It’s a short drive, just across the ridge and a bit as the crow flies, from Shannondale Elementary School to Brickey-McCloud Elementary School, but there’s a world of difference between the schools. For starters, Shannondale has just 400 students to BMES’s more than 1,000.
But new BMES principal Megan O’Dell has led them both, and she’s looking to bring the “personal feeling” she had at Shannondale with her to Brickey. For starters, she’s set the goal of learning every student’s name. All 1,000-plus.
“At Shannondale, I very much enjoyed that community feel,” said O’Dell. “But the thing is, it’s the same here. Brickey has that community feel.”
O’Dell is a native Knoxvillian, graduating from Carter High School where her parents were both teachers. She attended Carson-Newman for her undergraduate work and earned a master’s degree from Tusculum. She’s a graduate of the Knox County Leadership Academy at UT, where she earned an EdS.
Her teaching career started at East Knox Elementary School as a classroom teacher, then moved to Sunnyview. She was a curriculum coach at South Knoxville Elementary for a year and a lead teacher at Sarah Moore Greene. She was an assistant principal at Brickey under retired and beloved principal Robbie Norman, and she spent her Leadership Academy practicum time at Northshore, then was principal at Shannondale for the last four years.
Norman was and is a mentor to O’Dell.
“It’s like taking over from my mother,” she said. “She’s always been my go-to, and that hasn’t changed. I think it’s great that I have that relationship with her. I’m continuing what she’s built. I don’t plan to change or overhaul anything she’s done, but just continue. I think everybody always worries about change. My biggest think is just to make sure they know I’m here. My door is always open. I think that’s something they felt with Robbie, and that’s something I want to continue.”
O’Dell said she’s big on communication and parental involvement. She’s getting information out through the BMES PTO Facebook page and hopes parents will get excited “about the great things coming for their kids.”
Growing the BMES STEM program is one of those great things. The program got started last year, and this year O’Dell hopes to expand it to include a robotics team and family STEM nights.
“The goal is that we don’t want that to be something that’s brand new to kids when they walk into middle school. We want them to be prepared and able to compete in that middle school and high school world and be prepared for jobs,” she said.
O’Dell wants the whole school community, students, parents and teachers, to be better for their time at BMES.
“It’s all about growth for me,” she said. “When I was a classroom teacher, my goal each year was how much I could grow my kids. I always wanted them to walk out the door saying they’re better than when they walked in.”
O’Dell’s husband, Todd, is a teacher at West High School. Their two children, Mallory and Calvin, attend Shannondale Elementary.