Grandfather’s Educational Legacy Inspires New Hope Academy’s First Alum Teacher

When Scott Tunnell returned to New Hope Academy this year as the school’s first alumni teacher, he wasn’t just drawing on his own educational experience at the elementary school to inspire him.  He was building on his grandfather’s legacy.

Norman Tunnell, Scott’s “Papaw,” spent his entire career in education and was a middle school principal in Kingsport, Tennessee, for 30 years.  “When I was growing up he was always telling me and my sisters about the importance of education,” Scott remembered. So while studying business analytics and statistics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Scott took a trip, his Papaw’s words in his head, and found himself drawn to a career in education.  

“I went on a mission trip to South Africa with some friends in the summer of 2014,” Scott said.   “We stayed at an orphanage with a missionary family and did a variety of work around the orphanage, which served youth from infants to 12-year-olds.  We worked with them, helped with schoolwork, organized events, led Bible study.

“My Papaw died while I was in college.  Seeing the impact his life had on so many people and having the experience in South Africa led me to education in a very powerful way,” he reflected. 

The first step for Scott was getting the education needed to educate others.  After graduating from UT in 2015, he became part of Project Inspire, a program designed to prepare non-education majors to teach.  Through Project Inspire’s five-year program, Scott earned his masters in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee Tech and went into the classroom in Chattanooga for a four-year teaching commitment in Title 1 schools.  His experiences at Tyner, Brainerd and East Ridge enabled him to teach his favorite subject, mathematics, and be involved in his other love, sports, as a football and girls basketball coach.  

The path to New Hope Academy took shape when he visited the campus for an event earlier this year with his father.  His 4th  grade teacher, Mr. Goodwin, greeted him and introduced him to Dr. DeLaughter.  One thing led to another and soon he learned that his alma mater was looking for a 5th and 6th grade mathematics teacher.  

“I couldn’t say no,” Scott said.  “I always feel the love of Jesus at this place, and in such a special way.  The experience has had an impact on me already and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.  The opportunity to work here and be a part of preparing the next generation of NHA students – to be colleagues now with my grade school teachers – is truly special.”

Scott is reveling in the classroom, in large measure because of his own memories of New Hope Academy.  Ask Scott what hasn’t changed since his days on the campus and he’s quick to point to his classmates.   “ I remember how much I loved my classmates.  We came from many different backgrounds and developed a special community.  I have a picture of my 6th grade class from NHA in my classroom because they are still part of my life.  I see the excitement for learning in the students and I see so many of my 6th grade classmates in the actions and lives of these students.  It makes middle school a very special place where you feel Jesus’s love and the love of one another.”