Templeton Blog

The "Why" Behind Templeton Academy Nashville

[fa icon="calendar"] 4/30/19 12:12 PM / by Kalee Barbis

Kalee Barbis


In addition to this blog, Kalee also spoke to New in Nashville podcast host, Elam Freeman, about the founding of Templeton Academy in Nashville. In their conversation she discusses her background in experiential and innovative education. They also discuss Templeton Academy's unique model and how it fits into the Nashville educational landscape. If you are an urban living proponent or you are looking for an innovative education option for your family, you'll find this episode enlightening and informative.

Interested in listening to the complete episode? Click the link below!

Listen Here

How Experiential Learning Engaged a Brilliant, but Disinterested Student

When one works in education, there are students who come along and change you as an educator. A few years ago, I had the absolute privilege of meeting a student named Kimberlin. She maintained her grades despite her disillusionment with school. Her writing continued to be excellent, she slayed standardized tests, but within the current education system she felt bored. As she sat in my English class of thirty, I could see she was special even as her eyes glazed over with boredom.  When you teach over 120 students and serve as Assistant Principal, there is only so much you can do to fight the mundane in the typical school structure.

A year later, when presented with the opportunity to pilot competency-based English with a class of ten students who were selected for their top grades, I jumped at the opportunity- and Kimberlin joined the class.

Kimberlin finished the entire English curriculum by November of her sophomore year. She read over six novels and eighty-six different texts to prep for the SAT II, and she made it through the exam, despite getting sick at the end. She created a computer game and wrote the data privacy policy that came with it and then presented it--with her team--to an ethics committee.  Once a week her class worked from Starbucks, like the millennial entrepreneurs they were working to become. We heard guest speakers, went on field trips, and truly imagined what school could look like in the 21st Century.

But that program is not what school looked like for every student, or even most students. As I dreamed about the possibilities of what school could be, and looked at the ten students lucky enough to pilot the program, I knew I could do more in education. I could create and lead a school that actually put students first.

"How Can We Make This All About Students?"

Out of this pilot program emerged the idea to bring an innovative school to my hometown of Nashville and served as the catalyst for Templeton Academy’s launch. Templeton Academyis the first private school ever located in Nashville’s Central Business District and the first downtown high school since Hume Fogg opened at its current location in 1912.

At Templeton Academy, we always ask, “how can we make this all about students?” We do this by granting student autonomy, ensuring strong instruction, and encouraging academic excursions. In middle school and high school, we commit ourselves to personalization through small classes, deeper learning through two hour blocks, and experiential learning by using the city as our classroom. Our curricular model is collaborative and project-based.

We also strive for equity through a quality affordable private school model. We want to remove the invisible rope that forces families to write off private school before they even walk through the doors. With a tuition of around $15,000, we work with families to make the school an option. We give away $100,000 away each year in financial aid, and we strive to create a school that all students can attend- regardless of zip code, race, or class.

Templeton Academy Nashville's Vision

Our vision is to create a truly innovative school in Nashville that prioritizes student voice, great instruction, and community of belonging by eventually serving 300 kids from throughout the city.  In addition to creating a strong school, our vision is to create a school that truly reflects the city of Nashville with a diverse community- economically, racially, and religiously. Lastly, our vision is to create a school that is an open to the city of Nashville so that other teachers and educators can learn from Templeton Academy’s work. Every student in Nashville deserves an excellent education — and we can serve all students by sharing the work we do reimagining school.

Private school and innovative education should not be just for the elite or super smart: it should be available for every family with a student sitting bored in class, just like Kimberlin.

PS- With my move back to Nashville, Kimberlin and I still text quite often and I can’t wait to see where she goes when she graduates in 2020!


We invite you to learn more about Templeton Academy's experiential learning model with our digital resource, Beyond the Desk: Why Experiential Learning is Crucial at the Middle and High School Level!

Explore the Resource

Topics: motivating teens, skills for the future, Nashville

Kalee Barbis

About Kalee Barbis

Kalee is the founding Head of School for Templeton Academy in Nashville. Kalee is a Nashville native with a decade of educational experience. Educated at the University of Tennessee, Lipscomb, and Vanderbilt Universities. Kalee is deeply committed to personalized, experiential education. She has a strong track record in developing relationships with students and teachers, and cultivating a student-centered classroom. Kalee spent the past three years in Washington DC, founding Washington Leadership Academy, an XQ Super School focused on reimagining high school, as the assistant principal. Prior to that, Kalee taught in Nashville for six years. She is excited to return home to bring BTA to the city.

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Blyth-Templeton Academy voted a top DC high school for 2018 by readers of the Washington City Paper