Samsel brings tumbling love to community
Jana Samsel and a new summer class of up and coming gymnasts at her studio, Jana’s School of Gymnastics Dance and Cheerleading, which is celebrating its 20th year in business.
For the past 20 years, a home town girl has been able to use her love of tumbling to encourage local children to reach for their goals.
Jana Surber Samsel was born and raised in Morristown and traveled the Hillcrest Elementary/Meadowview Middle school route to Morristown-Hamblen High School East, where she excelled in cheerleading.
She tried out for cheerleading her sophomore year at East and found her niche, cheering the rest of her high school career. She graduated with a full scholarship to cheer at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“I was so fortunate,” Samsel said.
Back then, a smaller team took part in performing cheers and stunts.
“There were six girls and six boys,” Samsel said. “While at UT, I was part of a group that performed in Russia as a cultural exchange. Representing the United States, I performed in Linengrad (St. Petersburg), Moscow and Minsk.
After graduating UT, Samsel hoped she could offer the skills she had perfected back to the youth in Morristown.
After working as a sales representative at the Citizen Tribune and special projects coordinator at Berkline Corporation, she opened Jana’s School of Gymnastics Dance and Cheerleading in 1994.
“It has been a wonderful experience,” Samsel said. “I could share my love of gymnastics and, because I have taught part-time, I could spend time with my children. Morristown has been so good to me.”
The first location of the school was at the Wellness and Fitness Center located inside what is now the Healthstar Physicians building.
Samsel moved to Western Willow Shopping Center and then to her location at 430 S. Cumberland St., across the road from Food City.
For the past 10 years, she has helped, along with her mother, Drudy Surber and teacher sponsors, choreograph the award winning East Ridge Middle School teams who compete in the annual Beta Club conventions in Nashville. The team has often taken first place and has consistently placed in the top five for its performances.
She also choreographs cheerleading groups in the area, and has actually taught locally for 30 years.
Three decades in the business means Samsel has worked with multiple generations of those who love to jump, roll and flip.
“I’m training their grandkids now,” she said.
Children can start attending Jana’s at age three, or even two and one-half, if they are potty trained. The younger participants spend an average of 30 minutes at the studio, working mainly on simple activities like forward and backward rolls and handstands (against a wall), if they show an aptitude. Basic cartwheel skills are included as well.
There is no pressure to attain the skills by a specific age.
“Fun is the whole thing,” Samsel said. “They can lose interest if you try to push them.”
The basic skills, regardless if the child shows naturally ability, can serve him or her well to prepare for all types of sports and cheerleading.
Several of Samsel’s students that have had the determination to train over a period of years ended up cheering on the college level at East Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee, Carson Newman University and Mercer.
“I’m grateful to have been able to give the girls a chance to compete at that level,” Sampsel said.
She is equally grateful for her staff.
“Olivia Breeding and Dawn Harris have been teaching with our program 15-18 years. Olivia was a cheerleader at Carson Newman and has coached at West High for seven years. Dawn has coached cheerleading in our area for over seven years,” Samsel said.
During the 2013 Morristown Christmas Parade, Samsel, her staff and her students participated wearing T-shirts that said “20 Years and We Still Give a Flip.”
Jana and her husband, Steve have three children, Jonmichael, who is a student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville: Jacob, an upcoming senior at East High and Jaylynne upcoming freshman at East. The family is members of First United Methodist Church, where Jana has attended her entire life.
“I want to especially thank Morristown for being so good to us,” Samsel said.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer