For Lance Forman, the decision about where he would go to college was never much of a question.
“Both my parents went to Trevecca,” Forman said. “My sister went there. I’ve got cousins that went there, aunts, uncles.”
But figuring out his calling took a little more time.
Coming from a long line of educators, Forman resisted the idea of becoming a teacher himself. As his senior year drew to close—Forman earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and human relations at Trevecca—he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life.
“I felt that draw to teaching, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Forman said.
Halfway through his senior year, Forman met with his adviser, Dr. Lena Welch, to talk about his future. She mentioned teaching, but he still wasn’t sure. Then, in his final semester, Forman took an advanced public speaking class. One of the assignments involved teaching his fellow classmates.
Forman was terrified.
“I had no idea how to teach a class for a whole hour,” Forman remembers. “But it was just so natural. I loved it. That was the day I thought, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”
"I loved it. That was the day I thought, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2002, Forman immediately started a post-baccalaureate program that would allow him to get his teaching license. Once completed, Forman began teaching in the Metro Nashville Public School system.
Forman started his master’s degree in education leadership the same year he taught his first class, fourth grade at Andrew Jackson Elementary. In the years that followed, Forman briefly served as a STEM coach, then an assistant principal at Julia Green Elementary.
In 2012, Forman became the principal at McGavock Elementary. He served for three years, beginning a doctoral program in education at Trevecca while he was there. Then, in the summer of 2015, with just about a year left in his doctoral program, Forman was chosen to be the principal of a new MNPS school, Smith Springs Elementary.
“Our school is a new school in Metro,” Forman said. “We have a lot of technology. There are many things about our school that are cutting edge, that no one else really has.”
Forman was hired before the school was even constructed. As he hired faculty and staff and met with builders, Forman says he used many skills he’d learned through his Trevecca education.
“All the things you learn about teamwork and collaboration and team-building and working together and leadership—I used all those things in planning for Smith Springs,” he said. “I was part of building a school from the ground up—and all those things that I learned in my own programs at Trevecca really came into play when I started with this new school.”
Built for 800 students, Smith Springs Elementary is a tech-rich school. All students—kindergarten through fourth grade—have laptops, and every room features audio/video enhancements to help teachers make sure students can hear and see what they’re teaching.
The school also shares a special relationship with Trevecca.
“I was looking at our floor plan and noticed that our school had this undefined teaching space next to the library,” Forman recalls. “I thought how great it could be to partner with a local university. They could have class in that room, then go and see teaching happening in our classrooms and work with our students.”
Forman emailed Dr. Suzie Harris, dean of Trevecca’s School of Education, and soon met with her and other School of Education representatives to discuss the possibility.
“I noticed they were smiling,” Forman says. “Their goal for the School of Education was to get involved at a high level with a school in Metro. Not just sending kids there to observe, but a real meaningful partnership where Trevecca could get involved in the classrooms.”
Forman and officials from Trevecca’s School of Education pictured a partnership that benefited both the school and Trevecca’s students. It would provide classroom experience for education students, but also create opportunities for one-on-one tutoring and small group learning that would benefit Forman’s elementary students.
The space Forman had noticed on the floor plan became the “TNU Room.” Students in Trevecca’s School of Education have classes in the room during the week, then go into Smith Springs’ classrooms to see the principles they’ve just learned about being practiced.
“They get to hear about how to teach reading or balanced math, but also get to see it happening in the classrooms,” Forman said.
In addition, Trevecca education students also get opportunities to work with students in small group settings, shadow teachers and participate in yearlong “aspiring teacher” internships at the school. These aspiring teachers are partnered with a full-time teacher and participate in co-teaching, one-on-one teaching, small group teaching and lead teaching opportunities.
Forman sees these kinds of partnerships as vital for the future of teacher education.
“That’s been a really progressive model in our district. They have gained so much being in a classroom all year long, versus just doing six weeks of student teaching in one school, then going somewhere else for six more weeks,” Forman says. “That’s the future of teacher preparation, and Trevecca has been on the forefront of that at Smith Springs.”