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Local school volunteer recognized with state awards

Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 10:56 am

STAFF WRITER, Deidre Ortiz

Each year Tennessee School Board Association accepts nominations of volunteers that provide special help and go above and beyond for a school in their district.

Ann Seiters nominated local, retired teacher and volunteer Karen Keele last year, in hopes that her efforts at Sewanee Elementary would be recognized.

It was later announced that Keele had received not one, but two TSBA awards for her work with Sewanee Elementary.

Keele received the TSBA award for being a South Central School Volunteer, of which she was one of seven district winners, as well as being honored with TSBA’s 2013 Statewide School Volunteer Recognition Award.

As part of this award, Keele was presented with a $1,500 grant, which she in turn donated back to Sewanee Elementary.

According to the TSBA website, individuals like Keele are chosen from across the state for distinguishing themselves by demonstrating exceptional commitment to volunteerism.

It goes on to mention that the criteria includes but isn’t limited to someone who:

· Has made an outstanding contribution to a Tennessee school district through volunteer service.

· Has exhibited exemplary leadership, creativity, cooperation and hard work in their service to a school.

· Has engaged in the creation, organization, and/or mobilization of volunteers, groups and resources that are involved in projects benefiting the school district.

· Has demonstrated sustained commitment to meeting school district needs.

· Has utilized unique and creative approaches to meeting needs.

· Has helped with a special project or ongoing activities.

In nominating Keele for the TSBA volunteer award, Seiters wrote TSBA telling of the ways her chosen candidate has given her time to help Sewanee Elementary and the Franklin County School System.

“Karen Keele has made an outstanding contribution to the Franklin County School District by creating a superb ongoing volunteer program,” she said. “By utilizing her experience from teaching in the classroom in Franklin County and her gifts of people skills and hard work ethic… she has come up with a program that is changing the lives of many children who need help.”

Seiters explained what the volunteer program that Keele spearheaded at the school does and how it’s encouraged Sewanee Elementary students and benefited their learning.

“This program that Karen Keele created helps the county by serving our population in ways the county cannot. Our volunteers help with all things the teachers need from remedial work on reading, math, social studies, writing and science to accelerated work in the subject areas, to book reports or science fair projects or even homework.  Perhaps, just as important, this program increases the children’s self-esteem through a kind grandparent-type friend who encourages them to be life long learners.”

During the school week, Keele and other volunteers can often be found at Sewanee Elementary in the hallways or an empty science lab working with students.

Though all those who’ve chosen to volunteer their time at Sewanee Elementary have the same goals in mind, Seiters mentioned that the program wouldn’t have as successful without Keele’s passion and determination.

“Perhaps the main key to this program’s continued success has been the driving force of Karen, her leadership with strength of purpose, the professionalism of her volunteers and the close working partnerships she has opened up between teachers and volunteers,” she said.

Keele is one of many volunteers in Franklin County who have chosen to use their talents to assist local students and teachers.

For anyone interested in learning more about the School Volunteer Recognition Award or nominating a volunteer, visit