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New School Board Members
New School Board Members
Posted on 02/15/2023
New Board Members

BTCS would like to welcome two new members to the Bristol Tennessee Board of Education. Debbie Darnell and Jennifer Henson were sworn in at the January 16, 2023, board meeting. Welcome Ms. Darnell and Ms. Henson!


 Debbie Darnell Jennifer Henson
 Debbie Darnell  Jennifer Henson



Debbie Darnell 


I was truly born and bred in Bristol, Tennessee. I attended first grade at Avoca Elementary when it was a Sullivan County school. I then went to Haynesfield Elementary, Vance Junior High, and Tennessee High.  


Upon graduation from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, I began my teaching career in Bristol Tennessee City Schools, a career which would last 42 years. Most of my teaching years were spent at Avoca Elementary. Additionally, I taught one year each at Central and Haynesfield elementary schools, worked as the early childhood coordinator for the district, and served as a curriculum specialist working with the district’s preschool through second grade teachers. I also hold a master’s degree from Cumberland University in Education/Curriculum. Since retirement, I have been working part-time for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a company which publishes textbooks and instructional technology materials. 


I was raised by loving, Christian parents, who shaped my passion for education and helping others. They worked hard and were kind to all. My parents instilled a good work ethic in me and modeled "paying it forward.” I will always be grateful for their guidance and encouragement to do the right thing. 


I ran for school board to give back to the students, staff, and families of BTCS. I had positive experiences as an employee for the school system and appreciated the opportunities I had while working there. As school board members, I think educators can often bring a different perspective on some issues and feel there should be a balance of education and business-minded people on the board. 


I want students to receive the instruction and support they need to be successful. I feel strongly that teachers also need support and respect for the work they do each day. In my role, I will work as part of the school board team to support the teachers, students, and administrators.  


My husband and I are blessed with two daughters and sons-in-law and three grandchildren. 


Jennifer Henson


From a young age, I have felt a desire to teach and a calling to the teaching profession. I have had 24 wonderful years of experience as a public-school educator surrounded by talented mentors who have helped me develop my career. When I was asked if I had ever considered running for school board, I was surprised but then excited about the opportunity to serve my community using my talents and a passion for students and teachers and advocating for the best educational opportunities possible for our community. I am learning a lot as I acclimate to the new role, and I look forward to learning more as I work on committees and with fellow board members to support an optimum learning environment.


I currently teach third grade language arts at Van Pelt Elementary in Bristol, Virginia. This is my 24th year of teaching, and I have taught students who are developmentally delayed in K-3 and first grade and third grade language arts. I was also blessed to stay home for a few years while my children were young and fulfill my most important teaching role as a mother.


 It has always been my goal to inspire confident, hard-working, respectful students who know that they always have an advocate and supporter in me. I hope to convey that goal to the Bristol, Tennessee, students and teachers and prove to be someone who works to secure the best opportunities for them and their future.

I received my bachelor’s degree from King College. I also met my husband at King, and upon graduation in 1992, we married and moved to Marion, Virginia, where I grew up. I began my teaching career there in Smyth County and taught seven years before my husband’s career brought us back to Bristol in 1999. We have made our home in this community and raised our children in a wonderful atmosphere that has proven to be a great place to live. Both of our sons graduated from Tennessee High and were challenged in the classroom by teachers and in athletics by coaches to persevere and be their best. They both went on to be Division 1 collegiate athletes and successful students. Both of my sons commissioned as officers in the United States Army, which has catapulted them into successful careers.

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