The Bright School welcomes four classroom teachers, three special area teachers and three early childhood assistants.
First grade teacher Shannan Portwood recently moved to Chattanooga from Seattle, Washington, where she taught first grade for seven years. She spent one year teaching English at an elementary school in Taiwan and also taught first grade in Valdosta, Georgia. Shannan earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Valdosta State University. She is replacing Susanna Fricks, who left to stay at home with her newborn daughter. The first grade team also includes Jana Evans and MacKenzie O’Neal, who is moving from second grade.
Second grade teacher Lauren Pritchett comes to Bright after teaching second grade for five years at Middle Valley Elementary School in Hixson. Prior to that, she taught first grade and kindergarten in Birmingham, Alabama. She has mentored several student teachers and was UTC’s Mentor of the Year in 2019-2020. Lauren is trained in the Lucy Calkins writing curriculum used at Bright. She earned her bachelor’s in education at Samford University. She is replacing MacKenzie O’Neal, who is moving to first grade.
Claire Millsaps, our new third grade teacher, comes to Bright after teaching the last 14 years in Hamilton County Schools. Most recently, she taught kindergarten and then second grade and was the grade level chair at Big Ridge Elementary in Hixson. She served as literacy coach for the school system and taught at Red Bank Elementary School and Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy. She earned the High Performing Teacher Award in 2008 and 2012. Claire, who is replacing Scarlet Hardy, earned her bachelor’s degree at East Tennessee State University and her master’s at UTC.
Wendy Rogers is joining the fifth grade team as the math teacher. She has taught in Chattanooga for 14 years, the last four as a sixth grade science teacher at Loftis Middle School and 10 years as a third and fourth grade teacher at DuPont Elementary. At DuPont, she was a team leader for eight years and math lead teacher representative. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UTC and her master’s degree at Lincoln Memorial University. Wendy is the mother of Kenzie Rogers, a rising second grader, and Easton Rogers, a rising PK student.
Our new science teacher is D’Arcy Hughes, who taught fifth grade science at Thrasher Elementary School on Signal Mountain last year and, before that, science lab for grades K-5 at Lookout Mountain Elementary School for 14 years. She also taught fourth and fifth grades at Normal Park Museum Magnet Elementary and fourth grade in Anniston, Alabama. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Covenant College. D’Arcy has spent several summers studying with other teachers on Sapelo Island, Georgia, which is a National Estuarine Research Reserve. D’Arcy, whose husband Frank served the last six year on the Board of Trustees, replaces Melanie Nestler. She will teach grades 1-5 as Melanie did. In addition, she will collaborate with Lynn Shelton, our eco-literacy specialist and master gardener in early childhood.
Julia Mayo is our new music teacher for grades JPK-5, and she will lead the performances for Thanksgiving, Grandparents’ Day and Graduation. Julia taught music for grades PK-5 at North Hamilton County Elementary School for the last five years, and prior to that, taught K-5 music for four years at Alpha Elementary School in Hamblen County. She is a certified Kodály instructor, which is the music approach taught at Bright School. Julia has experience teaching clarinet and piano and performing in choirs, marching band, and wind ensembles. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education at Carson Newman University and her master of music education from UTC.
Kimberly Rawlston is the school’s first performing arts director, and she will direct all grade-level plays. This is a new position at the school created to provide help for teachers during play planning, practice and performances, which are important elements and traditions of the Bright School educational experience for students. She also will lead fourth and fifth grade hand bell groups. Kimberly comes to Bright after assisting the band director at Silverdale Baptist Academy for four years and serving as band director for Hamilton County Schools for one year. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music at King University in Bristol, Tennessee.
Kristen Curtis will lead P.E. classes with Coach Bobby Gendimenico while Coach Ashley Linehart is on maternity leave until January. Coach Curtis will be in charge of Bright School’s cross country team this fall and track in the spring. An avid runner, Kristen is the mother of two Bright graduates, Caroline ’19 and Catherine ’21.
Lynn Shelton, our eco-literacy specialist, is now one of our special area teachers and will be adding more classroom (really, outdoor) time to her schedule in early childhood. Kindergarten, PK and JPK will continue to have one day a week set aside for outdoor eco-literacy learning plus two environmental science classes per six-day rotation. We are excited to enhance our science program in early childhood!
Former first grade teacher Karen Smith is now a reading interventionist in the Kilbride Enrichment Center, replacing Noelle Coleman, who left to spend more time with her family.
Kindergarten: Olivia Fine with teacher Bill Greene, Kayla Greco with teacher Katie Shirley, and new hire, Bailey Fraebel with teacher Sonal Patel. Bailey earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from UTC. She worked as an infant and toddler caregiver at preschools and was a private nanny for several years.
PK: Abigail Ballard with teacher Jill Johnson, Emily Taylor with teacher Jasmine White, and Amy Hutcherson is returning to the classroom with teacher Emily Hon.
JPK: Chasity Robinson with teacher Karen Thompson, Hannah Bradford with teacher Rachel Berger, and new hire, Mary Katherine Wheeler, with teacher Jenna Leckenby. Mary Katherine has been a Bright Afternoons counselor and substitute for the last year.
Pictured, from left to right: Kristen Curtis, Claire Millsaps, Kimberly Rawlston, Wendy Rogers, Julia Mayo, Shannan Portwood and D'Arcy Hughes. Not pictured: Lauren Pritchett.