The topic of education reform has been a big theme in the past year, both nationally and in Nashville and as schools around Middle Tennessee head into holiday break, two teachers have a lot to be proud of.
"There [are] just so many deserving teachers out there for this kind of an honor, but I am just completely honored and humbled," said Adam Taylor.
Taylor is in his 10th year of teaching science at John Overton High School.
In Taylor's classroom, technology that is often pushed away during school hours is embraced.
"Just trying to get the kids engaged, so they're thinking at a higher level and thinking deeply about science, as far as being something that happens around them all the time," Taylor told Nashville's News 2.
Students use Twitter to answer questions during and outside of class and to complete homework assignments.
Taylor said harnessing social media helped him connect with his class and get kids excited about learning.
"I guess the big thing is when they walk out of class and say that was a cool class today, or I really enjoyed learning this way or what we did that day was really cool, or I like how you gave us that chance to try something new, or when the students have a voice," explained Taylor when asked what he enjoys most about teaching.
In a different classroom at Nashville Prep, a charter school that's been operating for a year and a half, students are also engaged.
Christina McDonald asks her fifth grade social studies class, ""The time before the civil war was called?"
The entire class loudly chimes in, "Antebellum!"
McDonald uses catchy chants, songs and rhymes to keep her students engaged and excited about learning history.
"When she comes in the class, you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, yes!'" said fifth grader Antonio Stevens. "My favorite part of Ms. McDonald's class is that she lets out so much zest, she lets us get active."
McDonald said her classroom, and the entire school, lives by a very important mantra: no excuses.
"No matter what your background, no matter what your zip code, no matter what your income, there are no excuses," she said. "We have to leave all that stuff at the door. Teachers have to do it, students have to do it [and] parents have to do it. So for us, that's what's working."
Results from the last TCAP test show Nashville Prep students out-scored most of their middle school peers in Metro schools, even besting Williamson County schools in math.
"I think their test scores were really incredible," said McDonald. "Their character building has also just been life-altering."
Both Taylor and McDonald see the future of public education in Nashville as bright and full of possibilities.
McDonald told Nashville's News 2, "I think the competition is exciting, because it's showing that it can be done and everyone might not do it the same way, but its showing that it can be done and we will prove that it can be done consistently."
"Something's got to give and everybody is trying to give to make it work," Taylor said. "It's just trying to understand what exactly the kids need."