Life in the Classroom- A Beginning Teacher’s Perspective

Written by Cortlyn Young, a second-year Social Studies Teacher at Ashley High School

To be a teacher is to be motivating, inspiring, dedicated, caring, positive, patient, entertaining, and so much more. If I have learned anything in my short career as a teacher, it’s that teaching is a tough job. While it is easy to describe what a teacher should be, or to list off the attributes a teacher should possess, it is much more difficult to actually be that person. However, if I as a teacher don’t give 100% effort on a daily basis to attempt to be all of these things, I wouldn’t be doing myself or more importantly, my students any favors.

Throughout my first two years of teaching, I have laughed, cried, found my first grey hair, pulled some hair out, and have quite literally bitten my tongue. Every day that I walk into school, I know it will be a new adventure with my students. That adventure could be amazing, or it could be one that I never wish to repeat. Despite this, I can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. What other job could I have fun every single day?! I can’t think of one. However, I’m not one of those teachers who dreamt of becoming a teacher since they were young. In fact, as a high school student, I swore I would NEVER be a teacher. It wasn’t until I had an amazing, inspiring, dedicated, caring, positive, patient, and entertaining teacher myself that I thought, “wow, I’d love to impact a kid like that one day.” I am a native of Wilmington and attended Laney High School. My sophomore and senior years, I took AP History courses with Mr. Holden. Before taking his classes, I was not a huge fan of history by any means, but I wanted to get as many AP credits as I could. Little did I know that by the time I left Mr. Holden’s class and Laney, I would love history and want to become a high school Social Studies teacher myself…and 4 years later, I was. While taking his class, it was evident that Mr. Holden was a great teacher. It seemed as though he was always excited to be teaching us, and he always had a way of making us laugh and learn simultaneously. To say he met his calling in life would be an understatement. However, as a teacher myself now, when I look back at how Mr. Holden conducted himself and how he made us as students feel, I realize that he was even better than we knew at the time. I realize now that he wasn’t just coming into work and talking about historical events each day; he was completing the multitude of tasks that all teachers complete on a daily basis while being one of the most positive teachers (and individuals) that I have run into throughout my whole life.

Teaching is exhausting. When teachers say, “there’s no tired like teacher tired,” they aren’t kidding! Between teaching, meetings, pep talks, counseling sessions, planning, and grading, it seems like there just isn’t enough time in the day to do what you need to do. I learned very quickly that if I was going to be successful at my job, I have to stay positive and make sure that my students know I care about them as well as their knowledge of American history. As a high school teacher, I do have to deal with moody teenagers every once in a while, but I have learned that they need the same nurturing environment as any child, because despite the fact that 95% of them are bigger than me, they are still kids who need to know that there is someone in their life who cares for them. I am aware that I may be the only smiling face that a student sees in a given day, and it’s my job to do just that. Have I failed? Numerous times. But I pray that with every student that passes through my course, I make some sort of an impact on them. There have been multiple days when I have driven home in tears, because of the devastating situations in which some of my students live, or because of the tragic background that they have. This is what drives me to become the best that I can be as a teacher. Of course I want my students to do well in my class and on their final exams; I want my classroom to be orderly and respectful; but most importantly, I want my students to know I love them and want them to be positive contributors to the society in which we live. It’s the little notes, gifts, and comments of appreciation that can really make my day as a teacher. I’ve had days where I have really wanted to throw in the towel because of various frustrations, but without fail, there is always a student who happens to say something that completely changes my outlook on my job as a teacher and can make me feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. They do these things unknowingly, and they have no idea just how large of an impact that it makes on a teacher.

Challenges will always be present in education. Pay will always seem low, politics will always be present, students will always act up, but receiving a large salary, getting praise, or dealing with perfect students is not why I became a teacher. I became a teacher, because I wanted to positively impact someone’s life, while teaching him or her a little about history… just as it was done for me. I can only hope that throughout my career I am able to do this for at least one person. While being taught how to be a teacher in college, I wasn’t able to comprehend all that teaching really encompassed. It’s hard and exhausting. Nothing can truly prepare you for all of the work and time that you are going to put into your job, but there’s also no preparation for how rewarding you will find your job as a teacher to be. This reward comes from having funny, obnoxious, exhausting, broken, smart, bright, struggling, beautiful messes of students walk into your class and teach you something new every day. I can’t wait to meet all of the brilliant minds that I will encounter throughout my career as a teacher. I’m only two years in and I feel like I’ve been incredibly privileged to know some of the young people that I have met.

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Teacher Appreciation Month – Remember, Honor & Give Thanks


May is Teacher Appreciation Month and we will celebrate by turning over this blog to teachers. Throughout the month, we will hear from a new teacher and a veteran teacher about their experiences in teaching. Before they take center stage, I wanted to take a few minutes to thank several teachers who had a huge impact on my life. I was the son of two high school dropouts, who expected me to go straight to work after high school. Several teachers saw something else and pushed me to excel; their strong example led me to college and into education.

The first educator was my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Perham. She was a no-nonsense teacher who expected the best from her students. I remember each day she would post a question that you had to find the answer to before class started. She kept track with a chart of how many questions that you got right. There was intense competition to see who could get the most right. She was also creative and engaged students every day. She did not care what your background was; she wanted every student to learn. What I learned in fifth-grade carried me into high school and beyond. Another thing that I remember was that Mrs. Perham was always professional and set an example for all others to follow. She never put down a student or embarrassed someone in front of other students. She was the kind of teacher that you did not want to disappoint.

The second teacher was Mr. Gribbon, who taught history at my high school. He loved the subject, and that was obvious from his teaching. He also loved his school and literally wrote the history of the place. He would stand on his desk to make his point, and he had a running feud with the library that was comical. Every student who took his class learned something and was engaged. I took every class that I could from him. He took my interest in history and turned it into a love that still stays with me today. I credit him with my decision to become a history teacher.

I know that everyone out there has a teacher that has touched and inspired them. During Teacher Appreciation Month, I urge you to reach out and thank the teachers that have made a positive impact in your life. I touched based with Mrs. Perham when I first became a Superintendent, and she was still teaching. Evidentially, she wasn’t as old as my fifth-grade mind thought that she was. Mr. Gribbon passed away several years ago, and the outpouring of love from the community was worthy of a head of state extending his condolences.

Take a moment this month and thank a teacher. I still hear from my former students. I am proud of the adults that they have become, and they give their old history teacher – Mr. Markley – thanks for helping them along the way.

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#EdCampBeach: The Ultimate UNconfererence Experience for NHCS Educators

By Jennifer LaGarde, Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist and Lead School Library Media Coordinator

On April 30th, Castle Hayne Elementary will host New Hanover County Schools’ very first EdCamp: #EdCampBeach.

What’s an EdCamp? EdCamps are free, non-commercial, “unconferences” that are open to all educators who want to learn and share with other professionals. Unlike traditional conferences, which have schedules set far in advance by the people running the conference, Edcamp sessions are collaboratively determined on the day of the event, and anyone who attends has the opportunity to be a presenter. There are no PowerPoints, no vendors and no formal presentations at an EdCamp, just organic conversations born out of the sincere desire to make teaching and learning better for our students. (Check out this video for a closer look at the EdCamp experience!)

The first EdCamp was held in 2010 in Philadelphia. In 2011, the EdCamp Foundation was formed to help educators organize and hold their own “unconference” events. Since that time, hundreds of EdCamps have been held around the world. And on April 30th, NHCS educators will have the opportunity to experience this unique and powerful learning opportunity right in their own backyard! With over 100 educators from all across North Carolina already registered, #EdCampBeach will provide NHCS teachers and administrators with the chance to network and learn from their colleagues across the state.

Who can attend #EdCampBeach? You! Like all Edcamps, #EdCampBeach is open to all educators and future educators. If you’re motivated to create outstanding learning experiences for your students and you’re ready to learn and share with others who want to do the same thing, then this event is for you! Registration is free! Just visit the #EdCampBeach website to reserve your spot today!

Why should you attend #EdCampBeach? Unlike traditional conferences that are made up almost entirely of lecture style “sit and get” sessions, EdCamps are participatory events in which the learning is hands on, driven by authentic problems and powered by learner choice and self-efficacy. Simply put, there’s nothing quite like an EdCamp, and #EdCampBeach provides NHCS educators with the chance to experience this one of a kind, professional development right here in Southeast NC. Plus, certificates that can be submitted for CEUs will be issued on site for certified NC educators.

Time and location:
Saturday, April 30, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EDT)
Castle Hayne Elementary School – 3925 Roger Haynes Drive, Castle Hayne, NC 28429

More information about #EdCampBeach:
Visit: bit.ly/edcampbeach
Follow @edcampbeach (or the #EdCampBeach hashtag) on Twitter.
Join the EdCampBeach Facebook Page

Still have more questions? Feel free to contact one of the #EdCampBeach Organizers:
Cyndy Bliss: Principal, Castle Hayne Elementary School
David Glenn: STEAM Coordinator, Castle Hayne Elementary School
Bev Ladd: Teacher, Pine Valley Elementary School
Jennifer LaGarde: Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist/Lead School Library Media Coordinator, New Hanover County Schools
Jeannie Timken: Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist, New Hanover County Schools

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Every Child Needs a Champion

By Katie Snyder, Social Studies Teacher – Hoggard High School
2015-16 NHCS Teacher of the Year & Regional Teacher of the Year

New Hanover County Schools recently held its 5th Annual Legislative Luncheon. Regional Teacher of the Year – Katie Snyder – shared her inspiring speech, “Every Child Needs a Champion.”  Ms. Snyder not only addresses the need for every child to have a champion, but for teachers to have a champion too.

“Every child needs a champion” You may have heard this quote before from Rita Pierson on a popular and inspiring Ted Talks for education.

I cannot agree more with this statement… every child does need a champion to ensure he / she are successful in school.

New Hanover County Schools has approximately 26,000 students in need of a champion every day.

I strongly believe that for every child to have a champion, every teacher needs a champion too which is why I have spent the past five years of my career mentoring new and pre-service teachers and how I came to discover what I would talk about today… my core message as I continue my teacher of the year journey: we must recruit and retain high quality teachers… to ensure that every child in our district and in the state has a champion at the front of his / her classroom every day…. We must be the champion for our teachers.

So, how do we do this?

1. Recruiting the best teachers
2. Retention / mentoring
3. Change the narrative about public education

You may have heard that North Carolina is facing a teacher shortage problem like many states around the nation, but this really is occurring and several other districts around the state feel this worse than we do, but this reality is heading for us in New Hanover County very soon.

Enrollment in schools of education throughout the UNC system has decreased by 30 percent since 2010 – This is a reality I have personally recognized. For the past two years, I have taught the social studies methods course at UNCW for students in their pre-internship semester. The first year that I taught the course, there were 10 undergraduate students, last year there were 6 and this upcoming year, I have been told there are only 3 undergraduate students who want to be a high school history teacher!

Last year, the last class of North Carolina Teaching Fellows graduated. In 2011, the state legislature cut this scholarship opportunity which attracted top high school seniors into the teaching profession by covering their college tuition in exchange for teaching in the state for 4 years. The Teaching Fellows program produced about 500 high quality educators each year in our state and ones who stayed in education versus programs like Teach for America which encourage teachers to work for two years and then move on. The Teaching Fellows program has produced many effective teachers who make an impact in their own classroom and in the entire teaching profession. In fact, our current state teacher of the year, Mrs. Keana Triplett and several others before her were teaching fellows recipients.

Another thing that is deterring people from teaching is this new rating system for schools makes it difficult to attract teachers because no one wants to start their career or continue it in a school that has been labeled a D or F school.

Currently, 25% of the 100,000 teachers in North Carolina are in their first five years of teaching and other research suggests that 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years of teaching. So again this teacher shortage crisis is coming …
The #1 cited reason for leaving… lack of support!

To change the climate of public education in our state, YOU need to be the champion for teachers. YOU need to be the voice for our teachers because you have the power to really be heard.

Help us recruit and retain more teachers into the state by advocating on behalf of teachers.

NHCS recently created a scholarship similar to the teaching fellows to encourage high school seniors to go into the teaching profession. This is an incredible start and I hope you continue to offer this amazing opportunity in the future

In the high schools, we need to offer programs like Teacher Cadet and Future Teachers of America to attract students into the profession. I know these programs exist in some locations but not everyone because we don’t have enough teachers to offer this type of an elective.

Teacher pay is a problem as well… I know you saw that one coming… but it’s true! Since I have been teaching for the past 8 years, I have seen my pay increase once and that was hard. I remember a couple of years ago at the end of January calling my dad and crying because I have less that $1 in my bank account and was still days away from pay day and I did not know what I was going to do. This is a reality many of our own teachers face both new teachers and veterans. Now, the state has increased the starting salary to $35,000 to make us more competitive with other states but they did nothing for veterans. Even though our neighboring states of South Carolina and Virginia have average salaries that are below the national average, I could still move either state and see about a $10,000 pay increase… I can think of a lot of things I could use $10,000 for and I know many other teachers are thinking the same thing.

We must bring back master’s pay for teachers! Getting my master’s degree was a game changer for me in terms of being a better classroom teacher and a teacher leader in my school and now the entire district. That additional 10% goes a long way for teachers who have earned it and every teacher with a master’s degree deserves it. Bringing back master’s pay will attract people into the profession, encourage lifelong learning among educators, and restore our value as professionals.

If you get the chance to vote for any increase in teacher pay or to bring back masters pay, please do it! Otherwise, our teachers will continue to leave the state in search of a decent living wage.

Once teachers are in the teaching profession, we must support them. New Hanover County Schools has an excellent new teacher support program in which I am currently conducting a program evaluation of the program in the four traditional high schools as part of my doctorate dissertation. When I am finished with my evaluation, I will share the results with HR in an effort to improve the existing programs and encourage the implementation of similar programs within other schools in the district, in the southeast region, and hopefully, if we’re lucky.. If I’m lucky… throughout the entire state of North Carolina. Teachers who receive effective mentoring during their first three years are more likely to remain in the teaching profession and become high quality educators that impact student achievement… and to be a champion for each of their students.

Mentoring is beneficial for our county’s bottom line too… I know it may not seem like it because you are funding the entire program, but it is cheaper than the alternative. In fact, nationwide, districts spend $7.3 billion on recruiting new teachers and retraining teachers to fill vacancies!

Mentoring our new teachers is equally beneficial for our veteran teachers who serve as mentors in every building in the district. Mentors often increase their own overall effectiveness by working with new teachers and reflecting on their own teaching practice. Mentors gain experience as a teacher leader and many remain in the teaching profession because of this new connection made and the increase in collaboration.

Teachers, both new and veterans, need meaningful professional development. With the dismantling of the professional development department, many teachers are not exposed to new instructional strategies and are not given the opportunity to learn about them. The 21st century is a rapidly changing era and teachers must stay abreast of the latest methods to engage and educate our children. The students are bored… but the teachers do not have the means to improve within reasonable hours. Yes the half days with professional development in the afternoon are great, but they also fall at a time when we need to get grades finalized for report cards or interim reports and this trumps any meaningful PD in our minds. Maybe we could advocate for more local flexibility with the calendar so that each district can create a system that works best for its families instead of the state mandate for when we can start and end the school year.

Please keep supporting our teachers by funding these new teacher support programs and professional development programs.

The most important thing that we can all to in order to be a champion for teachers is to help change the negative image the public has about teachers. On countless occasions, when asked what I do for a living, I have been met with blank, horrified stares accompanied by … “why do you teach high school?” “Isn’t that difficult to control a class?” “How do you survive on a teacher’s salary?”… People question why I would got into a such a profession that so clearly doesn’t take care of its own. Bright high school and college students are practically scared away from the profession before they even start because of these negative attitudes.

Just on Tuesday of this week, I was having a conversation with one of my amazing former students… an African American female who is bilingual and brilliant and doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. I told her that she would make an amazing teacher… her response: “What? NO! Teachers work way too hard and don’t make anything!”

These negative attitudes about teachers are getting to our teachers and many of them buy-in to the negative narrative. Anyone who is familiar with growth-mindset understands the importance of growing children’s minds through positive words, activities, and interactions. This is the same for teachers. There are a lot of negative undertones in teaching… we are working “in the trenches”… New teacher books are called “survival guides.” These words build the narrative that teaching as a profession isn’t worth it.

Well I know and you know it is worth it because we must go into the classroom every day to be the champion our students need us to be. If we want more champions in the classroom, we must change this narrative about public education.

Together, we all can elevate, not denigrate, the teaching profession. Choose your words about education carefully because future teachers are listening and your words may impact their decision to become a teacher or not.

We must be a champion for our teachers and reverse these stereotypes by advocating on behalf of our teachers.

Treat teachers like the professionals we are… we devoted at least four years of college to this field and are constantly developing our own craft. Trust us. We want what is best for our children. We want to be their champion.

The next time I introduce myself to someone and tell them that I am a high school teacher, I want them to smile and I want their response to be a positive one…

Please be the champion for our teachers. Advocate for our teachers. For every decision and vote you get to make, please remember our teachers.

Make conscious decisions to recruit the best teachers to NHCS starting early on in high school, continue to fund and support induction programs which have a positive impact on new teachers and veterans, and help me as I try to change the narrative about public education in our state. Teachers do have a difficult job, but they are doing it every day!

YOU need to be the champion for our teachers so that our teachers can continue to be the champion for our children. Because in order to be successful in school and for the rest of their lives… every child needs a champion. Thank you.

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Arts Education in NHCS: Best Foot Forward and So Much More

by Valita Quattlebaum, APR, NHCS Chief Communications Officer


With Best Foot Forward close to a week away, there’s always excitement in the district during this time of year. We have 20 acts from schools ranging from Pre-K to high schools prepared to perform and delight the audience at the 27th annual event on Friday, March 11, 2016.

Although Best Foot Forward is probably the district’s most well-known Arts Education production, there are many facts that you may not know about the arts in New Hanover County Schools and the tremendous impact they make on the lives of our students each day. Recently, the district sent students to Kenan Auditorium to see a performance by the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem, an American professional ballet company. Students were able to see a live ballet performance and participate in a workshop that offered them the opportunity to perform with the dancers. As one starry-eyed Snipes Academy student stated, “I will never forget this time!”

Thanks to the leadership of Arts Education Supervisor Tim McCoy and the support of our community, Arts Education in NHCS continues to be outstanding. Below are a few aspects that make our programs unique:

Kennedy Center Partnership – Professional Development for Art Teachers:
NHCS, in partnership with the Office of the Arts at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is one of only ten teams to join with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as Partners in Education. This is the second time the NHCS Arts Department has been selected to partner with the Kennedy Center. In April 2016, the Kennedy Center will host the 14th Partners in Education Institute. The four-day intensive program for arts organizations and school districts will expand professional development programs for teachers. The Kennedy Center selected ten teams of arts organizations and school systems from across the nation to participate in the Partners in Education Institute, April 27-30, 2016.

Other Community Partnerships:
The district partners with numerous cultural centers and venues in the area to enhance arts education for students. Field trips, performances, and interactive workshops are some of the ways these partnerships support our students and take learning to a higher level. Some of our local arts education partnerships include:

• Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Center
• Cameron Arts Museum
• Thalian Hall
• DREAMS
• Kids Making It
• Children’s Art Museum
• Cape Fear Chordmen
• “Music and Arts” music store and many other parent boosters and businesses.

Summer Enrichment Camps:
Our Summer Arts Enrichment Camps continue to grow and provide excellent opportunities for the students of New Hanover County and the surrounding areas. We offer camps in Music, Art, Drama, Technology and AIG.

Minnie Evans Arts Center:
The Minnie Evans Arts Center is a state-of-the-art facility which features a 955 seat proscenium theater with working catwalks, fly system, and full stage removable acoustic shell.

Built in 2001 by New Hanover County Schools, it is the host to most of the school systems All-County performing arts events. The arts center is also used by several of the schools within the NHCS system for concerts, theater arts productions, and other activities.

Calendar of Arts Events:
There is always something going on in the arts in our district. Each school presents plays and concerts. Also, district-wide arts events happen throughout the year. Parents and the general community are always welcome to come out to support our students. To view the NHCS Arts Calendar, click here.

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Not Your Father’s Shop Class

By Chris Bailey, Director of Career-Technical Education, Craven County Schools, NC

As New Hanover County Schools, in collaboration with Cape Fear Community College, is proposing to develop a non-traditional regional Career-Technical High School, I wanted to share an interesting article from Chris Bailey of Craven County Schools. Mr. Bailey gives an excellent overview of how Career-Technical Education courses have evolved and now offer students 21st Century skills with career-ready opportunities. The article is available on-line at https://www.ednc.org/2016/02/07/not-your-fathers-shop-class/.

Yesterday’s vocational education has evolved to become today’s Career and Technical Education.

In the early 1900s, the first public school vocational courses were centered on agriculture, focusing on teaching young men to be productive farmers, and home economics, leading young women to be good homemakers.

Over the last century, the names have changed and the courses have expanded to give students a first-hand glimpse into the myriad of careers awaiting them after graduation. Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses now span eight major areas and fit into one or more of the 16 career cluster areas identified by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Beginning with exploratory courses in sixth grade and continuing with skill development courses throughout high school, CTE aids students to identify and solidify their career pathway. Whether the pathway involves post-secondary education, certifications, or on the job training, CTE now provides opportunities for informed students to navigate to a productive and rewarding career.

CTE offers over 150 courses in the following areas: Agricultural Education; Business, Finance, and Information Technology Education; Career Development; Family and Consumer Sciences; Health Sciences Education; Marketing and Entrepreneurship Education; Technology Education; and Trades and Industrial Education. Each area contains courses designed to offer students a range of opportunities from exploring potential careers to developing skills for entry level jobs. CTE programs may also include courses designed to meet the specific needs of local business and industry which aids recruitment efforts for expansions and eliminating shortages for skilled workers.

In an effort to ensure a quality program of skill development and exploration, many of CTE courses are adopted or adapted from industry training courses. This not only aligns courses to industry standards, but also allows students to earn credentials associated with those industries. Over 122 industry recognized, stackable credentials such as ServSafe®, Microsoft Office Specialist, Adobe Certified User, and N.C. Emergency Medical Technician Basic help students become more marketable as a potential employee. In 2014-15, North Carolina students earned 130,611 industry credentials, certifying their skills for the workplace. Employers benefit from the credential attainment in the savings associated with training costs for new employees. For the student, the earned credentials can translate to faster promotions, higher starting wages, and validation of their value as an employee. Additionally, many of the credentials are stackable providing growth opportunities for students after graduation.

Many high school CTE courses are articulated with community college technical courses accelerating a student’s pathway to their career. Through earned articulated credits and courses taken through Career and College Promise, students can conceivably earn up to a year’s worth of college credits towards a post-secondary technical degree, at no cost to the student, before graduating from high school. Taking advantage of these options saves tuition costs to earn a post-secondary degree or certification. The shortened pathway coupled with cost savings equals an individual earning wages earlier with potentially shorter intervals for career growth.

While technical courses are the “meat” of the CTE program, there are many more opportunities for students to enhance their pathway to a career. Work-based learning opportunities offer students on the job, real experiences with community business and industry partners. These experiences can range from one day job shadowing events to semester long internships to even longer term registered apprenticeships. CTE programs across the state are always looking for additional community partners to offer these real world experiences for students.

Career and Technical Student Organizations offer students opportunities to prove their skills in competitive environments, develop critical leadership skills, and network with students in the state and nation who share similar goals. Seven of these organizations exist today to carry individual above and beyond the classroom curriculum. Those are as follows: The National FFA Organization, FBLA, FCCLA, HOSA, DECA, TSA and SkillsUSA. Many former students tout networks created through these student organizations as being major connectors to their current careers.

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Saving Our Children Requires Everyone to Get Involved

Peace. Joy. Goodwill towards All Men. These and other optimistic themes tend to be the focus during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Unfortunately, peace and goodwill were overshadowed by violence in some Wilmington neighborhoods. Our downtown community suffered the premature loss of two young men within 10 days due to teen-on-teen violence. And, these tragic losses are in addition to others that were killed throughout 2015. It’s heartbreaking to know that our community ended 2015 and began 2016 with these violent deaths.

As an educator and parent, I find the continued violence in our community unacceptable. The safest place for a child – regardless of age – should be in their own home, though for some, their homes and neighborhoods have become battlegrounds as teenagers are fighting each other. I am consumed by questions. Why are they fighting each other? What can we do about this? How can we stand for this? The answers to these and other questions are not easy. There is no instant solution to immediately stop the teenage violence that is plaguing our community. The solution involves parents and families, schools, law enforcement and the community at-large. Each of the players has a role in taming this tumultuous tide.

At the school level, we must continue to provide and expand support services for students at all levels. This starts early in the lives of our students. Dropouts are not just a high school problem; the process starts early in life, often before the student even enters a school door. NHCS offers multiple programs – Head Start, North Carolina Pre-K, after school tutoring and more – for children to obtain basic skills before third grade. Beyond the early years, we must provide multiple paths to career fulfillment. This may be two or four-year college options or the completion of career-ready skills training. Programs such as the Career Readiness Academy at the Mosley Performance Learning Center and our newly proposed Career-Technical Education High School are examples of how students can prepare for successful, solid careers.

There is the cliché – we are a product of our environment, and I believe that is true for many, even as adults. At home, parents and families must understand how much influence they have on their children. A parent’s actions, choices and lifestyle have significant impact on their children, and often times, more than the parents may think. With countless temptations and distractions in today’s world, children need strong role models to look to for support, guidance and nurturing. Without supportive parents, children are wondering and longing for a leader in their lives, and they can easily stumble into the “wrong crowd” and ultimately, make poor choices that may significantly impact their lives for many years to come. Parents need to set boundaries, know what their children are doing and who their children’s friends are. Children do not need another adult friend; they need engaged parents. In addition, it is imperative that parents are active and engaged in their child’s education. Research shows that 1 out of 4 students chose classes without parent input and about 30% of parents do not know how their child is performing in school. The disengagement level of parents nationally is between 25 to 30%. (National Institute of Justice Journal, April 2000)

For single parents and a large number of grandparents, the community must provide support and education. There must be affordable childcare, viable alternatives for recreation and support for those who are struggling. The National Center for Fathering reports that children in fatherless homes had a poverty rate of 47.6%. Children in some single parent homes under-perform academically and are more likely to drop out of school. One study found that 71% of high school dropouts came from homes that are fatherless.

The community must support efforts of law enforcement, the courts and others who want to create opportunities for the youth in our community. One national study of high school sophomores and juniors reported that 50% said they would have little or no trouble obtaining a gun. We must work to reduce access to guns, though this doesn’t mean more gun laws. I don’t know of any law that allows a 15 year-old to own a gun. Instead, we must enforce those laws that exist and work to ensure the pipeline for these guns are shut down and those that illegally sell or obtain the guns pay the consequences. Community leaders, both elected and non-elected, must be willing to mentor students and provide long-term help.

None of this is new, but if we want to change the trajectory for our most troubled children, we must take an “all hands on deck” approach and do more than just wringing our hands and passing the responsibility to another group. We must hold parents, schools, and the community accountable for creating a better future for the children of New Hanover County. This also includes having open and meaningful dialogue between all parties to break down barriers and increase opportunities for all students. We need to take a problem-solving approach that increases opportunities for youth involvement beyond a gang.

We have lost too many of our youth to either violent deaths or life-long prison sentences. Families are hurting, and community hostility is spiraling. Our children’s lives are far more important than the violent lifestyle that is being inflicted upon them. Let’s stand together in 2016 and work together to end teenage violence.

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Season of Giving

By Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday

As I grow older, this time of the year seems to come around a whole lot quicker than it used to. When I was a kid, I thought it would never get here. Now, as soon as I get the lights, tree and other paraphernalia of the season put away, I am back out doing my impression of Clark W. Griswold all over again! Yep. Rigging up the lights… trying not to electrocute myself….and shopping. Yep. Shopping. I am not sure what the merchants of this fine city would do without the contributions of my family to the local economy. Perhaps you feel the same way.

However, this time of the year is also a great time to be a part of a public school system that has people that truly care about each other. In all of our schools, there is something going on to help make this time of year better for those among us that might not be having the best of times. We have schools that collect coats for folks who don’t have them. Food drives at our schools help to make sure that no one in our community goes hungry during this happy time of the year. And yes, there are toy drives for children that might not otherwise get to experience the magic of the season. Perhaps I am imagining this, but it seems like we are a lot nicer to each other from about Thanksgiving onward. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we focus less on ourselves and more on others right now. Serving the students and families in our schools is what you are good at. In this season, your servant-leadership shines light in some very dark places.

It is the season of celebrations and giving. Thank you for helping to hold this community together through all of your efforts and support. I WISH YOU AND YOURS A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, HAPPY KWANZAA OR SEASON’S GREETING. Get some rest. Before you know it, we’ll be back at it again!

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Individualizing Pathways for Students!

By Wendy Kraft, NHCS Online Learning Program Supervisor

Through the implementation of our online learning program, New Hanover County Schools continues to offer high quality learning experiences to students at the middle and high school levels at no cost to our families. Our district utilizes North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) courses, along with a locally created support structure, to ensure that every student is positioned for success.

For the 2014-2015 year, NHCS proudly reported a 91% pass rate for initial credit courses, which was 8% higher than the state average. Credit Recovery pass rate for the district was 58%, which was 3% higher than the state. With nearly 3,000 enrollments, NHCS maintained the 3rd largest consumption of NCVPS courses in the state, behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake Counties. Some additional highlights include:

• NHCS supported 450 high school content courses accessed by middle school students, with 99% pass rate and 95% earning final grades of “B” or higher.

• Twenty-nine high school students accessed at least one semester of courses without attending campus via the NHCS Off-Site Learning process.
    &nbsp - At least 1 student has earned nearly 90% of her high school credits online without attending campus…and has maintained a “B” average.

• Twelve NHCS students accessed online courses through Mastery Learning for 1st Time Credit, which is a self-paced, open enrollment format.

• Five middle schools implemented the Blended/Compacted model to enhance the NCVPS Earth Environmental Science and Social Studies online course experience.

• NHCS Supervisor of Online Learning was recognized as the NCVPS E-Learning Coordinator of the Year, with 3 other members of the NHCS online learning team also receiving state-level nominations for outstanding efforts.

The NCVPS team on each campus works directly with students and families to carefully advise and schedule online courses that are aligned to students’ strengths and interests. NCVPS offers over 150 courses, which include Advanced Placement, Honors, On-Level, Credit Recovery, Occupational Course of Study, and a growing number of middle school elective courses. Once students are enrolled in their online courses, they are wrapped in layers of support to ensure success. The Virtual Academy Coordinators work directly with students and stakeholders to support navigation, communication, time management and progress monitoring.

In an effort to meet each student’s unique needs, specialized opportunities are now available to students in NHCS:

Off-Site Learning - Students attending the traditional high schools and Mosley PLC may, with approval, have the opportunity to access an entire semester, year or high school career of coursework off campus via NCVPS.

Mastery Learning for 1st Time Credit – This opportunity is now available to NHCS secondary students who present a unique need for acceleration that cannot be met via face-to-face or traditional NCVPS offerings. Student may be enrolled at any time into a non-EOC course in a 1-1 setting with an NCVPS teacher. The pacing will be dictated by the student’s needs.

Online PE – High school students, with approval, may now have the opportunity to access Physical Education (PE) online via NCVPS when the traditional on-campus PE format cannot meet the student’s needs.

Middle School Blended/Compacted Model – Middle school students demonstrating a readiness to access high school content may be approved to participate in this model. During one semester, students participate in the 8th grade science/social studies course with weekly activities provided by their 8th grade teachers to “blend” the NCVPS and 8th grade content in a hands-on or discussion-based format. During the alternate semester, the 8th grade teacher compacts the remaining curriculum to ensure that students are well prepared for 8th grade assessments and future coursework.

To explore options that might be a strong match for your child’s individual pathway, please contact his/her school counselor or E-Learning Advisor. Click here for a listing of school E-Learning Advisors.

For program information, please visit http://www.nhcs.net/onlinelearning/ or contact Wendy Kraft at wendy.kraft@nhcs.net or 910-254-4235.

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Dual Language Immersion Programs – Growing Globally

If you follow local education news, you have most likely heard of New Hanover County Schools’ Dual Language Immersion program that is currently located at Forest Hills Global Elementary School. You may have also heard about the program’s success and growing popularity. As we look to find ways to allow more students to access the program, I thought a step back to look at what research says about immersion programs may be appropriate. I have included below brief snippets from a variety of sources related to language immersion. To view the articles in their entirety, click on the links provided.

1) Selma, North Carolina: Outcomes of language immersion

The North Carolina End-of-Grade (EOG) assessments released in 2014 indicate that proficiency levels of students in Selma’s dual language programs were up to 200% higher than those of students in traditional classes. Selma’s teachers and administrators also observe that dual language learners demonstrate high levels of academic engagement and focus in the classroom.

Average fifth-grade EOG scores at Selma in 2014:

Full article link: http://www.vifprogram.com/splash-dual-language-case-selma.php

2) New from Washington, DC

Those who tout immersion schools say fluency in another language gives students the benefit to compete in the global marketplace. Educators like Aguilar say immersion students perform as well or better than non-immersion students on standardized tests in English, have longer attention spans and are better at problem solving. In addition, immersion students have a greater understanding and positive attitudes toward other cultures. It is not surprising that the educational approach is growing in popularity.

Full article ink: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/spanish-language-immersion-schools-gain-popularity-n225776

3) Lessons from Houston, Texas on the Benefits of Dual Immersion

Houston’s schools have been responding to the city’s growing pluralism. The city’s notable programs for dual-language learners (DLLs) and their correspondingly strong outcomes have recently drawn some media attention. The most recent flurry stems from a research brief by Sandra Alvear, who works with the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), which explores the impact of the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) bilingual programs on the reading achievement of the district’s DLLs.

Full article link: http://www.edcentral.org/houston-dual-immersion/

4)The Real Benefits of Spanish-Immersions Elementary School

While the perks of language immersion programs are debated, the increase in popularity of Spanish immersion programs show that more parents see them as a way promote their children’s academic achievement. These programs boast language and literacy development in two or more languages and improved cognitive skills for students.

Our daughter doesn’t know it yet – but we are not sending her there primarily to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, or even to learn another language. We are sending her there to experience life as the other and to learn the compassion that comes from being the one not understood.

Full article link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/august/real-benefits-of-spanish-immersion-elementary-school.html

5) Global School in Rural Edgecombe County

“I didn’t know if parents would be invested in sending their children to a school where they’re teaching full immersion, students are going to be learning Spanish 100 percent of the day,” he says.

But Farrelly says the community response was overwhelmingly positive. For many, the school is seen as an exciting opportunity to revitalize the district’s academic standing. Edgecombe County has had three of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the state.

Full article link: http://wunc.org/post/global-school-rural-edgecombe-recipe-success#stream/0

6) From VIF International Education

Quick fact: Studies show that regardless of demographic background, children enrolled in dual language programs outperform their peers on standardized tests, perform better on college-readiness exams such as the SAT and can earn up to 20 percent more in wages as adults.

In the 2011-12 school year, 94% of Splash students were proficient in math and 86% were proficient in reading, while their non-Splash counterparts averaged 82% in math and 65% in reading. Dual language students enrolled in VIF’s Splash programs also excelled in the 2012-13 school year, boasting 67 and 60% passing rates in math and reading, respectively, while their non-Splash peers averaged a 30% passing rate in math and 28% in reading. All scores remained notable, even as new Common Core-aligned testing methods rolled out in the 2012-13 school year.

Full article link: http://www.vifprogram.com/media-kit.php#VIF Schools in the News

7) School Successes Inspire N.C. Push for Dual Language

Raising achievement across the board—while producing a new generation of bilingual, biliterate students—is at the heart of North Carolina’s statewide initiative to replicate the success of Collinswood and dozens of other dual-language immersion programs that have taken root during the last several years. Drawing in part on the language and cultural assets of a large and still-growing Spanish-speaking immigrant population, North Carolina is on the leading edge of a trend of steady growth in dual-language immersion programs in public schools across the nation that has been driven both by strong parental demand and growing recognition among educators of its promise for increasing achievement for English-learners. Roughly 2,500 dual-language programs are operating this school year, according to estimates from national experts.

Full article link: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/15/08dual.h34.html

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