To say Eagleville School is unique is an understatement. With 100 years of history, the campus as it stands now is much larger than the original, having evolved through many changes — including three fires, one in the early 1890’s, one in 1923 and one in 1994. But even fire could not stop the cooperation and community investment which has kept the school going, and Eagleville’s culture stronger than ever.
Eagleville School is the only PreK through 12th grade school in Rutherford County’s school district. “It’s the heart of the community, our school,” said Eagleville Mayor Chad Leeman. “So many people are involved as far as community wise, whether they leave or come back. We have retired teachers come back and help. We have, you know, a different variety of people that once they leave us, we have the motto - ‘once an eagle, always an eagle.’ I think that runs through the town and through the school.”
Leeman is not only the mayor of Eagleville but also teaches drivers education to students wishing to get on the road. Few students can say their mayor took an active part in teaching them how to be safe on the road. But it isn’t just Leeman who has rooted himself in Eagleville culture.
Eagleville’s sense of community runs deep. “The uniqueness of our school is this,” said Bruce Haley, career and technical education instructor. “You’ve got elementary, middle and high school — and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. This is my 40th year. There’s three parts — but it’s one school.”
Having three schools in one building may be exactly what gives Eagleville such a strong sense of community. It also creates an opportunity at mentorship that not a lot of other schools have.
“Elementary students can walk down the hall and can see an older sibling,” said Jason Brown, assistant principal, “or you know, a friend of the family or something like that. It’s just a unique culture-building experience here at Eagleville. We’re in charge of our own culture and it starts all the way down in elementary school.”
Unlike other schools in Rutherford County, students at Eagleville don’t face the decision in fifth and eighth grade to apply to a choice school or continue to their zoned school. They simply continue on with what Haley and other Eagles call “the Eagleville way.”
“Both of my children started here in kindergarten,” said Haley, “went through twelfth grade. One of them is back here now teaching biology and helping coach football. There’s no place on Earth I’d rather have them than right here. It’s just, there was no considering any other school. I could just see how they grew and how they grew as they came into their own, and this school did a lot to help them.”
Leeman also has students in the school:
“Mine is in ninth grade now, been here since kindergarten, but he’d vouch for this as well. You teach some of [the students] and now I’m starting to see their kids come back through. It’s an interesting thing that you get to see the kids that you taught now have kids come up — or coaching them or anything like that where it just becomes a family tradition. You want for your child to be able to be a part of that experience — to be a part of something that’s unique and different from anything else you’ve seen,” said Leeman.
According to Tim Pedigo, Eagleville principal, it’s exactly this continuity of tradition that keeps parents, teachers and students invested in the Eagleville culture. As a parent you can drop off your kids K-12 all in one place. As a teacher with students, you can keep an eye on them all the way through to the end of their academic career.
“I think we may be up to 17 or 18 teachers here out of a staff of 80 that are all Eagleville graduates who have returned,” said Pedigo. “They spend a lot of time on this campus and doing things for the school, and so when you do that for 12 years you want to go in and have an impact, to be able to contribute to something. To be able to come back here and say, ‘I’m coming back home ... I can come back’.
“I think the main reason is they want to be part of the experience they had. I think they want to give back,” Leeman added, explaining why so many return. “It’s unique. You have people that went to different schools to teach but come right back to this one because of the uniqueness of the way it is. It’s not like a school per se, it’s a community.”
That experience, ‘”the Eagleville way,” may be foreign to those who have never grown up in such a community before. For teachers who find Eagleville as their first placement or for students who transfer in – there may be a bit of culture shock.
“I think we get a lot of people who come into the community, or who move here, and they don’t really know what to expect at first,” said Brown. “Then we have a lot of families who are here for a little while and then just say how much they appreciate it for their kids in this safe environment where they know they’re going to be pushed to excel, and where they have all these opportunities. You know if they want to be in Agriculture they can be involved, if they want to be in athletics, if they want to be involved, we have a number of clubs for them to be a part of.”
So, what is “the Eagleville way?” When a student graduates from Eagleville after 13 years, what makes an Eagleville student unique from other graduates?
“Think respect and ownership,” said Brown. “Pride. This is their school. They have a responsibility, and they have a stake in it — and that all contributes to behavior, attitude, and a willingness, I think, to do their best in whatever they choose to do.”
Eagleville school does not exist as a static placement in Eagleville. As Leeman said, “It’s the heart,” seeking to work hand in hand with local community, propelling each other forward.
“From my standpoint we always try to work together as one whole,” said Leeman. “If there’s somebody lacking something at the school, we always try to help as a community. The school does the same thing — if we have somebody lacking something in the community, the school will step up and help that person. It’s not a perfect deal all the time, but at the end of the day I could pick up the phone and call somebody and they would be there in a heartbeat.”
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