The past, present, and future of Peabody Elementary

As our community celebrates Peabody’s 100th anniversary here at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, three moms of Peabody students reflect on the school’s past, present, and future.

Peabody Past
By Lisa Lumb

Peabody Elementary has been an anchor for the neighborhood since 1910 when the current building at 2086 Young was constructed. Parts of this fast growing streetcar suburb had only recently been included in the city limits in 1909. However, growth continued, and by 1918 portable classroom additions were needed for all the extra children flocking to the school.

Through the years the school has been a focal point for CY. It was a temporary shelter and hospital for flood victims in 1937. School attendance peaked in the 50s when the school also had its own band and orchestra. In the last decades of the 20th century, its fortunes waned. With the problem of white flight, these decades saw school numbers decline, though there have always been some local children attending the school every year.

An attempt to close the school by the Board of Education in 1983 was quickly shelved by the protests of older CY residents; most of them school alumni themselves. Many of these same residents had worked to place the school on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, which precipitated some large-scale renovations of the school. These advocates kept working to designate the school as optional in 1989. Clearly the school is a beloved institution for neighborhood residents who have worked hard to improve and support the school through the years.

Our family’s own experience with Peabody has been very good. All three of our sons attended the school (from 1997 to 2010), and they received an excellent education from compassionate, caring staff. My oldest son is a freshman at UTK, my middle son is an 11th grader at White Station High School, and my youngest son just entered White Station Middle School this year. Their Peabody experience prepared them well to make the jump to other good optional schools in the MCS system.

Peabody Present
By Mandy Grisham

At this 100th anniversary milestone, Peabody has many charming qualities to boast about. The 330 preschool through 5th grade students study in large classrooms with low student/teacher ratios. At a time when standardized testing seems to take attention away from the fun of learning, Peabody students are receiving a well-rounded education that isn’t found at every school in our nation these days. Students participate in art, Orff music, PE, and library for one hour a week with experienced, certified, caring teachers. An energetic team of Russian language teachers is providing thirty minutes of classroom Russian lessons for every student, every day.

The international studies focus that makes Peabody a unique optional school allows teachers to use the countries they study throughout the year as a thematic unit through which many other concepts are taught. In kindergarten the focus all year is the United States. When they began learning to count money during math, they also studied the presidents and landmarks represented on each coin. My child could have created a documentary on the topic; he was so enthralled! And this creative learning through international studies happens at each grade level with Kenya, France, Mexico, and Russia. The fifth graders study Japan, which has been particularly meaningful in light of the tragic earthquakes and tsunami. Students were moved by the disaster to take on the mission of raising funds for the Red Cross to benefit Japan relief.

Of course, the technology students use today could never have been fathomed a century ago. Today students learn on computers in their classroom or in the computer lab at least once a day, and every teacher uses SmartBoard technology, one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in classrooms today. Teachers are writing grants for digital recorders to help students gain confidence as early readers and iPads to bring the world to their fingertips.

After school students have the option to join a wide variety of extra-curricular activities such as: art or folk art club, chess club, baseball or soccer club, Beta club, Dance Ensemble, choir, strings, spirit squad, majorettes, drummers, science club, computer club, Peabody Press, crafty kids club, Russian club, and international cooking.

And parents of Peabody students are continually stepping out and showing support by volunteering as room parents, becoming PTA members, participating in fundraisers, and speaking at Career Day. This year parents have created a “Friends of Peabody” Facebook page and Twitter account (@PeabodyFriends) to communicate goings-on at the school. Peabody is a great example of the success students can have when teachers, administrators, parents, businesses, and community members all partner together for the education of an amazing group of kids.

Peabody Future
By Ginger Spickler

As wonderful as the school is now, I think that all Peabody stakeholders would agree that enjoying a great today doesn’t preclude dreaming of an even better tomorrow. In that spirit, here is what I see for Peabody’s future.

Peabody as a community center. Nationwide there is a growing trend toward thinking of school buildings not just as centers of learning from morning until early afternoon, but as community hubs that have something to offer all neighborhood residents well after the school staff heads home. Why should classrooms or the aptly named “cafetorium” sit empty in the evenings when they could be utilized for various community meetings; classes on health, finances, or parenting; and academic or artistic enrichment for adults and children alike? Not only would it be a more efficient use of a great neighborhood facility, but it could potentially enhance Peabody students’ readiness to learn by supporting their families more holistically.

Peabody as a bridge between two communities. Some may hear talk of Peabody being a neighborhood school and think the neighborhood being referred to is Cooper-Young. In fact, CY is one of two neighborhoods that are zoned for Peabody. The other is Rozelle-Annesdale – a lower-income, more heavily African-American neighborhood and a strong community in its own right. While Rozelle-Annesdale has in recent years sent its children mainly to Peabody and Cooper-Young has not, that is beginning to change as more CY families choose the school their kids can walk to. If trends continue, Peabody has the possibility of becoming one of the more diverse neighborhood schools in the city – a vibrant racial and socioeconomic mix of children (and the adults who love them) who all have much to gain from growing and learning with one another.

Peabody as an equalizer. Above all, my greatest dream for Peabody is that through the hard work of teachers, administrators, community members, parents, and the students themselves, Peabody would find a way to close the persistent achievement gap that is present in most every school in the nation between economically disadvantaged students and those with more resources. Peabody is already doing better on this score than the district and even the state as a whole, and I know from regular conversations with Peabody’s staff that it is something they have in their sights everyday. But that vision can’t stop with them. As a parent and community member, I must fight for a great education for every child like I do for my own son. It’s easy to say and hard to do, I know. But ultimately, it’s up to all of us to make Peabody a model of student success so that on Peabody’s 200th anniversary our city, nation, and world will have been changed for the better by those who have walked through its doors.

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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  1. Great article. Is there any way I could get a copy of this photo for my daughter’s scrapbook. I love it!

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