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2020 News Archive


TN Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Niswonger Foundation Partnership

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11th Annual Military Service Academy Day

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By: Gina Pavlovich

Online courses available for teacher use can be found here:

Niswonger Online Blended Courses


Gina Pavlovich

[email protected]

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By: Gina Pavlovich

Niswonger Online & the Institute for CTE Educators

Can online supplemental course offerings bring more 

students to your CTE classroom?

On July 23rd, Gina Pavlovich and Jill Davis, Director and Assistant Director of Niswonger Online, presented to CTE educators from across the state.  The presentation focused on the Niswonger Online program and how supplementary online courses are giving students more course choices and opportunities in their high school careers.

The webinar was attended by nearly 150 educators and follow-up meetings are being scheduled to brainstorm with school systems one-on-one.

If you would like to know more about Niswonger Online and discuss how online courses could possibly open your students' schedules to CTE electives or expand your current CTE offerings, please contact me, Gina Pavlovich, at [email protected].

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"The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder."
-Ralph W. Sockman

Christian Michael Dalton - completed his undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a degree in Agriculture.  He has accepted a scholarship to attend graduate school at the University of Tennessee's College of Agriculture.

Elijah "Bo" Pless - earned a degree in Engineering at Milligan University.  He has accepted a position as a mechanical engineer with Eastman, in Kingsport.

Tanner Lynn Shivley - finished his undergraduate studies at Carson-Newman University.  He is working with the Journey program's summer camp for the next few months.  He plans to attend graduate school in the near future.

Kori Lynn Smith - is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where she majored in Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology and minored in International Agriculture and Resources.  She is taking a gap year to participate in a 10-month Ministry & Leadership Residency Program with Thrive Residency, in Knoxville.  She will begin classes towards a Masters in Non Profit Administration/Masters of Divinity.  She will also be serving in a full time ministry position.  After completion of the Ministry & Leadership Program, she plans to enroll in a Physician's Assistant Program.

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By: Barbara Bates

Niswonger Scholars Summer Leadership Institute


Though there were many challenges due to the Coronavirus Pandemic this year, we were able to have an abbreviated version of the Scholars Summer Leadership Institute, May 25-29.  Foundation President, Dr. Nancy Dishner, stated, "this year's institute demanded the most creative of efforts.  We are so proud that our Scholars participated with such positive attitudes and grateful hearts."

Students were rotated so that all the Scholars would be able to see each other at some point during the week.  While not onsite, the Scholars joined via Zoom.  The guest speakers for the week also joined via Zoom.

The book the Scholars studied for this summer institute was "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell.  An intuitive choice considering we are in the middle of a pandemic, a "Tipping Point" for the whole world.

The Scholars were enlightened and encouraged by several prominent speakers, such as, Allen Barnett, Lieutenant Commander, Navy Seals, stationed at the Pentagon; Senator Jamie Woodson; Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Cameron Sexton; Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Dr. Penny Schwinn, and Niswonger Foundation Founder, Scott Niswonger.

The Niswonger Alumni who spoke to the Scholars, via Zoom, regarding their best advice and "Tipping Points' were Alex Smyth, a Greene County mathematics teacher and this years "Teacher of the Year;" Dustin Howser, engineer at Nuclear Fuel Services; Dr. Ivory Shelton, pediatric resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Will Brummett, program manager for Co-Curricular Services in the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement in Public Services at George Washington University. Will has been a long-time instructor for the Niswonger Scholars.

As always, the marvelously charming and talented, Marilyn duBrisk joined us each day in the afternoon for elocution and communications class.

There was so much of the leadership institute that had to be cancelled, changed or rearranged this year, but everyone rose to the challenge.  The Scholars concurred, it was a productive and meaningful week.  We are looking forward to being together post CORONAVIRUS, with HUGS and happiness.

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From the Niswonger Foundation Team

We write this with great sadness over the unimaginable loss of our close friend and director of the Niswonger Foundation L.I.F.E. program, Larry Gene Neas, who passed away on Friday, May 8th.  He was 67.

This kind, caring man, was a wonderful friend to all of us, being supportive of each individual person, no matter what their role was at the Foundation.  Larry believed in openness and honesty.  He said what he meant, and meant what he said, yet did so with grace and kindness.  He was always interested in what was going on in our lives, asking about our children or family members.  We always teased him because no matter where we went, he always saw someone he knew, whether it was a former student or someone he had worked with in a school.

He began his career in education in 1973, serving as a teacher and principal in several Greene County and Greeneville City schools.  He came to the Foundation in 2010 as the Compliance Officer for the Federal i3 grant received by the Foundation.  He continued in that role for the five years of the grant and then remained with the Foundation as Project Coordinator and director of the L.I.F.E. program. Larry worked directly with Literacy Specialists Amanda Carpenter (Greene County) and Sara Holt (Hancock County), passionately serving the students of their respective schools to improve literacy.

Larry had a huge heart for the children he served and was genuinely interested in their lives, their success, their well-being.  He would tearfully tell stories about the children he had met and the impact they had on him.

Another project that Larry took a leadership role in at the Foundation was the new "Joyful Literacy Land" library at the new Foundation office on North Main Street.  He spent many hours with literacy and library specialists coordinating and organizing the books and library units.  He was very proud of the finished product and was so excited for the day of the grand opening.

The work he did as an educator, the love he gave as a friend, husband, dad and "poppy" will always and forever be remembered by all whose lives he touched.  "Our hearts are heavy friend, and we will always miss your sweet spirit."

Some people come into our lives

and quickly go.

Some stay for a while

and leave footprints on our hearts

and we are never, ever, the same.

-Flavia Weedn

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Rural LIFE kicked off its third year by welcoming 31 new schools to the program.  During an introductory meeting in March, principals and central office personnel learned about the program.  In June, lead teachers joined their principals in a two-day virtual onboarding event.  Rural LIFE coaches are currently developing school plans with principals and lead teachers from each school.



Brandi Wilson lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.  She holds a Bachelor's degree and Masters in Educational Leadership.  She has taught at the elementary, middle and collegiate levels.

Tracy Ballew has been teaching secondary ELA since 2001.  For the last 13 years, she has enjoyed classroom teaching at Seymour High School, having been afforded the opportunity to serve as department chair, mentor, and eventually administration.  She earned her doctorate in 2017.


During the summer, Rural LIFE hosted its second annual summer institute for area educators.  Over 200 teachers and leaders attended more than forty virtual sessions covering a range of topics.  

Presenters included Rural LIFE coaches, Niswonger Foundation staff, local teachers and leaders, and internationally recognized educators.

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In fall 2019, the Niswonger Consortium of School Systems in Northeast Tennessee (TN Consortium) was among four districts to be selected to partner with New Teacher Center (NTC) to implement a high-quality, standards-aligned instructional coaching (IC) program made possible by a $12.8 million grant from the Department of Education's Education, Innovation and Research (EIR) Expansion program received by the New Teacher Center.

New Teacher Center is a national non-profit organization committed to disrupting the predictability of educational inequities for systemically underserved students to ensure every student, from preschool through high school, receives an excellent and equitable education that empowers them to reach their full potential in classrooms, communities, and beyond.

Program Goals

The goal of this program is to improve the effectiveness of teachers via job-embedded coaching and advance the learning of K-12 students in high-need rural and urban school districts.

Program Implementation

The Niswonger Consortium has 68 schools who have elected to participate in this program.  Thirty-four of those are in the treatment group for this year and will receive direct support.  Those schools represent elementary, middle, and high schools.

There are 61 participating individuals from the 34 schools/districts.  Most participants are current classroom teachers who will be receiving training and experiences to foster their development as an academic coach for their teaching peers.  Some participants are already serving in an academic coaching role at their school and/or district.  Those individuals will receive support, which will enhance their current coaching skills.  Participant coaching includes areas such as, English/Language Arts, Mathematics, or Science, with a focus on working with teachers in grades 4-9.

Training in the goals and implementation strategies are provided to principals enrolled in the program for the upcoming year, and for teachers/academic coaches as they implement coaching strategies with their peers.  The lead coaches work with the teachers to help them implement effective practices.

The program team includes, Richard Bales, program director, Allison Seeley, lead coach, and Alise Wilson, lead coach.

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We regret to inform you that the

2020 Niswonger Foundation School Success Symposium

and Counselor Convening

have been cancelled.

This decision was not made easily.  Given the current situation with COVID-19, the uncertainty of the availability of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center and Greeneville High School venues, and, most importantly, the health and safety of those who would be in attendance, we have decided to postpone the symposium until next year. 

The new date is set for June 22, 2021.

 Hasan Davis, Commissioner of Juvenile Justice

for the State of Kentucky

will remain our Keynote Speaker.

If you have already submitted a proposal to be a presenter for this year’s concurrent sessions, we will retain your proposal for 2021. If you will not be able to present on the new date, please contact Vivian Franklin, at the email provided, to withdraw your proposal.

As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you might have regarding this event.

[email protected]

[email protected]

We will look forward to being with all of you, safe and healthy, next year!

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In late January, auditions began across the region for the 2020 Broadway comes to Greeneville event, which benefits Niswonger Children's Hospital.

This event gives talented children from across the region the opportunity to perform alongside Broadway stars, who travel to Northeast Tennessee.

The youth age 7-17 audition with a performance of a classical, country or Broadway song.  Twenty young performers are selected from the group and awarded the opportunity to perform alongside Broadway veterans.  More than 80 children from our region competed in this year's event.

The top five performers are awarded college scholarships, sponsored this year by - Niswonger Foundation and Ballad Health Foundation.  The award funds are held at the Niswonger Foundation, in the recipients name, until they have begun their first semester of postsecondary education.  At that time, a one-time award, in the specified amount, is paid directly to the recipients college of choice.


Allie Butcher $2,500

Sawyer Franklin $1,000

Jenny Ribble $1,000

Mylee Doty $1,000

Caleb Vaughn $1,000

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BY Brian Quesinberry

February 27, 2020

William Quesinberry would like to thank Scott Niswonger, the Niswonger Foundation, and Matthew Desjardins with the ETSU Department of Computing, for the ETSU summer code camps, where William was introduced to coding and engineering.

William was able to attend two summer camps at no cost thanks to the ETSU Department of Computing and the Niswonger Foundation. The camp offered game creation, web applications, robotics, rocket building, computer aided design (CAD), and 3D printing.

The experience at the camps was invaluable in instilling a love of learning for coding and engineering.  It has really motivated him to pursue his education as far as his interests take him.

William was recognized by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) and by the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) program for his outstanding academic achievement.  William qualified for the Grand Recognition Ceremony at Duke University and for the Johns Hopkins Grand Ceremony by testing in the top 1% of graduating seniors in the fall of his 7th grade year.

To qualify he took the ACT and SAT as qualifying tests in which he scored a 34 composite and a 1410 (730 Math, 680 EBRW) respectively. William attended the Duke ceremony last May in Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University and the Johns Hopkins Ceremony in Shriver Hall this past November.

In addition to the recognition ceremony, Johns Hopkins CTY also invited William to participate in CTY's Julian C. Stanley Study of Exceptional Talent, SET -  SET provides academic counseling, challenging coursework, and intensive summer programs to participants while using their research-based methods to advocate for best practices for all students.  Notable SET alumni are Sergey Brin, Lady Gaga, Andrew Yang, and Mark Zuckerberg.  William was awarded a scholarship this February to attend an Intensive Studies summer program in Investigations in Engineering at Johns Hopkins Homewood campus in Baltimore, MD.

William, age 14, is currently attending Walters State Community College as a home-schooled dual enrollment high school Junior.  The faculty, staff and students at Walters State CC have been great both supporting and challenging William with his studies.  He will have earned 40 college credit hours at the end of this spring semester through college coursework and AP exams.  William enjoys playing soccer for Vitesse Soccer Club of Gray, gymnastics at East Tennessee Cheer and Gymnastics, reading, and playing video games in his spare time.  We would also like to recognize our mothers Debra Quesinberry and the late Judith Stross for their support.

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