When Brent Glenn was growing up in Carter, he knew that Karns, way over on the other side of Knox County, was a community a lot like his. It was a little more rural than the rest of the county, with small-town virtues and folks who had been there for generations.
But over the years, thanks to its proximity to exploding development in both Southwest and Northwest Knox County, “Karns has become much more suburban,” Glenn says.
As the schools in this tight-knit community grow and change, Glenn, the new principal at Karns Middle School, is eager to do his part to cheer lead “The Karns Way.” That’s a set of expectations that holds from elementary to high school, things like “Use polite words,” “Use your time wisely,” and “Take pride in your building.”
Right away, Glenn met with his staff – capturing a group shot of them all in “Karns Way” T-shirts and bracelets—and he met with the principals of the Karns elementary and high schools, Shay Siler and Brad Corum. Between his appointment in July and the start of school he was a frequent, friendly presence in the community. The community has returned the warmth.
Providence Church refurbished the courtyards of several local schools, including Karns Middle, and Grace Baptist scheduled a day to come feed teachers and staff.
“You never have to beg for help,” he says. “Our community is so supportive. I’ve not met a difficult person yet.” He smiles. “It’s almost surreal.”
Glenn has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UT, plus a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and an education specialist degree in administration, also from UT.
Like many of his new families, Glenn grew up in a blue-collar household with parents who had high expectations for him and his sister.
“They pushed us to do well in school,” he says, and it worked for both. His sister is now the principal of Adrian Burnett Elementary School.
Rebecca, Glenn’s wife of 18 years, works in nursing at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Their son Hayden is a freshman at Gibbs this year. Twenty-three-year-old Gavin, Glenn’s son from his first marriage, graduated from UTK and is on his way to a doctorate in mathematics at Purdue.
Glenn started his career as a language arts teacher at Halls Middle School in 1997, then taught the same at Carter High School. At his new office in Karns, a series of framed black-and-white posters boast quotes from Orwell, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare and other greats.
“I especially enjoyed helping kids learn to write,” Glenn says. “It’s so important for everything they do. Teaching them how to think about the way they think.”
At Carter, he was a Master and Mentor Teacher through TAP, a program devoted to enhancing teacher development for better student and school outcomes.
“It’s helped our schools improve,” Glenn says of TAP. “It helps teachers get better.”
He moved into administration through the Leadership Academy in 2015.
“This way I could help even more kids by helping more teachers,” Glenn says of his difficult choice to leave the classroom.
As the principal to middle schoolers, he knows he is dealing with kids at some of their most vulnerable ages: when their bodies are changing, their perceptions of the world around them are changing and schoolwork is getting more serious.
“It’s a difficult time to go through all those things,” Glenn says, and he is ready to support his kids in every way possible.
“I want them to succeed and have success, whatever that looks like.”
He says that once upon a time the principal’s job was perceived as primary being an “in-charge disciplinarian,” which is not his style. It is also important to him that he be part of the academic process, to help teachers go as far as they can in learning what works in the classroom.
“I’m not a scary dictator. I try to get people to do things by inspiring and motivating them. I’m a positive person, and I think people respond to that,” he says.
It’s his fortune to have been welcomed to a school that is as eager to succeed as he is.
“There are wonderful people here doing wonderful things,” Glenn says. “Our biggest strength is that we take care of the kids and each other.”