Through the Eyes of an Educator: Nashville, Tennessee

by Stacey Ebert /
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Nov 02, 2015 / 0 comments

In my first year teaching, I started a pen-pal program with my year 9 students. Engaging the help of an international organization, my Long Island, New York students interacted with others their own age all around the world. Fifteen years later, one former student, while on a trip to Italy, recently met up with her Italian pen-pal and got a first-hand tour of her friend’s city. Their letters may have introduced them, but their continued conversations made them friends. Fifteen years later, words on a page became hugs in real life and a very different city adventure than she ever would have found in a guidebook. Travel and education have a symbiotic relationship.

In my freshman year at university, I met a girl from Nashville, Tennessee. Since that meeting in a literature class, I have been to her city five times - and each time there’s something new to see. In our story, education begat friendship and travel, and today we’ve become part of each other’s history. In our time in Boston, Massachusetts, she brought Nashville alive for me. With a slight southern drawl, she added ‘y’all’ to my vocabulary and taught me the charms of her southern upbringing. This first hand account motivated me. Before, Nashville was another city to visit, after our meeting it became her city, her home, and her history. Isn’t that what we want for all of our students? Somehow, if we can find that hook to draw them out of their shells and make history more than an image to print on a newfound 3D printer, they will surprise us. For each student in our classrooms there is a child in a distant classroom willing to share their story. 

A connection made in college means lifelong visits to Nashville, TN

Visit after visit, this city continues to share her story. We’ve wandered the grounds of Belle Meade Plantation together sharing the information we each learned as children in school. As a history teacher, and a northerner, it was definitely a place that brought out conflicting viewpoints and conversation. The aristocratic family-owned southern plantation has stood the test of time while showcasing a period in US history fraught with struggle and inequality. Driving through the gates instantly transports visitors to another era. The plantation depicts furniture, stables, period costumes, and history of real people who were enslaved. Adding to the conversation is the beauty of the grounds. Northerners, southerners, foreigners, adults, children, students, teachers, and everyone in between are affected by this space. The controversial attitudes of the time lend themselves to debate, tolerance, and ability to learn to listen to the opinions of others although one may staunchly disagree. Pictures and experience aren’t the only things with which you leave. Throughout the visit, there are lessons trapped inside quarters, mansions, and farmlands that won’t soon dissipate.

Nashville is synonymous with history, music, and the history of music. Historic battles sit beside others played out on famous stages using instruments as the weapon of choice. A visit to the city’s Parthenon replica transports guests to another time in a distant part of the world. A wander down Broadway unearths the sounds of vocals and banjos as lyrics flow through the doorways of each bar, club, and store. Country hopefuls belt their hearts out at Tootsie’s all throughout the day. Bring your boots and take part in nightly line dancing at The Wild Horse Saloon. I may not be able to help ‘discover’ anyone, but a lesson in music history takes place as you venture between souvenir shops and restaurants beckoning travelers in for a taste of the southern lifestyle. The creative folks among your crew will find value in this special city. Budding artists, writers, musicians, directors, producers, designers and more have found a home in this musical city, learning that success is possible, hard work is necessary, and perseverance, vital. 

The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville

The pinnacle of country music lives here. Between the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and The Ryman, the airwaves are never silent. The Grand Ole Opry got its start at The Ryman Auditorium. At certain times of the year, performances solely take place at The Ryman. Walking inside floods guests with awe, magic, and longing for a time gone by. Country royalty and newcomers share the very same stage. The voice of an announcer set on the side of the stage continues to boom throughout set changes with commercials for local favorites like Dollar General and Cracker Barrel. On that stage, in that building – radio and television become one. The pews that we sat in have been there for generations. Voices of song mix with a cacophony of sound, bringing to life every inch of the auditorium. There’s no book or documentary that can feel the same. 

Grand Ole Opry

For pop culture and music historians, the Country Music Hall of Fame is filled with glittering gold records, fringe-accessorized costumes, personal trinkets of stars, and a history that can be heard, felt, and read. Mixed into exhibits are Elvis’ favorite cars, television specials to watch, spots to hear famous lyrics, and storyboards to carry you throughout the decades. The history of the country music industry unfolds throughout the hallways. Nostalgia-filled exhibits the likes of Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Loretta Lynn, and more explode through the glass and hit visitors right in the memory gland. Those who grew up with them remember a youthful experience, their contemporaries recall the highs and lows of a difficult industry, and those who get the lucky opportunity to have their introduction to country music in this hall of greatness have no choice but to follow the hall’s message and truly, ‘honor thy music.’

Country Music Hall of Fame

Learning can come in many forms. A journey through the Opryland Hotel shares southern charm, images of the movie classic Gone with the Wind®, and thrusts guests into a world of southern cuisine, vocabulary, and the allure of another time. Talk to locals who will share their stories with you to learn about life in a place different than yours. Taste the goodness of sweet tea served in a mason jar and the warming delights of fried green tomatoes and pickles as they appear on your plate. Experience Nashville barbecue (or even the sides) with a spot of corn cakes, mac and cheese, or brisket of any kind.

Nashville, TN

When I first started visiting Nashville, I was twenty years old and looking to see where my friend grew up. After two decades of visits, the city continues to embrace me with new experiences. Recently, Mat went to the Johnny Cash Museum, while I spent some time at the Nashville city library. On previous visits, there were times when we road tripped to Kentucky and others when an afternoon at Lookout Mountain to check out Rock City’s view of seven states and to hang with ‘Mother Goose’ was in store. Naomi moved away for university and even spent a year abroad in the Middle East, yet she returned home to the city that continues to steal her heart. In her own words, she believes that “the atmosphere is electric. There are musicians (local and international) around every corner. Families play together in the local parks; explore art at The Frist, or nature at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Adults can meet at locally-owned coffee shops like the Frothy Monkey, Dose, and Fido. Where else can you tour a plantation, catch a country song, and tour a full scale replica of the Parthenon, ending the day with some awesome southern hot chicken?”

Take the opportunity to see her city…you’ll be happy you did.



Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand. Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.
All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert