Tate’s School: 50 Years of Academic Excellence
Making a difference in children’s lives for five decades, Tate’s School is a familiar sight in West Knoxville. Sitting on 54 acres on the corner of Cedar Bluff and Bob Gray Rd., Tate’s log cabin classrooms dot the campus along with a preschool, library, athletic & dining hall, spring-fed pond, explorer woods, climbing wall, ropes courses, tennis court, and three salt water pools.
Beneath the pastoral exterior, however, beats the heart of an institution devoted to promoting both advanced academic achievement and character development in the lives of its young learners.
Tate’s has been on the cutting edge of academics for years, becoming the first STEAM school in the state of Tennessee, before others even became STEM schools. The focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics gets to the heart of what Tate’s promotes in its students: a hands-on learning experience using multiple instructional techniques and strong character development.
The expectations of such academic rigor are high. Higher expectations for their students translates into better preparing them to succeed in academics and in life.
Riding around campus with founder Lou L. Tate is an experience. The children wave and call her by name. She loves seeing the students running between buildings and beams as she shows off the “barn,” the new, state-of-the-art multipurpose building.
“Even in our 50th year the school continues to grow,” she says. ” We have highly qualified teachers and small classes, which children enjoy.”
“God has been directing this,” Tate says, looking back over 50 years. “I asked for His help and He gives it to me. I haven’t done this by myself. I needed help and I’ve had wonderful people all along the way.”
“When we moved here in the 1960s from Arkansas, I was looking for a place for my two children,” she recalls. “I needed to go back to work and couldn’t find a place where I felt comfortable leaving them and knowing they’d learn what they needed to. I went to my church, Erin Presbyterian, and asked if I could rent three rooms in the building they had just built. They said yes.
“My little girls were 3 and 4 and we had classes for them and I taught kindergarten. A few years later, I had Tracey and I rented a few rooms at Westminster Presbyterian on Northshore and started a 2-year-old class. Soon we outgrew our spaces and found land in Cedar Bluff.” To compliment the excellence of the school and further meet community needs, Tate estabished a thriving day camp on the property.”
“We enjoy what we’re doing and get to be around great people,” Tate says. “We do a lot of family things and try to build community. I think we’re very successful at that, but we’re always trying to improve.
“We’re very much into doing the right thing and making the right choices. That’s really, really important to me and always has been. These kids are going to be our future leaders. I encourage them to take the lead and not quit.”
Not quitting is what Tate’s is all about. They prepare the students as high academic achievers with a strong foundation in character development—then set the bar high and ask the students to clear it.