and 11Alive news networks.

Maurice Granger

Dr. Granger also facilitates a weekly conflict resolution group with sixth-grade boys who were selected by their administrator. The students learn self-monitoring strategies, effective problem solving, and engage in team-building activities. Select eighth graders participate in the group as peer leaders.


Kweli Musa, Ed. S.

Dr. Musa

The love of plants and all things living 

Kweli Musa, Ed.S., worked with students parents and teachers to create terrariums, which are miniature indoor gardens inside a glass/plastic container. He purchased plants and decorative supplies (colored sand, rocks, pebbles, marbles and glass containers) for the school. Musa said he finds “great joy in seeing someone create something with their own hands.” He said the activities have long-term impact on students and communities because they help teach students the importance of taking care of the Earth and empowers them to care for their environment.


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“Caring for pets in school is one way to teach children about empathy and responsibility, and having interactions with pets provide an increased sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others,” Musa said. “Students can see, feel, touch and make connections to the world of animals.”

With the help of students and teachers, Musa cares for different animals, which include an aquatic turtle, guinea pig, leopard gecko, tarantula, goldfish, tropical fish, hermit crabs, red claw crab, aquatic snails and betta fish.

Musa also purchased and read books to students in two of his classes. “It is very important to me to increase children’s access to appropriate print materials,” he said. “Taking the books home hopefully gave the parents and caregivers more opportunity to read and talk to their children.”

Mia Hunt, Ed.S


Mia Hunt, Ed.S., and GSU school psychology practicum student Paris Ball have been practicing weekly mindfulness activities with a group of students at Heritage Academy Elementary School.

“Mindfulness can add to the quality of our lives in numerous ways, from nurturing a sense of inner peace and improving the quality of a workout, to enhancing self-confidence and facilitating deeper and more meaningful relationships with others,” Hunt said. “In children specifically, mindfulness has been found to improve mental health and well-being, mitigate the effects of bullying, enhance focus in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and improve social skills when well taught and practiced in children and adolescents.”

“It is important for caregivers and educators to provide age-appropriate mindfulness practices for children,” Hunt added.


The ‘Wimpy Kid’ Gets Race2Read Rolling

Cheers, raised hands and even snow balls filled the air in South Atlanta High School’s auditorium on Nov. 7, as nearly 500 students from 24 APS elementary and middle schools had a meltdown showdown!

New York Times best-selling author/cartoonist Jeff Kinney’s visit came one week after the release of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series book No. 13 , “The Meltdown” – and one day after the launch of APS Race2Read: The 2 Million Minutes Challenge. Through this district-wide challenge, APS students, teachers, staff, parents and community partners will race to read a collective goal of 2 million minutes and cross the finish line by the end of this school year.

A visit from the Wimpy Kid was a perfect way to get the Race2Read rolling! With more than 200 million copies sold across the globe in 70 editions and 59 languages, Wimpy Kid has turned millions of children into readers. The book series is filled with comic-style drawings of the daily adventures of its main character Greg Heffley.

Kinney’s visit was made possible through APS partners UPS, CBS 46 Cares Books to Kids, and Page Turners Make Great Learners.

“It is both an honor and pleasure to partner with Atlanta Public Schools,” said FeFe Handy, chief executive director of Page Turners Make Great Learners. “We understand clearly that Title I Schools rarely, if ever, have award-winning authors visit their schools. Today was proof that by working together – school, community and corporate partners – we can equalize access and exposure, making these opportunities available for all students regardless of their geographical location.”

CBS 46 News Anchor Tracye Hutchins emceed the event, and Shaniya Longino, an 11th grader at South Atlanta and Wimpy Kid fanatic, introduced Kinney.

The meet and greet was as quirky and fun as the Wimpy Kid series. Kinney spun a digital wheel that landed on various interactive activities, including a foam snow ball fight, a dance challenge for teachers to win a Skype visit, and a segment where students attempted to stump Kinney with questions about his series. Of course, one of our bright scholars managed to do so: Jaylah Benson, a fourth grader at West Manor Elementary School!

Each student was surprised with a free, autographed copy of “The Meltdown.” Many began reading immediately and were encouraged to log their minutes towards our 2 million minutes goal.

Learn more about Race2Read and log your minutes at

Douglass Leads Six APS Teams into Football State Playoffs, Friday

Juan Powell (Douglass Football - 2018)
Douglass High School senior Juan Powell will lead the Astros into their first round playoff game against Pepperell, Friday, at Lakewood Stadium.

Douglass High School leads a group of six Atlanta Public Schools high schools with football teams that have advanced to the Georgia High Schools Association playoffs, beginning Friday.

The Astros finished the regular season 9-1, good enough for the No. 2 seed from Region 6 of Class AA. The nine wins is the most for Douglass since 2004. The team is led by senior Juan Powell, one of the state’s top athletes. He is committed to East Carolina University.

Douglass will host Pepperell (Floyd County), the No. 3 seed from Region 7, Friday at 7:30 p.m., at Lakewood Stadium. This is the third consecutive season the Astros have advanced to the state playoffs.

“In a season filled with many ups and downs for our programs, I am proud to announce that we have six teams that have advanced to the first round of the GHSA state playoffs,” said APS Director of Athletics Jasper Jewell. “This has been without a doubt one of the best coaching performances of all high schools this year. Last year produced a lot of seniors who graduated and are now student-athletes on the collegiate level. I am extremely proud of this group of awesome men who lead our [teams] into battle each and every week.”

Here is the full list of APS teams in the state playoffs (all start times are 7:30 p.m.):

Carver at Kell (Cobb County), C.J. Kell Stadium in Marietta
Carver finished the season 5-5 and is the No. 3 seed from Region 6, Class AAAAA. Kell is 8-2, the No. 2 seed from Region 7.

Maynard Jackson at Rome (Rome City Schools), Barron Stadium in Rome
Maynard Jackson finished 6-4 and is the No. 4 seed from Region 6, Class AAAAA. Rome is 10-0, the three-time Region 7 champions and two-time Class AAAAA state champions. The Wolves have won 37 consecutive games.

Mays at Lanier (Gwinnett County), Lanier High School Stadium in Sugar Hill
Mays finished 6-4 and is the No. 3 seed from Region 5, Class AAAAAA. Lanier is 7-3 and the No. 2 seed from Region 8.

South Atlanta at Rockmart (Polk County), The Rock in Rockmart
South Atlanta finished 6-4 and is the No. 4 seed from Region 6, Class AA. Rockmart is 10-0 and the Region 7 champions.

Washington at Chattooga (Chattooga County), Little Big Horn Stadium in Summerville
Washington finished 7-3 and is the No. 3 seed from Region 6, Class AA. Chattooga is 8-2 and the No. 2 seed from Region 7.



APS Names Tracey Pendley 2018-2019 District Excellence in Teaching Award Winner


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Tracey Pendley, fourth-grade teacher from Burgess-Peterson Elementary School, was named Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) 2018-2019 District Excellence in Teaching Award Winner (also known as Teacher of the Year) during the APyeS! Awards held Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Benjamin E. Mays High School.

Pendley started her teaching career in 2009 and has been a fourth grade teacher at Burgess-Peterson for the past four years. Central to her teaching philosophy is that her students learn to love their mistakes. She is a recipient of the 2018 Atlanta Families Award for Excellence in Education.  She started a 4-H club with the award money and plans to send as many students as possible to Rock Eagle Project Achievement and Clover Leaf Camp.

“Tracey Pendley began teaching because she truly believes in the power of education to create choice-filled lives for our students, and she is deeply committed to ensuring educational equity for every child,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen. “I am so grateful we have effective and passionate teachers like Tracey who are committed to excellence for all children. Tonight’s APyeS! Awards were about recognizing that excellence and honoring those teachers, education leaders and partners who are leading our transformation and making it possible for our students to succeed. I am proud to work with each of these professionals and partners. They are the difference-makers who inspire hope every day.”

Pendley began teaching because she believes in the power of education and is deeply committed to social justice and educational equity.  Therefore, it is no surprise that one of her proudest achievements is mentoring student teachers and serving as a Cooperating Teacher with CREATE to prepare future teachers to magnify the power of education.

As the APS Excellence in Teaching Award Winner, Pendley will represent APS in the Georgia Teacher of the Year Awards next spring.  APS is home to the 2012 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Dr. Jadun McCarthy; 2013 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist, Elisha Gray; 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist Tamika N. Ball; 2015 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist Rita L. Simmons; and 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist Jerry Kosoff.

Finalists for this year’s award included, Dan Adam Lloyd, an 8th grade English teacher and Chair of the English Department at Sutton Middle School, where he has taught for 11 years; and Stephen Lawrence, an award winning Orchestra teacher who also serves as the Fine Arts Department chair at his alma mater, North Atlanta High School, where he has been teaching for seven years.

APS, teacher of the year, 2018.APS, teacher of the year, 2018.

Candidates for APS Excellence in Teaching Award are nominated by their respective schools. APS then selects an elementary, middle school and high school Excellence in Teaching winner from a list of semi-finalists to compete for the district-wide honor. All school-level Excellence in Teaching Award winners were recognized during the special awards ceremony along with other distinct awardees.

Other 2018-2019 APyeS! honorees included:

  • Principal of the Year – Crystal Jones, Beecher Hills Elementary School
  • Assistant Principal of the Year – Barry Blackmon, Douglass High School
  • Students First Award – Azuree Walker, International Baccalaureate Specialist, West Manor Elementary School
  • Schools First Award – Marki Dixon, Senior Procurement Officer
  • GO Teams – Excellence in Leadership –  Artesza Portee, principal, Sylvan Hills Middle School
  • 2018-19 Outstanding GO Team – North Atlanta High School GO Team
  • District Partner of the Year – Delta Airlines
  • Cluster Partner Awards
    • Carver Cluster – Loews Atlanta Hotel
    • Jackson Cluster – The Bert Show
    • Douglass Cluster – Men of the Eta Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
    • Washington Cluster – Peachtree Road United Methodist Church
    • Therrell Cluster – Bill Selmon
    • Mays Cluster – Father Charles Fischer
    • Grady Cluster – MailChimp
    • North Atlanta Cluster – LaAmistad
    • South Atlanta Cluster – Cigna Insurance Company
  • Excellence in Family Engagement Award – Mamie Jackson, Forest Hills Academy
  • Family Engagement Leadership – The Latino Association for Parents for Public Schools