Tour teaches students about Tullahoma

Students at West Middle School received an in-depth lesson on the history of Tullahoma on Tuesday morning.

The eighth grade Bobcats took the first half of the school day to take a tour of their hometown and learn all about its history and how the city has changed over its 167 years.

According to West Middle School history teacher Clint Epley, who is coordinating the tours, the purpose of the day is to provide a “glimpse into our community’s history.”

This is the second year that Epley has coordinated the tours. Last year’s tours were facilitated by Epley and former WMS Principal Mick Shuran, who was also once a history teacher in the school district.

Last year’s tours were more mobile, as a school bus driven by Shuran literally traveled around town taking students to specific historical spots.


Changing things up

This time around, the tours are different.

One change made was to divide the entire eighth grade into four separate touring groups, all named after historical figures related to the town’s past.

Figures such as Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, a general in the Civil War during the Tullahoma Campaign, and W. J. Davidson, a former mayor of Tullahoma and the namesake for Davidson Academy, were among the team names for the morning excursions.

Each group was stationed at one of four locations relating to the community’s history, including C.D. Stamps Community Center, Maplewood Cemetery, South Jackson Civic Center and Couch’s downtown.

While at each of the four stops, the students heard from special guest speakers about the history of each stop, such as the history of Davidson Academy from Tullahoma Alderman Jackie Duncan, who graduated from the “Tullahoma Negro School.”

Duncan’s presentation focused on the role of C. D. Stamps and the role of segregation and the civil rights movement in the town.

Other guest speakers include hometown history buff Candy Couch, who was featured in last year’s tours, as well as two former Motlow professors, Michael Bradley and Joan Pockrus.

Couch gave students a pictorial history of the community, displaying photographs from the 19th century and telling stories of the history of the town.

Bradley held a short walking tour of the South Jackson Civic Center, telling students about the community’s role in the Civil War.

Pockrus also had some Civil War lessons, taking students to the Confederate cemetery located inside Maplewood Cemetery and leading the group through some tombstone rubbings.


Connecting past and present

According to Epley, having the guest speakers lecturing on their respective locations adds a layer of passion and interest in each subject.

Last year, Epley was a major source of information for the tour stops, so he said he wanted approach this year’s tours in a “much more calculated and strategic” manner.

“Utilizing community representatives will hopefully prove to be a great way to connect our learners with citizens of our own,” Epley said before the tours.

By bringing people with more intimate knowledge of the tour subjects, Epley said he was able to give his students a better lesson.

“I think it brings a different level of expertise to it,” he said. “It kind of makes it more real for them and more relevant. People share their wealth of knowledge with [the students].”

That added expertise also helps Epley, in a way. Though he is knowledgeable on what he teaches his students, Epley acknowledged his age precludes him from sharing personal tales like some of the guest speakers.

“I can read all the articles I want, but I’m 28,” he said. “I didn’t live through Davidson Academy. I haven’t spent my life studying the Civil War like Dr. Bradley.”

By having dedicated experts on the subjects of the day’s lessons, Epley said his students can see certain events through a different perspective than their own.


Video project

Another twist to this year’s tours is the addition of Colin Shuran, budding filmmaker. Epley said he invited Colin to join the groups on their outings and film each stop for a short film.

“He’s a former West Bobcat, and he’s an aspiring videographer … so this is a great opportunity for him to come back and see what West has going on and then create and develop a video to capture today’s events,” Epley said.

The film Colin can make from the day will serve both as a personal project for him, as well as a marketing tool for the school district, Epley said.

“It’s a way for him to put his studies to practice as a student but also, personally, this is something he enjoys doing,” he said. “This is a way for him to give back and share what we’re doing with our school system and the community.”

Colin took footage of the students and speakers at each stop in order to put together a short film detailing the day’s stops, including interviews with the guest speakers and B-roll footage of various activities.

To see how the day unfolded for the Bobcats, search the hashtag #WMSToursTTown19 on Twitter.

Erin McCullough may be reached at