In Middle School we provide a challenging and encouraging environment that is sensitive to the unique developmental needs of middle grade students and supportive of a positive self-concept for each student. We aim to help young scholars move along the continuum toward greater independence, giving them responsibility for their own work and behavior while affording them increasing opportunities to make appropriate, independent decisions as they show their readiness to do so.
MS students require both support and space from the adults who care about them, and our grade-level academic teaching teams are always seeking the right balance. We partner with families to encourage students to take positive risks knowing that failure is a crucial part of learning, and we make every effort to help students learn from mistakes.
Middle School by the Numbers
List of 4 items.
Average Advisory Group Size Grades 5-8
MS Trimester Elective Offerings
Dedicated Grade Level Retreats
MS & HS Student Athletes
What Guides our WorkMiddle School Core Beliefs
The person a student is becoming is more important than what a student knows.
The social-emotional curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
The brain of a preadolescent is still developing in significant ways including time management, perspective-taking, reasoning, impulse control, and attention; as a result, instructional time should provide scaffolding in these areas.
Discovering and making use of how a student learns best is as important as what a student learns.
Preadolescents develop better decision-making skills and learn best when they are in the company of adults they trust and who know them.
Learning to struggle effectively and to seek appropriate assistance when struggling leads to maturity.
Self-confidence is crucial for personal and academic growth; it comes when effort invested is met with a feeling of progress.
Content taught should have a high life-worthiness value.
Partnership between students, parents, and teachers leads to the best learning.
Students need adequate time for play, nature, and reflection, without electronic devices.
MS Classroom ExperienceIn and Beyond the Classroom
A holistic approach to learning and community for young adults
It's critical that all students have an adult to whom they can turn for guidance, advocacy, and support, and our advisory program fulfills this important role. Each student is a member of a small advisory group led by a grade-level teacher. Advisory offers students guidance, support, and a sense of connection with faculty and classmates, while also allowing an opportunity for engagement with peers that spans a broad range of topics — equity and belonging, student mental health, character education, conduct, and current issues.
Each Middle School grade embarks on an overnight trip scheduled during the year as an opportunity to strengthen class bonds, set or reset intentions, and develop executive function and independence skills. While trips vary in themes and topics and change depending on the needs of a class as determined by the grade’s teaching team and Middle School administrators, the eighth grade trip remains a constant — a four-day immersive learning experience in Washington, D.C.
Grade-level academic teaching teams form the foundation of our middle school faculty. These faculty members have a dual role as subject-area specialists at their grade level and as advisors to a subset of their students. Focusing on students of a particular age allows teachers to become experts in the unique developmental needs of the students they teach, something we view as vitally important to the goal of helping every child learn.
Our teaming model allows for common planning time each day, with teams meeting to discuss student needs and to maximize interdisciplinary opportunities across subject-area courses.
In fifth grade, students benefit from a rotation of PE offerings that allow them to familiarize themselves with Middle School's competitive sports programs. Beginning in sixth grade, as students make the transition to interscholastic competition, coaches look to build competitive teams. Where interest exceeds roster space, the school makes every effort to identify other options for students, with the goal of providing the appropriate level of competition and/or skill development for each child.
Meeting the needs of the individual student is an integral part of a USN education. Recognizing that each student learns differently, we boast a team of math, literacy, and learning specialists across all three divisions to ensure all students are challenged and encouraged to learn at their own pace. In collaboration with classroom teachers, our team of specialists uses a variety of methods including push-in, pull-out, small group, and full class strategies to meet the diverse needs of our learners.
In Middle School, students gain increasing access to technology and develop valuable skills for information processing, researching, and sharing with the use of technological tools. USN maintains a 1:1 model for technology usage, meaning one device for each student. Students in grades K-8 are provided with a school-issued device, and only eighth graders take theirs home. Meanwhile, Middle School's no cell phone policy fosters more active engagement from students in their classes and in the school community.
Preadolescence is the ideal time to try new things in a low-pressure environment. Our Middle School offers over 20 elective courses each trimester. Students explore a wide array of interests including show choir, computer programming, photography, songwriting, Science Olympiad, chess, debate, and more – all in pursuit of finding the subjects and outlets they're most passionate about.
An emphasis is placed on mindfulness programming in Middle School. By definition, mindfulness is remaining present and paying attention in a particular way, non-judgmentally, with one's thoughts and emotions. Classroom teachers invite student insight and curiosity into learning while emphasizing active engagement either physically or mentally with the material.
Performing & Visual Arts
Students at USN enjoy a wealth of opportunities in both the visual and performing arts. We ask students to reflect inward, to demonstrate commitment, curiosity, and craft in creating their work and encourage them to be courageous and trust the process of experimentation.
Technique and creativity collide in our classrooms where young artists have the freedom to adventure into imaginary worlds, explore new identities, and tell untold stories with the encouragement and support of our well-trained faculty.
The Role of Parents & Families in Middle SchoolSupporting Growth & Independence
Best practice for educating and raising healthy, well-informed students is to have healthy, well-informed adults — both at home and at school — talking with them regularly about the same things in the same ways.
At USN, we place great importance on our partnership with parents and families. Ultimately, we want students to be at the center of the conversation, becoming ever-better advocates for their own learning needs. Teachers and advisors address their progress notes, emails, and other correspondence to students rather than parents on a regular basis; parents are included to help keep them well-informed. Students lead one parent-teacher conference each year to discuss their progress toward goals and learning using work samples.
Middle School Leadership
List of 8 members.
Shavon Davis Louis
Head of Middle School
Lipscomb University - Ed.D. Middle Tennessee State University - Ed.S. University of Southern Mississippi - MS Alcorn State University - BS
At USN since:
Assistant Head of Middle School
Tennessee State University - M.Ed.+30 David Lipscomb University - B.S. Vanderbilt University - M.Ed.
At USN since:
Kristine "Kristy" Lord Johnstone
Administrative Assistant, Middle School
O'More School of Design - BA
At USN since:
Anna Claire McKay
Middle School Learning Coordinator
Wake Forest University - B.A. Peabody College, Vanderbilt University - M.Ed.
At USN since:
Middle School Counselor and Resource Director
Trevecca Nazarene University - EdD Tennessee State University - MEd Fisk University - BA
At USN since:
Middle School Educational Technologist
Lipscomb University - M.Ed. Administration; B.S. Interdisciplines National Board Certified Teacher - Middle Childhood Generalist
At USN since:
Director, Office of Diversity and Community Life
Trevecca Nazarene University - BA Nashville School of Law - J.D.
At USN since:
Middle School Athletic Director and Varsity Baseball Coach
State University of New York at Cortland - MSed State University of New York at Cortland - BS Peabody College, Vanderbilt University - MEd
USN Mission: University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.