Getting psyched for the new school year

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Public school teachers of Isle of Wight County came together in fanfare on Friday in the lead-up to the first day of school Sept. 3.  

The event was part convocation ceremony, part fired up pep rally — with door prizes, moments to honor certain staff members and a division-wide video contest. 

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Attendees included scores of IWCS teachers, the School Board, administration and Board of Supervisors members Dick Grice, Rudolph Jefferson and Chairman William McCarty. 

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton gave a speech at the convocation following speeches by several Smithfield Middle School students. He told the audience about coaching the students for their individual speeches, stressing the importance of having high expectations for students and laying out specifically what those expectations are.

The students who spoke were Abigayle Stamper, Daniel Butts, Alex Johnson, Henley Massengill, Kimorah Bailey and Eric Fenner — their speeches motivational in nature.  

Thornton also said that IWCS teachers deserved to be paid more because of the quality of their work. 

During her speech, IWCS Teacher of the Year Julie Eng said that after her daughter had decided to enter a five-year Masters in Education program following high school, several people asked, “Aren’t you going to discourage her from throwing her life away?”

Eng said she responded to those critics with, “I say no. I will not discourage her from becoming a teacher,” adding that her daughter is going to make a difference in the world, just like IWCS teachers do every day. 

A video contest — with one submitted from each of the county’s nine schools in competition plus one from central office — took place over the course of the convocation. 

The central office video, featuring IWCS administration and School Board, showed employees in a class taught by Thornton, daydreaming about various CTE — Career and Technical Training curriculums — offered by the school system. 

IWCS’ nursing, agriculture, cosmetology, culinary and building trades courses were featured in the video. 

Videos created by the nine schools in the district varied — with some featuring slideshow images of students intercut with video, one featuring shadow puppets and a few created as music videos. 

Georgie Tyler Middle School’s video was about the main character having to travel back in time to better educate a middle school student with IWCS fundamentals to keep him from destroying the earth.       

Hardy Elementary School’s video showed images of students holding up signs with their dream jobs written on them — baseball player, veterinarian and construction worker, to name a few — and ended with a rendering of a new Hardy Elementary School building. 

Windsor Elementary School’s video focused on educational aspects of the school such as the greenhouse located there, and started with two little girls entering the school as little kids and leaving as graduates dressed in cap and gown. 

Windsor Elementary School won the video contest and its prize — a carved coconut monkey named Coco. 

Jennifer Smith — a gifted resources teacher at Smithfield Middle School — said at the convocation that she was excited about the new school year because of a growing focus on innovative and deeper learning. 

School officials have described deeper learning as going beyond the surface of a subject or topic to understand it fully and using the knowledge for practical application.  

Smith added that there would be an added focus on students having empathy for one another and acting more like a family unit this school year. 

Windsor High School building trades instructor Robert Rodgers said he was excited for the new school year and the new construction lessons that it will bring, adding that the “tiny house” — which was built by CTE students under his instruction last year — required a few modifications in order to comply with the Building Code. 

Deb McManaway — a 9th and 11th grade science teacher at Windsor High — said seeing the students was what she was most excited about once the new school year starts off, and that project-based learning has been heightened over the last few years.