Mary Gilbert REL Principal.png

Mary Gilbert

A local principal has been invited to speak at a national virtual summit on supporting student learning and engagement.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School principal Mary Gilbert is giving a keynote address at the Power of Engagement Summit this week to talk about implementing social emotional learning approaches schoolwide, and how it encourages student engagement and learning at the 4th and 5th Grade Student Panel.

The summit starts this week on Feb. 22 and lasts through Thursday, Feb. 25.

The purpose of the summit is to address reported increases of mental stressors and decline in educational engagement due to a range of issues caused by the pandemic.

The Power of Engagement Summit being hosted by the nonprofit organization National University System, and is fully online and is free for anyone who wants to register.

The topic in question has become particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as a portion of Tullahoma City School students have been attending school online.

Gilbert said being a keynote speaker for the summit was a great opportunity to both represent TCS and to learn more about social emotional learning.

“This is an exciting platform for our district, our school, our educators, our students, and our community to share in the important work we are committed to for the whole child,” Gilbert told The News. “While I look forward to this opportunity to represent TCS as the Keynote Speaker, I also look forward to the opportunity to learn and grow in my own understanding of and the work related to social emotional learning (SEL).”

According to Gilbert, the organizers of the summit reached out to the school after seeing the coverage of REL’s SEL program that was implemented in Feb. 2020 to address the social, emotional, physical and academic needs of young students.

“We are focused on building intentional relationships with and between our students through ‘Meet Up’ and ‘Buddy Up’ activities,” Gilbert said. “Fostering healthy relationships between students and adults is pivotal in creating a successful learning environment for all. Through traditional and virtual learning, students continue to engage in activities with different ‘buddies’ each week.”

Gilbert said the organization wanted to replicate the student interviews for the summit. To protect the privacy of the students, Gilbert said REL used avatars selected by the students for the video interviews.

She thanked Dr. Susan Sudberry and the TCS technology department for helping to create the setup for the interviews as well as fourth grade teacher Jennifer Bean for sharing her perspectives in implementing SEL to both traditional and virtual students and the impact it had this year and last year with both students and staff.

“I appreciate the opportunity to highlight the work of our REL team, staff, and students, as well as the work happening in TCS,” Gilbert said.

Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens said she is proud of Gilbert’s invitation to be a keynote speaker and is excited for her and her team.

“Mrs. Gilbert, along with the REL team, have committed to supporting students academically, personally, socially and emotionally, which makes a profound difference in the lives of students,” Stephens said. “Mrs. Gilbert is a servant leader and has a heart for ensuring overall student well-being and success. This accolade is very exciting for her, her team and the district as a whole.”

Anyone wanting to register can go to

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