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 with a B.A. in History and English (1972); M.A. in history 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 middle and high school stints and part-time teaching at the community college level in Texas and thirty years in Metro Nashville Public Schools—Joelton Middle, McMurray Middle, and MLK Academic Magnet. She taught 7th grade Social Studies (World Geography) for the majority of her MNPS tenure, but her most recent focus at MLK Magnet was AP Human Geography.
Catherine is 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 Catherine’s perspective 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 along with 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 was Coordinator of the TN GeoBee (sponsored by National Geographic) from 2004 through 2020. Based on her extensive volunteer work with the GeoBee, the Tennessee World Affairs Council and other community services, Catherine was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement.