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Hendersonville, TN – Mrs. Jennifer Dye, Director of Innovation at Pope John Paul II High School, is pleased to share that JPII is the first independent school in the State of Tennessee to receive STEM School Designation. This honor was developed with the guidance of the Tennessee Department of Education and the STEM Leadership Council to identify and recognize schools in their commitment to teaching STEM and/or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and integrating strategies that ultimately prepare students for post-secondary college and career success in the 21st century.


“Since its inception, JPII has been a leader in innovation,” said Headmaster, Michael Deely. The classical, renaissance approach upon which the school was founded in 2002, provided a framework to integrate various disciplines long before STEM was a designation awarded to schools. Then five years ago Mrs. Dye, who initially founded and chaired the school’s science department, proposed a new course concept and the JPII Innov8 Program was launched. “Innov8 is a challenging academic program added to our JPII curriculum to expand and enrich the ways that students learn,” Dye explains. In Innov8 classes, concepts are explored in real-world situations so that interdisciplinary connections may exist between school, work, and community. These authentic learning experiences engage students and provide them with an environment that encourages learning through design thinking. These same strategies are also incorporated into the traditional courses, allowing students to experience transferable and versatile STEM skills in every discipline  In addition to the Innov8 course offerings, students are eligible to apply for off-campus internships in their junior and senior year. “At JPII we are most grateful to the plethora of professional leaders offering internship opportunities for our students,” said Dye. “JPII student interns are working in every field imaginable from medical to legal, real estate to engineering, robotics, equine therapy, music industry, non-profits, . . . even roller-coaster design, just to name a few!” 


Headmaster Deely recollected on an exciting happening last year in Mr. Bob Page’s Innov8 class Investment and Entrepreneurial Skills, which gives students tools and financial support to make investments in the stock market or to create a business.  An anonymous donor came forth making a significant donation to the program because the donor was interested in how the course allows students to explore topics like finance and business ownership.

“Making a difference is at the core of everything we do at JPII.,” said Headmaster Deely. “The STEM designation is not only an honor, a nod to all that we’re able to provide our students, but it also lets the community know of our innovative programs and curriculum. We welcome all prospective future students and their parents to come visit anytime.”


The Tennessee STEM School Designation also provides a “roadmap” for schools to successfully implement a STEM and/or STEAM education plan at the local level. Schools that receive the Tennessee STEM School Designation serve as models from which other schools may visit and learn. All K–12 schools serving students in Tennessee are eligible.

"As part of his Future Workforce Initiative, Governor Lee set out to triple the number of STEM- designated schools in Tennessee by 2022, and we are thrilled to see twice as many schools receive the Tennessee STEM Designation this year from last year,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “STEM education not only engages students with real-world problem solving in the classroom but provides them with the opportunity to develop relative and critical thinking skills that will prepare them for post-secondary success. We know STEM-related jobs are in high demand, and as a State, it is so important that we give all students the tools they need to be successful in the 21st century economy.”


Each school that was awarded the Tennessee STEM School Designation was evaluated through a rigorous application process. Schools were asked to complete a self-evaluation, participate in interviews, and host site visits with the Tennessee STEM Designation review team. The designation rubric included five focus areas: infrastructure, curriculum and instruction, professional development, achievement, and community and post-secondary partnerships. 

As a part of the process, schools were required to submit a plan of action for implementing and sustaining STEM and/or STEAM education for the next five years. From this process, a total of 22 schools received the Tennessee STEM School Designation this year.  


“Schools that earn STEM Designation incorporate strong STEM teaching and learning experiences that rest on inquiry, technology integration, work-based learning, and project/problem-based learning strategies tied to the world around us,” said Brandi Stroecker, Director of TSIN. “Each school has a unique STEM program, yet incorporates a similar approach by providing diverse, transdisciplinary teaching practices where students become the drivers of their learning. TSIN appreciates the hard work and passion that each STEM Designated school pours into their educational community.  These schools consistently provide students with learning experiences that shape their aspirations for the future.”


STEM and/or STEAM education is a unique approach to teaching and learning that fosters creativity and innovative thinking in all students. STEM and/or STEAM is focused on building critical and creative thinking and analysis skills by addressing how students view and experience the world around them. Strong STEM and/or STEAM teaching and learning opportunities rest on inquiry-, technology-, and project-based learning activities and lessons that are tied to the real world. STEM and/or STEAM education is a diverse, interdisciplinary curriculum in which activities in one class complement those in other classes. 


For more information about the STEM school designation process or implement STEM and/or STEAM education, contact Deborah.Knoll@tn.gov

Founded in 2002, Pope John Paul II High School is a college preparatory Catholic high school in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The school serves over 580 students from across Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky. For more information, visit www.jp2hs.org or contact Michelle Barber, Dean of Admissions and Advancement at 615-772-1331

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