Katie Branch will be working with Mary Duncan in the LMS front office. Katie and her husband, Ben, moved to Chattanooga from Atlanta this past October. They live in Riverview, and Ben works at The Wauhatchie School. Katie comes to LMS from Warby Parker, where she worked as a customer experience advisor. She knew that she wanted to be in a school setting, so her move to Chattanooga allowed her to make that change. She says, “I am excited and honored to be a part of the sweet Lookout Mountain community through my new role.” The most recent addition to Katie’s crew is a new dachshund puppy named Frances. Katie gives fair warning that if you see her out and about, she will likely make you stop and look at puppy pictures, which everyone seems more than happy to do! Katie may also share with you, albeit with further convincing, a video of herself performing, as she is a trained opera singer, having studied vocal music education in college. She wants parents to know that she is already feeling “so at home” at LMS and is “excited for the years to come.” She is looking forward to meeting everyone and helping them out in the front office.
The second-graders at LMS have two new teachers this year. One of the second grade classes will be taught by Sydney Fitch. Sydney is from Richmond, Va., but says she is “loving Chattanooga and living a large part of [her] life on Lookout Mountain.” Her parents live in Charlotte, N.C., where her father is a colonel in the National Guard and “loves to fish and be outdoors,” and her “wonderful mother” is a teacher’s assistant. Sydney is one of four siblings, including older brother Tripp, who flies Blackhawks for the Army, older sister Madeline, who is on her way to being a physical therapist, and younger brother Will, who is playing football and running track as a senior in high school. Sydney is new to her teaching role, but had the “distinct honor to be mentored by Dottie Love at Battle Academy.” She says that she loves the ELA curriculum and social studies, and she is looking forward to teaching those areas and building relationships around the school. She shares that the leadership at LMS is “probably the best in the world.” “I am impressed by Principal Ruth White every day and the servant leadership, care, and faith that she has in her faculty and staff. She treats everyone with respect, and she is empowering,” Sydney said. Outside of school, Sydney enjoys rock climbing and hiking; she also loves plants and hopes to have her own garden and greenhouse.
Grace Pressley joins us to lead the other LMS second grade class. Grace recently moved to Chattanooga from Greenville, S.C., where she taught second grade for the past two years. Her parents are still in Greenville, and her younger brother just graduated from USC before relocating to Richmond, Va. Grace loves to go camping in her free time, and she enjoys traveling to new places. She feels that her “biggest passion in life is teaching,” and she is excited to have the opportunity to work at LMS, which she sees as “such an amazing school.” Grace is looking forward to a great year and getting to know the LMS community better.
Alongside Joy Kaeser, who moved to teaching third from second grade at LMS, Gina Hughes will be a new LMS third grade teacher this year. Gina’s is not an entirely new face around campus, though, as students loved getting to know her at the end of last year when she took over for Mrs. Maddie Weeks’ second grade during her maternity leave. Gina shares that she “fell in love with the students and school” last year, and that she found the kids to be “so smart, polite, and caring.” Originally from the Hudson Valley of New York, Gina married her military husband and traveled/lived all over the world. She has moved an impressive 13 times in 28 years, including her move here from the Chicago area in 2018. During all of those moves, Gina spent 14 years in education, working as a teacher in Virginia, Georgia and Illinois. She also served in the Army Reserves, spending 10 years in personnel and public affairs. This military lifestyle makes her feel “very nomadic,” and she loves to move, whether it is just across town or (preferably) to “new and interesting places.” Gina is looking forward to working with the kids she didn’t have for class last year and is excited to help all her students “love to read and write.”
A final new addition to recognize is Julie Coleman, who is our guidance counselor this year. We share Julie with Spring Hill Elementary, and she has enjoyed “getting to know the names and faces” at LMS so far. Julie is from western New York, and she is the youngest of nine children in her family, including four brothers and four sisters. Julie married her husband, Jacob, in 2019, and she previously served as school counselor to East Lake Elementary School for the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Julie actually started her college education with a plan to major in music, but she made the switch to human development for her undergraduate degree and then went on to get her masters in school counseling, saying, “I love getting to work with students throughout their every day.” During the challenges of the past two years, it is vital for students to have resources like Julie to turn to, and Julie is looking forward to “developing meaningful relationships” at LMS.
As we welcome all of these new faces to Lookout Mountain School, let’s also take a moment to thank Betsy Bookout, Ruthie Cargill, Kelly Paschall, and Maddie Weeks for their dedicated service to our school. They have brought years of joy and enrichment to LMS, and they will certainly be missed by parents, students, and faculty alike! We look to the past with gratitude and to the future with hope as we begin the 2021-2022 school year.
by Meredith Brown