PENCIL: Providing Vital Support to Nashville’s School Communities
Each day, the educators and administrators of Metro Nashville Public Schools bring their fullest effort, the very best of themselves, to their classrooms in service of Nashville’s children; it is only appropriate that they be given the benefit of a strong support system. Since 1982, PENCIL has played that role for Nashville’s public schools – and in the almost 40 years since the organization’s founding, PENCIL’s impact on the community has only grown. As MNPS educators, students, and families prepare for a back-to-school experience unlike ever before, the tireless work of the PENCIL organization deserves a moment in the spotlight.
PENCIL takes a multi-pronged approach to supporting Nashville’s public education community, one of these being its brick-and-mortar LP PENCIL Box, a teacher supply store that offers classroom essentials to MNPS teachers at absolutely no cost. The value of free classroom supplies cannot be understated, particularly when – as reported by the Tennessean in February 2020 – Nashville teachers regularly spend an average of $410 per year on their own classroom supplies. In the 2019-20 school year, the LP PENCIL Box distributed over $1.8 million in supplies to educators from 159 MNPS schools. But for the PENCIL team, this impressive reach is not good enough. PENCIL understands that certain barriers do exist between Nashville teachers and a visit to the LP PENCIL Box – distance, shop hours, and awareness of the resource, to name a few – and remain committed to developing solutions to these challenges in order to make the Box a truly accessible benefit for all MNPS educators.
Behind the scenes, PENCIL staff serve as the bridge between generous community members interested in supporting MNPS schools and the schools themselves. Equipped with a deep knowledge of school needs, PENCIL is able to recruit and match community members with the students and teachers in need of their skills. In the 2020-21 school year, PENCIL’s Partnership Managers oversaw over 750 such partnerships, working with a range of businesses, universities, faith-based organizations and civic groups. PENCIL staff work diligently to identify a best-fit volunteer opportunity for interested parties, from sorting supplies at the LP PENCIL Box to hands-on tutoring or success coaching in MNPS schools. PENCIL volunteers have been particularly essential in the COVID-19 era, meeting the needs of MNPS students and families by creating at-home learning tool kits to be shared at the district’s meal distribution sites.
PENCIL’s student-centric, partnership-focused work ensures a strong bond between the Nashville community and our MNPS schools. By linking community resources to Nashville’s public education system, PENCIL creates a world of opportunity and support for students, families, and educators. The Scarlett Family Foundation has been proud to support PENCIL since 2009.