Everett McKinney, Associate Head of School & Head of Upper School

Everett McKinney, Associate Head of School & Head of Upper School

  • # of Years in Education = 33
  • # of Years at The Prairie School = 25

Why did you choose to become a teacher and work in education?

I grew up in the south and began school about the time racial segregation was ending. My parents were aware that a new era was about to begin. They also knew that I would have opportunities that neither they nor my ancestors would ever have thought possible. The best gift they ever gave me was insisting that my education come before all else. It was drilled into me that education is something no one can ever take away from you and is the basis for all future success. It was good advice then, and it’s still good advice today.

What inspires you?

As a division head, I have the challenge and the opportunity to help three overlapping constituencies of school life: students, parents, and colleagues. Here are some examples from each group that inspire me and validate my work as an educator: when I witness students have “the ah ha!” moments and figure something out (either academically or more importantly, personally); when we deliver on our promise to parents to provide an excellent education for their child – I never want to disappoint those who entrust such an important part of their child’s future to us; finally, when I can share with colleagues a few words of wisdom or professional observations that are intended to make them a better and more confident teacher.

What do you most appreciate and/or love about Prairie School?

The thing I enjoy most about being at Prairie is the daily interaction I experience with bright, energetic, and inquisitive young people. Interaction with them is like taking a daily dose of a rejuvenating elixir.

What do you hope is your legacy as a teacher?

I hope students and their families remember me as a person with high expectations for a child’s success. I’d like my legacy to be one as an educator who respected and inspired the students he taught and worked with. Just a year ago, I saw an alum who had graduated from Prairie about twelve years earlier. He recognized me, despite being more follicly challenged than when I taught him, greeted me warmly and said he remembered me as “tough, but fair.” Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more flattered.

What are highlights of your professional background and/or training?

Surprisingly, I attribute a valuable skill used in my current position to being a waiter in a high-end restaurant. In the restaurant job, that I took after graduate school, I learned to do something that I must repeatedly do on a daily basis – quickly assess the situation and act accordingly. Like a good waiter, one has to read in seconds someone’s body language, tone of voice, and mood to provide the best service. I feel that eleven months as a waiter was the equivalent (or more) to the theoretically based Psychology and Human Development courses I took as a student. And before coming to The Prairie School in fall 1989, I taught for five years at St. John’s Military Academy. It is there that I learned to appreciate and instill in my students the importance of self-discipline, personal responsibility, and perseverance.


  • Master of Arts in French, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Bachelor of Arts in French & Music, University of Tennessee, Knoxville



“The thing I enjoy most about being at Prairie is the daily interaction I experience with bright, energetic, and inquisitive young people.”

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