Catherine Kelly Recognized for Lifetime Achievement


tnwac logo jan15 300

Nashville Teacher Lauded for Lifetime Achievement in Geography Education

Catherine Kelly was cited for contributions to geography and global awareness inside the classroom and beyond

Nashville – The work of improving global literacy in Tennessee, especially in the field of geography, has a new luminary as Ms. Catherine Kelly was recognized for her lifetime achievement by the Tennessee Geographic Alliance (TGA). Kelly has been a career teacher in the Metro Nashville Public School system, serves as coordinator for the Tennessee Geographic Bee and is the Education Outreach Coordinator of the Tennessee World Affairs Council (TNWAC).

The lifetime achievement award was presented by Mr. Kurt Butefish, TGA Coordinator at the annual conference of the Tennessee Council on Social Studies in Franklin. Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen participated in the program and congratulated Kelly on making a difference in the lives of her student and Geo Bee participants.

Ms. Catherine Kelly was recognized for her “lifetime achievement” in education by the Tennessee Geographic Alliance at the annual conference of the Tennessee Council on Social Studies (TCSS).  (L-R) Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Candice McQueen, Ms. Kelly, Tennessee Geographic Alliance Coordinator Kurt Butefish and TCSS’ David Huebner.

Butefish commented on the award, the inaugural lifetime achievement presentation made by the TGA, “Catherine was recognized for all her years of work helping Tennessee teachers, helping the TGA and certainly her work with the Tennessee Geography Bee that she’s been coordinator of for many, many years. I appreciate everything you have done for the organization.”

Kelly completed her career last year as a teacher of AP Human Geography at Martin Luther King, Jr., Magnet High School in Nashville. She said, “It has been my honor and privilege to be involved in this amazing field of geography. I have loved getting other teachers and students excited about it. It’s such an important field as we all work toward increasing global literacy and helping our young people grow in their journey toward becoming global citizens.”

Two years ago Kelly was teacher/coach of the MLK High School team that won the TNWAC Academic WorldQuest Championship and represented Tennessee at the National Championship match in Washington in April 2016. That experience led to her interest in the World Affairs Councils education programs and she joined the staff as volunteer Coordinator for Education Outreach.

The Tennessee Geography Bee is one of the competitions organized under the National Geographic Society. Thousands of schools across the United States participate and the Tennessee Bee serves as the championship match to send Volunteer State representatives. As coordinator of the Tennessee Bee, set for April 6, 2018, Kelly oversees every aspect of competition planning and execution, managing dozens of volunteers in hosting a fast-paced and complex day of activities.

TNWAC President Patrick Ryan noted Kelly’s continuing contribution to building global affairs awareness to students in Tennessee communities through WorldQuest and other programs, “Catherine is the reason the World Affairs Council’s WorldQuest program has moved to the next level,” he added, “This year she single-handedly promoted WorldQuest across the state — contacting every high school in Tennessee; recruited teams; organized practice matches; and managed a team of volunteers to put on the Championship Match.” Kelly’s leadership of WorldQuest resulted in a record level of participation in the competition.

In addition to WorldQuest Kelly has boosted the Tennessee Global Scholar Certificate program making more students aware of the recognition that can come from their participation in “global literacy” programs.

“Catherine Kelly is a consummate professional,” said Ryan who added, “Her work in education embodies the missions of the TGA, to advance geographic understanding in our interconnected world; and the World Affairs Council, to promote international awareness, understanding and connections.” Ryan said, “Our community is a better place as a result of Ms. Kelly’s dedication and hard work.”

The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational association that serves the community by providing programs and resources to increase global literacy and works to build a well-informed community that thinks critically about the world and the impact of global events. You can become involved as a member or through your gift at

Catherine Kelly
Metro Nashville Public Schools Teacher, Retired; Teacher-Coach, Martin Luther King, Jr., Magnet HS Academic WorldQuest Team (TNWAC AWQ 2016 Champions); TNWAC Education Outreach Coordinator

Catherine Graham Kelly was born in Dallas, Texas (1951), but grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, where her parents served as Southern Baptist missionaries. She attended an Arabic-speaking school through 6th grade and then attended the American Community School in Beirut, graduating in June 1968. She continued her education at Houston Baptist University, graduating in 1972 with a B.A. in History and English; M.A. from the University of Texas, Austin (1975); and 30+ post-graduate hours in education, history, and geography from the University of TN, Knoxville, Middle TN State University, and Vanderbilt University.

Catherine’s teaching experience includes one year at Dulles Jr. High in Houston, TX; part-time (summer school) teaching at Houston Community College and Houston Baptist University; and twenty-nine years in Metro Nashville Public Schools—six years at Joelton Middle, eleven years at McMurray Middle, and twelve years at MLK Academic Magnet. She taught 7th grade Social Studies (World Geography) for most of those years, but her most recent teaching focus at MLK Magnet was AP Human Geography.

AWQ 2016-55

Catherine is especially passionate about geography and feels that it provides a set of skills and content knowledge that are essential to understanding the complexities of our increasingly interdependent global community. The spatial perspective that geography offers is vital in appreciating local, national, and global demographics, culture, politics, industrialization and economic development, rural and urban patterns, and processes of globalization. Geography answers not only “where” questions, but more importantly “why”, “how”, and “why there”.

In addition to the unique perspective that Catherine has due to growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, and her immersion in the Arab culture, her personal and academic background has been further enhanced through overseas travel and teacher exchange opportunities in Russia (1993), the Dominican Republic (1999), and Turkmenistan (2003) and through professional involvement and leadership roles in the TN Geographic Alliance. She is the Coordinator of the TN Geographic Bee, a position she has held since 2004.

Source: TNWAC








THE MISSION of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tennessee World Affairs Council is to promote international awareness, understanding and connections to enhance the region’s global stature and to prepare Tennesseans to thrive in our increasingly complex and connected world.

THE VISION of  the Tennessee World Affairs Council is a well-informed community that thinks critically about the world and the impact of global events.   

Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at:  — 

Join / Donate / Volunteer

tnwac logo jan15 300

Leave a Reply