Jessica White – Head of School
Jessica is a co-founder of Mid-South Gifted Academy. As a mother of four, she understands the intense desire of all parents to find a school where their children have a sense of belonging and the opportunity to learn. A National Board Certified Teacher with 15 years of experience, Jessica has worked in a variety of school settings to create challenging and engaging, child-centered learning environments for gifted and high-achieving students. In 2017, she completed the Memphis Leadership Scholars Program at the University of Memphis, earning an Education Specialist degree with a license for school administration.
Through her years of teaching high-ability children and listening to the hopes and concerns of parents, Jessica became passionate about finding the best ways to reach and teach these students. Having completed extensive training in the Responsive Classroom approach, she acquired numerous tools and strategies to help students build academic and social-emotional competencies. She spent two years researching the micro-school movement in order to address the need in the community to provide another educational option for gifted learners, and Mid-South Gifted Academy welcomed its founding families in August of 2018. Jessica resides in Collierville with her husband and four children.
Jenn Morris – Director of Admissions & Operations
Jenn is a co-founder of Mid-South Gifted Academy and the mother of two. Realizing the limitations for gifted learners within a traditional educational model, she sought to find a solution. With extensive experience in instructional design, program implementation and management, and facilitation in adult training and education, Jenn has worked diligently to ensure learners of all types have access to resources and information that meet their needs. She’s particularly passionate about using emerging education methods to encourage curiosity and self-discovery within the gifted community. She believes learning should be joyful and curiosity should always be nurtured.
Jenn holds a B.A. in History from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is a contributing author to the Oklahoma Career Tech textbook, Law Enforcement 1, written for high school students. She is the instructional designer of numerous training programs and courses, and has also authored several articles for Character First Magazine, an educational resource for K-12 teachers. Jenn’s hope is that Mid-South Gifted Academy will provide an environment for gifted children to feel a deep sense of engagement and belonging.
Amanda Nixon – Lead Guide, Innovation Studio
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela. Inspired by this quote, Amanda has devoted 15 years of teaching to researching and implementing effective practices that develop world changers. She believes students should have opportunities to engage in activities that spark their curiosity, demonstrate their talents, challenge their intellect, and bring them joy. These opportunities are created through classroom experiences that take them beyond curriculum guidelines, as well as through extra-curricular activities. Amanda received a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Memphis and a Master of Education degree from Union University. She served as a Math coach for Shelby County Schools and the state of Tennessee. She had the honor of being selected as a Tennessee Educator Fellow for SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education) and has extensive experience in curriculum design. Through these experiences, Amanda developed practices to emphasize personalized, student-centered learning. Amanda lives in Bartlett with her husband and three sons.
Jennifer Harlan – Lead Guide, Discovery Studio
“The best thing [we] can do is to teach children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.” -Carol Dweck
This mindset has strengthened Jennifer’s belief in student-led goal setting and learning. Giving students ownership over the learning process grants them opportunities to build confidence, experience productive struggle, and take risks that would not normally be offered to them in a typical classroom environment. Jennifer holds a B.A. in Psychology from Western Kentucky University and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Memphis. She has worked with gifted and high achieving students in both private and public school settings for the past 12 years, and she is passionate about creating learning environments that foster curiosity, wonder, and creativity. Jennifer lives in Collierville with her husband.
Claire van Drimmelen – Lead Guide, Wonder Studio
As the mother of three gifted children, Claire devoted the last ten years to learning about how to best meet their academic and social/ emotional needs. She is passionate about creating early childhood learning experiences that allow children to wonder, explore, and create. Following a mindset of discovery, project-based learning, critical thinking, and curiosity, Claire spear-headed a curriculum change for her church Sunday school to a Montessori-based program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Over the past six years, Claire has enjoyed teaching and assisting in the leadership of this program, partnering with parents, teachers, and students to create a joyful student experience. She is thrilled to combine her passion, expertise, and experience to launch Mid-South Gifted Academy’s Wonder Studio.
Karen Mills – Social/ Emotional Learning Coach and Lead Guide
Karen holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Christian Brothers University and
has worked in gifted and special education for the past 11 years. Teaching children of all ability levels has allowed Karen to focus on the needs of the child above all else. She is passionate about creating learning environments that emphasize strong relationships and the social/ emotional needs of children. Karen believes that the greatest gift we can give or receive is believing in an individual’s potential. “Watching the light bulb go off for a student after a productive struggle brings me joy like nothing else!” Karen lives in Germantown with her husband and their four children.
Erin Webb – Enrichment Specialist
A violinist from a young age, Erin became passionate about education through the teaching of Shinichi Suzuki. His belief in the ability of all children to learn at a high level and “concern about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit” inspired Erin to pursue teaching as a career. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Georgia, Erin obtained a Master of Music degree in Violin and Suzuki Pedagogy from the University of Memphis. With 20 years of Suzuki teaching and a background in therapeutic recreation, Erin provided meaningful experiences to people of all abilities. As her two children grew closer to beginning their formal education, Erin extensively researched various pedagogical approaches and educational philosophies, particularly as they apply to gifted learners. Erin is delighted to bring her passion and enthusiasm to Mid-South Gifted Academy.
Join Our Team!
Mid-South Gifted Academy is expanding, and we are looking for exceptional, fun-loving educators and assistants to join our growing team!
- Team Player
- Understanding of the needs of gifted learners