News From the Pride // March 3, 2021

Dr. Bobbie Solley, former director of education development for Healing Hands International and a retired professor from Middle Tennessee State University, has worked to establish the Bobbie Solley Center for Excellence in Teaching at Freed-Hardeman University. The center was launched officially in January 2021.

Utilizing the mantra, “Reaching Students, Empowering Teachers, Transforming Instruction” (RET), the center’s mission is to develop teacher and school leaders committed to making a positive impact on student learning and fostering high student academic achievement for diverse student populations. A five-year plan has been developed to assist the center in reaching its goals.

Professional development activities are set to begin in February 2021, using a variety of innovative methods, including coaching, mentoring, seminars, workshops, diversity sensitivity training, experiential activities and many others. Building on partnerships already in place with Chester County Schools, Columbia Academy and Middle Tennessee Christian School, the center seeks to develop additional partnerships throughout West Tennessee. The five-year plan also calls for scholarly research and possible publications by the faculty and participants.

FHU alumna Sarah Hibbett has been named the director of the center. She, along with Dr. Sharen Cypress, dean of the FHU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and Dr. Amy Downey, chair of the department of education, began in August developing plans for launching the center. Comprised of public and private school teachers and administrators from West and Middle Tennessee, the board has met to share ideas for the center.

The first official professional enhancement activity is set for Feb. 17, 2021. Currently, the plan is for a virtual meeting. A fishbowl activity will organize groups of educators in role-specific groups throughout the day. Questions and prompts tailored for their roles will be posed to jump-start conversation. The advisory committee will observe and listen to the fishbowl for highlights from those conversations to help plan future professional developments, according to Hibbett.

“We are excited and grateful to receive this wonderful gift from Dr. Bobbie Solley and the Solley Foundation. It has the potential to improve not only the college of education and Freed-Hardeman University, but also the quality of teaching throughout the area,” Cypress said. “We are eagerly anticipating hosting the first professional development activities for educators in 2021.”

Solley established the Bobbie Solley Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 2017. It seeks to provide professional development to deserving organizations and/or individuals who have educational needs, and expand and deepen teaching and learning and related academic initiatives and scholarship at Freed-Hardeman University.

Funding for the center will come from the Solley Foundation and Freed-Hardeman University, as well as others who would like to contribute.