Web K0A4087

Mountain Biking Toppers finding success during inaugural season at Science Hill

The Science Hill Mountain Biking team is close to putting a wrap on the 2017 season, but the new school sport will have a place to stay in Johnson City, as the Science Hill team was the first National Interscholastic Cycling Association school team in Northeast Tennessee.

A group of nine students ranging from middle school to high school make-up the inaugural Science Hill Mountain Biking team who finished in fifth place as a team in their third race of the season on Sunday, Oct. 8. With one race left, there have been some high finishes, but Science Hill Coach Dwayne Letterman said that it isn't about the finishes as much as it is about the experience.

“Cycling is sort of an everyman sport," Letterman said, "anyone can race bicycles, anybody can ride mountain bikes. It is just a matter of how far you want to go. We teach them how to ride fast and how to ride down steep, rocky hills and how to climb those hills."WEBK0A4125

The Science Hill squad has been pushing it to the limit, which is something that sophomore Madi Rowe said that she enjoys about the sport.

“It’s really awesome and I really like it,” she said. “It’s fun to learn how to balance yourself and everything and there is a lot of discipline in riding a bike, especially on a mountain trail.”

Rowe, who has three top-five finishes in the races that the Toppers have participated in, said that as soon as she heard discussion of the sport, she wanted to jump right in.

“I do it because it is a stress reliever and I like to do it, it’s fun for me,” Rowe said. “I like to go out and train hard and I like the team mentality of the sport and the way we are able to bond.”

The team participates during the fall sport-season and has four races across the state. The concept started with the creation of the NICA league, which started in California in 2009. The Tennessee league started in 2013 and Letterman said that he knows of 23 teams across the state

“Mountain Biking is the fastest growing discipline of cycling, largely because of NICA and USA Cycling,” Letterman said.

It also seems to be the perfect time to start the team in the area too, according to Letterman, who mentioned the construction of the bike park at Tannery Knob and the opening of Wing Deer Park for Mountain Biking. With additions like that, Letterman said he feels like the sport will only continue to grow in the area.

Liberty Bell 8th grader Bowen Reed said he has enjoyed the time he has had to learn the sport and he will continue it for the rest of his high school career.

“The main thing I enjoy is the fact that it is a very versatile sport,” he said. “You can pretty much ride anywhere that you want to…It’s something that may not catch a lot of kid’s eyes, but I really enjoy it. I like the fact that we all practice together, that way we can all learn from one another.”

The team’s final race is on Sewanee on October 29th.

Science Hill ACT scores are above record-breaking state average

Science Hill High School’s class of 2017 was one of 23 school districts across the state to average a 21 or above, according to a release on Tuesday from the Tennessee Department of Education. Science Hill was credited with a composite score of 22.3, which was higher than the state average of 20.1, the highest-ever. The state average was up from 19.9 last year.

Johnson City School's greedy readers enjoy both digital and paperback books

It doesn’t matter how kids are reading these days, whether it be a physical book or a digital one, it merely matters that the students are reading on their own. That is the message that Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs had as he toured schools throughout the district on Wednesday. Timbs was in search of readers for the Tennessee Department of Education #GotCaughtReading social media campaign to promote Imagination Library Week in the state.  


During his ventures, Timbs and other school officials saw numerous students engaged with books, in both digital and traditional paperback copies. 

“This is the time you can hook kids and we can give them options,” Timbs said. “We are teaching a generation that is very different and use to assessing information in many different formats. So whether it is electronic or a real book in their hand, it’s giving students choices and a chance to enjoy the books they like to read.”

School officials toured Fairmont, Lake Ridge, Woodland and South Side to find different readers, but they had a special presentation to make during their stop at Lake Ridge.

Lake Ridge Librarian Maria LaBarbera and Lake Ridge Principal John Phillips were given a $100 gift card for the library on behalf of MyON - a digital literacy program that Johnson City Schools uses – because the Lake Ridge student body logged the second most hours in the state during the summer. Johnson City’s Fairmont Elementary was also among the top schools in the state as well for hours spend reading on MyON this past summer.

“I think this is important because it shows what they are doing when we aren’t making them read inside of our school,” LaBarbera said.

MyON representative Jessica Hernden, who also toured the schools to see how the program was used, presented the gift certificate to Lake Ridge. She also received plenty of good feedback from teachers and students during her time.

Timbs and Instructional Technology Coach Dr. Carleton Lyon said they have been very pleased with MyON since the school system started using it in the summer of 2016.

“MYON has greatly expanded our libraries, if there is a really popular book that everyone wants to read, in a traditional classroom everyone would have to wait their turn, but with Myon, everyone can read it at the same time,” Timbs said. “That really allows us to bring a lot of equity to our district, where all students can access all of the same books as the same time.”

Accessing books that are interesting to students is important, according to Fairmont Principal Carol McGill.

“It’s all about getting those habits when they are young and sustaining that reading habit, so that as they grow in school, they can do the kind of sustained reading they are use to,” said McGill, who also mentioned if MyON isn’t working, the students let her know pretty quickly. “The digital access (on MyOn) stimulates their interest levels in a visual way. And you can also hear the books, so it speaks to all of their senses that they learn with.”

Many third and fourth grade teachers also said they enjoyed using the MyON program for social studies lessons, especially when it involved Tennessee history.

MyON expands the classroom for teachers and students by providing unlimited access to a collection of more than 13,000 enhanced digital books with multimedia supports, daily news articles, real-time assessments, and a suite of literacy tools. Each student in the Johnson City System has access to the MyON program at home or in school (see photo above).

Timbs said that the program has been very popular at the elementary schools and it provides a way for the community to see how the system is using devices.

“It really shows how the investment that Johnson City has made in our digital transformation is translating into real impact in academics,” Timbs said. “It shows that the students don’t just have devices, they are actually using the devices for day-to-day, class-to-class activities.”


Science Hill students take advantage of College Application and Exploration Week

No excuses. That is a message that College Application and Exploration Week is having across the state of Tennessee. At Science Hill, they have a similar goal of wanting to make sure that students are comfortable with the college application process and aren’t intimidated by the long forms or numerous questions.

“We just want our kids to be comfortable when it comes to applying or thinking about college,” said one of Science Hill's Counselors Joe McPherson. “This is an event that is statewide and we are really just trying to promote secondary education after high school. We want to make it easier for them and get them over that hurdle, which is somewhat intimidating.”

On Wednesday, over 40 students filled out applications inside the library at Science Hill. A similar sized crowd was expected throughout the rest of the week as Science Hill participated in the event was sponsored by the Tennessee High Education Commission and CollegeforTN.org, which took place statewide from September 25-29.


Science Hill senior Billy Bishop was busy at the computer on Thursday, and he admitted that college wasn’t on his mind until the start of his senior year. A smile crossed his face when he was asked if he would be applying for school, if it hadn't been for the welcomed pressure from the Science Hill Counseling Department.

“It has kind of given me something else to look at,” Bishop said. “I didn’t really think of how much

 college really meant, until this year. And (the counselors) have been going into explanations of what all it can do for you. They have colleges for everybody; you don’t have to be the smartest kid in class to go to college.”

Science Hill senior Darwin Alonso was another that admitted he was still weighing his college options.

“I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do after high school,” he said as he filled out a college application on the computer screen in front of him. “There weren’t that many local schools for the field that I wanted to go into and I didn’t know that Northeast (State Community College) offered the program that I liked. So that has helped me out.”

Letting students know about all the options that are out there is another goal for the Science Hill Counselors.

Lucas Hitechew, a NiswongerCARE College and Career Advisor, was also on hand to help students. He said that showing kids the path to higher education is part of a goal of increasing the college culture in the area.


“I think it encourages students to think about what happens after high school and hopefully they choose to reach higher in their pursuits,” Hitechew said. “We want their futures to be big, bright and successful.”

Students that may have never applied to college, had their opportunity last week. And that was apparent to McPherson in one particular instance as he watched a young lady tear-up as she submitted her first college application.

“She got teary eyed and sat back and said, ‘I just applied to college,’ it gives me goosebumps just thinking about that,” McPherson said through a smile. “Because it really is life changing. Education is the great equalizer.”

Cherokee’s Yvonne Holifield one of 13 finalists for TAHPERD Elementary School Physical Education Teacher of the Year


It isn’t always about winning.

What better way for a physical education teacher to display that message, then going through and displaying the correct way to handle it. That is exactly what Cherokee Elementary Physical Education teacher Yvonne Holifield is doing.

Holifield was one of 13 finalist for the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD) Elementary School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. And while she didn’t win, she said that having someone nominate her was enough to let her know that she is teaching her students the right way.

“I was very honored that I was nominated,” Holifield said in-between classes one day. “I may not have won this time, but there will be more opportunities. If you never try, you will never succeed. That is a message I like to share with the kids.”

Holifield - who has been named the Teacher of the Year three times at Cherokee Elementary (1994, 2003 and 2015) - always planned on becoming a physical education teacher. Almost four decades ago, Holifield wanted to become a PE teacher with the goal of detouring young children from hating physical education. Her 36 years of service are distinguishable enough, but it was a personal relationship that fueled her passion.

“I have a sister that hates PE, just as much as I love it,” Holifield said. “So I have always tried to teach to that child. To let them know that they feel safe in my gym and that we are going to applaud and encourage them no matter their level. And that we will celebrate their milestones and we aren’t going to pick on their weaknesses. That is my ultimate goal.”

While the times have changed for physical education in the community, the core concept of getting kids active has not.

“When I first started teaching, we didn’t have the video games or the fidget spinners or a lot of the distractions that kids face today,” Holifield said. “Back then, kids enjoyed getting out and playing. Now it’s almost a task.

“I understand the challenge that parents have, because you can’t just tell kids to go outside and play anymore, you have to make sure their safe. But the component of moving is still as important as ever. We are born to move and we just sit way too much, unfortunately.”

Holifield said that she tries to expose them to different activities during the hour-a-week that she sees her students.

“I just try to encourage them and give them some outside extension of things that they can do,” she said.

Holifield spends time volunteering outside of the classroom too, but she said she is pulled to helping these children understand the importance of physical fitness.

“Statistics say that my generation will be healthier than the next generation and it’s coming to fruition,” she said. “So I feel like as a physical educator, I have to do everything in my power to be able to educate my students that their body is the only one that they will have and they need to respect it.”


Sept ECHO Tease

The Johnson City School System is happy to announce that they have revamped their monthly newsletter to include more information about the happenings in the Johnson City School System. Inside, you will find a page devoted to each school, along with press releases that were sent out from the district over the month of September.

Each month, the Johnson City School System will publish “The ECHO” online. If you click the link below, you will be able to view the 20-page document.