Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / East Hamilton High School was photographed on April 3, 2020.

East Hamilton principal named principal of the year

Brent Eller, principal of East Hamilton School, was named the 2020 principal of the year for Hamilton County Schools last week.

Eller has been leading East Hamilton since the fall of 2018, after six years at Loftis Middle School. This school year has been a challenging one for East Hamilton, as it has for many schools in the community, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the Easter Sunday tornado that struck Chattanooga and surrounding areas. Still, Eller has continued to lead and help bring along the new middle school scheduled to complete construction this summer, according to a news release.

"I am very humbled by this recognition," Eller said in a statement. "We have so many outstanding principals in Hamilton County Schools that are deserving of this recognition, so I am very appreciative of the honor."

During Eller's two years at the helm, the school has been named a Level 5 school by the state, based on student academic growth, and has earned "AP Capstone School" status. The school has also added two Future Ready Institutes, providing unique opportunities for students to prepare for careers after high school, according to the news release.

"The faculty and staff at East Hamilton are some of the most dedicated people that constantly put what is best for students at the forefront of every decision," Eller said. "The students are also incredible and have continued to challenge themselves to explore their untapped potential."

some text
Contributed Photo/Times Free Press Brent Eller, principal of East Hamilton School, was named the 2020 Principal of the Year for Hamilton County Schools in May 2020. Photo courtesy of Hamilton County Schools.


UTC names new dean of College of Arts and Sciences

Pamela Riggs-Gelasco, a scholar, award-winning educator and leader at the College of Charleston, will join the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on July 1, according to a news release.

"I'm grateful for this excellent opportunity, and one of the most appealing aspects of it to me is the great breadth of disciplines that report to the position," Riggs-Gelasco said in a statement. "I have a lot of interests besides science, and I look forward to being able to work with some of those other areas which, for example, include music. That's one of my loves — in fact, all of the performing arts are very special to me, and I'm excited about that."

Riggs-Gelasco has been a professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Charleston since 2012, after starting her career there in 1998. Riggs-Gelasco has overseen a research laboratory at Charleston, and in 2013 she was named South Carolina chemist of the year by the South Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society.

Joe Wilferth has served as interim dean of the college since 2018. In July, he will become associate dean and resume his role as a faculty member teaching and conducting research in the areas of professional writing, rhetoric of social movements and environmental discourse/literature.


Orchard Knob Elementary teacher wins state STEM teaching award

Nikki Russell, a teacher at Orchard Knob Elementary, has been awarded the 2020 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN). The network's STEM Excellence Awards are designed to recognize a phenomenal teacher and an exceptional advocate for STEM education.

"I am so thrilled to be honored by TSIN for the Excellence in STEM Teaching Award," Russell said in a statement. "TSIN is known for its efforts to increase quality STEM instruction in the state, and such a mission resonates with my passion for children in our community."

Throughout her sixteen years of classroom experience, Russell has taught a variety of elementary grades and now serves as Orchard Knob Elementary's STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lab facilitator. In conjunction with the STEM Lab, students annually receive numerous field experiences inside and outside of school through Chattanooga-area partnerships. In December, Russell was named the outstanding technology teacher of the year by the statewide Tennessee Educational Technology Association.

If you have news about local schools you'd like included in Class Notes, email Meghan Mangrum at