Cedar Bluff Middle nabs $2,500 for news

Tracy Haun OwensWest Knoxville

Every school day, Cedar Bluff Middle School library media specialist James “Trent” McLees helps a team of students assemble the day’s news for broadcast. He made school news himself recently when agent Gary Farmer of Farmers Insurance surprised him with a check for $2,500 to be put toward broadcast expenses.

McLees is one of this year’s recipients of Farmers’ nationwide Thank a Teacher award program. Educators submit proposals for the grants, which are then voted on in a nationwide contest. Principal Terry Nieporte says McLees got the whole Cedar Bluff parent and educator community excited about the vote. She helped Farmer present the award to McLees at a schoolwide basketball game, having kept the secret from all but a couple of people on her staff.

This is McLees’ first year at Cedar Bluff. He received his master’s degree in library sciences from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

When he joined the staff, Nieporte and school IT specialist Jeff Morgan told McLees they had long wanted to do a news broadcast. With no budget for it, he brought a green screen and a camcorder from home and went to work. The principal was his first “anchor,” then teachers, and when he opened it up to students, the response was immediate. Now he has a core group of about 30, from sixth to eighth grade, who tackle camera work, editing and on-air duties.

McLees says the broadcast news project helps students learn media literacy, creativity and autonomy, all valuable goals.

“My mantra since starting here is to say ‘yes’ to as much as I can,” McLees says.

His enthusiasm has proven contagious.

“The kids love him, the teachers love him,” Nieporte says. “It’s nice to see someone come in and make an impact on our students’ lives right away.”

You can see all archived CBMS news broadcasts for the 2017-18 school year at the school’s website. You can learn more about Farmers Insurance Thank a Teacher program.

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