Expanding Opportunities for Students with Online Learning

by Wendy Kraft, NHCS Online Learning Supervisor

Mandarin Chinese, AP Human Geography, Digital Photography, and Honors Forensic Science are just some of the 150+ online courses to choose from in New Hanover County Schools (NHCS).  Currently, students are accessing approximately 1,600 online courses this semester alone.

Through the implementation of our online learning program, NHCS has continued to expand its opportunities for students at the middle and high school levels.  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.  Participation in these online courses is free of charge for NHCS students.

In 2015-2016, our district proudly reported a 93% pass rate for initial credit online courses, which was 7% higher than the state average. The Credit Recovery pass rate for the district was 63%, which was 6% higher than the state.  NHCS remains the 3rd largest user of NCVPS courses in the state, behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake counties.

Several common questions arise when considering online courses:  Why take an online course? What does my child need to know to be successful? What supports are available? How can I be involved in my child’s online learning experience?  How do we enroll into an online course?

Let’s unpack these questions….

  • Why take an online course? High school students may take an online course because the content may not be offered on campus, such as many of the World Language courses and Advanced Placement (AP) offerings.  Other students opt to take an online course because it allows them greater flexibility in scheduling.  Still, others seek to take an online course in addition to their already full high school schedule as a means of accelerating.  Students often refer to this as taking a “5th block” class. NCVPS also offers Credit Recovery courses, which allow students who have failed a course to work at their pace to recover the credit towards graduation.  Online courses are also available to support students in the Occupational Course of Study pathway. At the middle school level, students may be interested in one of the middle school content elective courses not offered on their campus, or they may be approved to access a high school course to accelerate their pace in high school.  Note: Middle school students who access a high school course while in middle school earn high school credit for the course, but this course does not contribute toward high school GPA.
  • What does my child need to know to be successful in an online course? Online courses are not easier; they cover the same content…just in a different format.  Our online courses are web-based, so students can login and work anytime, anywhere.  NCVPS courses are taught by certified teachers and have classmates that may live across the state.  It’s a neat way to interact with peers outside of our community.  Students should dedicate 90 minutes a day, per course for semester courses and 45 minutes a day for year-long courses.  Logging in daily and regular participation in the online course is expected.  The online teacher will provide the student with feedback on their work, assist the student by explaining things when needed, and will work to connect the student with their peers through discussion forums.  However, the student will need to notify the teacher if they are struggling…you can’t raise your hand in an online course.  So, students are encouraged to use the tools embedded in the course and when in doubt, contact the assigned NCVPS teacher.
  • What supports are available? As with any course, the teacher is the best source of support.  Additionally, NCVPS offers Virtual Buddies and Peer Tutoring sessions for all courses. Several courses, such as World Language courses, integrate a weekly, live coaching session as well.  As a district, NHCS is committed to ensuring that we are wrapping our online learners in layers of support.  Each school has an E-Learning Advisor to ensure that students are appropriately advised and scheduled for optimal success in the online courses. There is an NCVPS lab on each campus. It is facilitated by a Virtual Academy Coordinator, who supports students with navigation, progress monitoring and advocating efforts.  Between the resources available, both online and those available on campus, we are confident that NHCS students are positioned for optimal success!
  • How can I be involved in my child’s online learning experience? All NCVPS courses are now taught in Canvas.  This platform allows parents to sign up in the child’s course as an “Observer.”  With the observer role, parents can log in and view their child’s online classroom – exploring the instructional delivery, grading practices, work submitted and have a direct connection with their child’s online teacher. Just as with any face-to-face course, NHCS strongly encourages parents to become involved in their child’s online learning experiences.
  • How do we enroll into an online course? To explore online course options that might be a strong match for your child, 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 NHCS Online Learning Supervisor Wendy Kraft at wendy.kraft@nhcs.net or 910-254-4235.

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Making the Call

As a child growing up in Maine, I would be glued to the TV when snow started to fall and wonder if a snow day was pending. As a superintendent, I have a new perspective on weather calls. Modern technology has added a new twist on this with the advent of things such as texting and social media. When my son was still a high school student, he would get numerous 5 AM texts from friends, who wanted a scoop on weather calls. The district’s number of Twitter followers, as well as my Twitter followers, jumps every time there is a major weather event. I also have several students, who email me before every potential weather event. After a decision is made, inevitably there will be someone who doesn’t like the decision.

Given the recent storm – Hurricane Matthew – I thought I would take this opportunity to explain what goes into making the call. Once we are concerned that a weather event may happen, we begin to look what meteorologists, law enforcement, county emergency management and others are predicting. Often that data is clear, and we make the call as early as possible. Sometimes the data is iffy and too close to call. In both insistences, the primary factor is student safety. Can we get students to and from school in a safe manner? This is followed by – Can staff get to and from school safely? We have a large number of staff members who drive into New Hanover County from counties as far away as Onslow, Duplin and Bladen.

I cannot give enough praise for the work of organizations such as the National Weather Service and the New Hanover County Emergency Management Team under the direction of Warren Lee. They provide invaluable information and support, as we try to make a decision about weather and school closing. Local media also plays a role in the decision making process. We start getting calls from the media early, so that they can inform their viewers. As much as possible, we try make the decision the evening before an event. With that said, Mother Nature is not always cooperative. Hurricane Matthew is a prime example. The storm’s predicted course altered significantly early on, and we decided to dismiss early on that Friday due to the change. We wanted to give parents and employees a chance to make plans and preparations.

Another consideration, especially here in hurricane country, is the possibility that our schools will serve as shelters. Several of our schools are equipped with backup generators for this purpose. School administrators and custodial staff at these schools work around the clock if they are activated as a shelter. The decision to open schools as shelters comes from the New Hanover County Emergency Management Office.

After the weather event, the next question is – How fast can we get students back into school? Again, student safety is the prime consideration. Our principals check their buildings and Operations personnel are tackling issues and preparing the schools so that we can resume school. Our Transportation teams are out checking roads to make sure buses can roll and roadways are safe. Our goal is to get students back in the classroom as quickly as possible. Extended closings impact childcare, community calendars, access to meals, and much more. Many of our parents are working parents, and missing multiple days can create a hardship for them. For some of these students, the only hot meal they receive is when they are in school.

While staff and students may celebrate the unanticipated break, parents want to maintain their routines. All of this can and does lead to confusion and frustration. That is not the intent, but comes with the territory when trying to predict the weather. We will always put student safety first when making a weather call, and we will always try to give parents as much notice as possible.

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New Hanover County Schools Continues to be a Top Performer at the Local, Regional and State Levels

Recently, the State released the student performance data for districts across the state. The NHCS Testing Department has broken down the data. This information will be shared with the Board of Education during its October Regular Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 4th. I wanted to take a moment prior to the meeting to share the comparison data. As a district, we benchmark ourselves against a number of different groups. One area is the southeast regional data. Other areas of comparison include similar-size districts and urban districts. Finally, we look at how we are doing compared to charter schools in the area.

This first series of charts show how NHCS compares to various districts on End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests.

The following data chart shows NHCS compared to surrounding districts. As you can see, we continue to be the top performing district in the area.

This data holds true when you also compare us to districts of similar size.

This chart shows us the compared to the other urban districts.

This second series of charts shows how we compare on the ACT, which is a national exam. Once again, NHCS outperforms the region by a considerable amount.

We also outperform districts of similar size.

When compared to other urban districts, only Union County performs better on the ACT.

This final chart shows how all of the schools in the district rank. This includes local charter schools. As you can see, nine of the top 10 schools are New Hanover County Schools; only one charter school is in the top 10. Douglas Academy only has data for third grade, so the comparison there is difficult.

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Raising the Age for Students, Raising the Bar for School Systems

This week, our traditional students returned to school and most were excited to be back in the classroom. Unfortunately, there is a group of students who are simply waiting for their 16th birthday. This is the minimum legal age for students to drop out of school. While serving as Superintendent in Catawba County, North Carolina, we began to have discussions around the dropout age. I was pleased to see that the conversations continued after I left, and the two neighboring city systems – Hickory City Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools– agreed to pilot raising the dropout age from 16-years-old to 18-years-old. This change seems only logical, 16-year-old students are not ready to make that kind of life-changing decision. This is also being recognized by the state in other areas. The justice system appears to be moving to increase the age of when a person can be charged as an adult. Why shouldn’t schools move in this direction too?

To reiterate my point that a 16-year-old student is not ready to make that kind of life-altering decision, one MIT study found one-fourth of potential dropouts remain in school because of compulsory attendance laws. The same study also found that the overall enrollment rate among 16-year-olds is lower in states that allow students to dropout at 16. Research shows that those who stay in school earn at least 10% more on average.

Raising the dropout age will not solve all problems and is not a panacea. Raising the dropout age will require schools to address the issues that led to students dropping out. These issues include boredom, frustration and their academic struggles. School systems will need to create programs for these students. Here in New Hanover County Schools, we have implemented programs such as the Career Academy at the Mosley Performance Learning Center and the JC Roe Center to help address these and other concerns.

I believe the benefits of staying in school outweigh any potential cost. I urge our local leaders to support increasing the graduation age. I would welcome NHCS joining the current pilot and increase the dropout age from 16 to 18.

Dropout facts (Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy)

• Dropouts are less likely to have a job and those who do, earn less, on average, than high school graduates.
• Dropouts are more likely to depend on public assistance.
• Dropouts, especially young men, are more likely to be incarcerated.
• Dropouts are less likely to marry and are more likely to become single parents.
• Dropouts are less likely to be actively engaged in civic activities, including voting in local and national elections and volunteering for civic organizations.

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A New Year, A New Plan

Within just a few weeks, the 2016-2017 school year will be in full swing. To help set the direction for the upcoming year, the New Hanover County Board of Education has adopted a new strategic plan – Vision 2016-2020. This plan was created with input from a wide range of stakeholder groups that included parents, employees, students, local leaders and members of the community. The strategic plan will guide New Hanover County Schools into the foreseeable future – 2016 through 2020. A new mission statement is a part of the plan, and it clearly sets the tone heading forward with the idea of providing superior education and skills preparation. The NHCS Mission Statement is:

The mission of New Hanover County Schools, in collaboration with our parents and the community, is to strive to provide children with an opportunity for a superior education in a safe and positive learning environment where they are prepared with the skills to succeed.

After the mission statement, Vision 2016-2020 centers around five major themes:


I want to explore each of these in more details.

The first area – HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION – focuses on our ability to continue to deliver high-quality education to all students in NHCS. The major points here include:

Continue to outperform both regional and comparable districts within the state on state accountability measures.
• Consistently meet or exceed academic growth at all of our schools.
• No schools identified as low-performing under the state accountability models.
• Increase the number of learning opportunities for students through the integration of flexible learning spaces, technology and inquiry-based problem learning and non-traditional learning.

The second major area is ENVIRONMENT and our ability to provide and maintain safe, respectful and secure learning environments where citizenship is valued. The major points here include:

Maintain security at campuses (hallways, stairwells, buses, cafeterias, mobile classrooms, common gathering areas for students outside, etc.).
• Provide students with greater intervention and crisis support, including additional alternatives to suspensions, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS), In-School Suspensions (ISS) and the JC Roe Center for long-term suspensions.
• Ensure that schools develop and maintain a culture of mutual respect that allows students to learn and employees to work to their optimal capacity.

The next major area is PARTNERSHIPS. The goal here is to strengthen family, community and business partnerships through mutual collaboration and communication. The major points are:

Increase effective community communication through the use of annual Community Forums to present “State of the NHCS” report.
• Host parent and community-centered informational meetings on each of the topics addressed in this goal to share, educate, and gather input, strengths, areas of improvement, updates, funding, etc.
• Continue to solicit public opinion, feedback, and district information through forums, the district website and social media regarding initiatives, programs and student opportunities.
• Create/expand Partners Program to increase expertise, trust and shared responsibility for student success.
• Advocate for public school resources at the State General Assembly.

The next major goal centers on TALENT DEVELOPMENT. We must recruit and retain highly-qualified employees that implement and support district goals to ensure academic excellence for all students. The major points here are:

Recruit highly-skilled employees from diverse backgrounds that can provide rigor, relevance, and engaging learning experiences for all students.
• Provide teachers and administrators with a system of highly-effective, competency-based professional development.
• Ensure that support staff positions are allocated to adequately support the social, emotional and academic needs of students.

The final goal centers on LIFELONG LEARNING. Our goal is to improve access to high-quality and relevant Career-Technical Education courses, which prepare students for lifelong learning and employment through the development of adaptable skills and knowledge. The major points are:

Expand pathways to graduation by increasing pathway options for students that integrate coursework, work-based learning experiences and hands-on experiences, so that students develop competencies, skills and attitudes for success beyond high school.
• Increase engagement and partnerships with local industries that extend beyond traditional partnerships to ensure continued relevance of Career-Technical Education courses.
• Ensure that learning is rigorous and focused on college and career-ready expectations, and students are afforded the opportunity to work collaboratively on tasks that are relevant and application based.

The goals of this plan are ambitious, but given the incredible talent here in NHCS, I have no doubt that we can and will achieve these goals. So, as we head into the 2016-2017 school year, I am excited to see all of our students return and launch the new strategic plan - Vision 2016 – 2020 - to ensure their success.

The full plan can be seen here: http://www.nhcs.net/board/StrategicPlan.pdf.

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NHCS Year-Round Schools Expand & Open on July 19th

For several New Hanover County Schools students, they will return to the classroom in just a few weeks on Tuesday, July 19th as part of their schools’ year-round calendar. For the 2016-17 school year, three more of the district’s schools – Snipes Academy, Freeman School of Engineering and D.C. Virgo Prep Academy will join Codington, Eaton and Sunset Park elementary schools as year-round schools.

The decision to add these schools to the year-round calendar is primarily academic. Studies show eliminating the long summer break can prevent the “summer slide” – the decline of academic skills over an extended break. The year-round schedule also allows for more intensive remediation efforts during the intersession. During this past school year, Sunset Park Elementary had a very successful intersession program that occurred during the school’s three-week breaks throughout the school year. Instead of offering after-school remediation when students are tired and time is limited, the intersessions enabled the school to offer half-day, small group remediation for students.

The following video provides an excellent overview of the summer loss that some students may experience:

The addition of D.C. Virgo Prep Academy to the year-round calendar gives the district its first year-round middle school. This will help parents who have students in a year-round elementary school and middle school aged children. They can now be on the same schedule. It also provides an option for those parents who would like for their children to continue on the year-round schedule during middle school.

Virgo has enrollment space available. If any middle school student has interest in attending Virgo, there is still time to enroll, and transportation is provided for all students. To learn more about Virgo, log onto http://www.nhcs.net/virgo/ or contact the school principal, Sabrina Hill-Black, at 910-251-6150. To obtain an enrollment application, log onto http://www.nhcs.net/forms/EnrollmentPrint/TransferFormVirgo1617.pdf

So, a reminder to all NHCS year-round students and parents, the 2016-17 school year will begin in just a few short weeks. Remember, your start date is Tuesday, July 19th.

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NHCS Summer Library Programs Offer Big Fun While Taking Aim At The “Summer Slide!”

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

Research has shown that when students read over the summer, they come back to school better prepared for the challenges of a new school year. In fact, reading just five books during summer break can altogether prevent the “summer slide,” (or a regression of reading ability over the summer months).1 The US Department of Education recommends the following tips for helping students maintain healthy reading lives over the summer:

1. Let your child choose what they want to read – or be read to – for 30 minutes each day. Children are much more likely to engage in material that interests them rather than materials that are forced on them.
2. Use language and reading opportunities throughout the day. Talk often with your child and point out reading materials wherever possible: on menus, magazines and newspapers, signs, brochures, maps, guidebooks, smartphones, ipads, etc.
3. Make daily reading a social event. Get the whole family to join in with their own books or take turns reading the same book aloud. Include telling stories as well.
4. Connect reading to other summer events. If you take your child to the zoo, think about reading a book about animals before and afterward. This will place your child’s reading within a larger context.
5. Make reading a lifestyle choice. Keep books all around the house to cultivate an atmosphere of reading, and set an example by reading yourself. Children need good models of reading books, magazines, or newspapers.

New Hanover County Schools will host summer library programs at eleven sites this summer (beginning Monday, June 27, 2016 and ending on Thursday, August 4, 2016) to help parents engage their NHCS students in these types of reading activities.

ANY NHCS student will be allowed to participate in any program and checkout/return materials at any of the participating locations. In addition to checking out reading materials, each location will host a variety of activities including:

● coding and robotics
● reading with canine service animals
● Lego MakerSpaces
● exploring the wizarding ways of Harry Potter by playing a game of Table Quidditch
● 3-D Printing
● NHCPL Book Talks with “Miss Margaret”
● Lots, lots more!

Please visit the NHCS Summer Reading Program website for a complete schedule and calendar of events. We look forward to seeing you there!

1 “Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers” United We Serve. The White House. n.d. Web.

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The Kids Making It Woodworking Program Helps NHCS Students to Succeed

By Jimmy W. Pierce, Executive Director, KMI

This month’s blog post comes to us from Jimmy Pierce, executive director of the Kids Making It Program located downtown on Castle Street. KMI will host their annual breakfast on June 21, 2016, 7:30 a.m. at the Coastline Convention Center. NHCS leaders will be there to support the program not just because it’s a great program, but also as a way of saying thanks for the tremendous results they have had with our students. Jimmy’s article details just a few of the successful outcomes they have produced. We wish them continued success and as a district, we value our community partnership with KMI.

The Kids Making It Woodworking Program began as a volunteer effort in 1994, became a full-time program in 2000, and has served over 3,500 youth throughout the years, 99% of whom have been New Hanover County Schools’ students.

KMI now serves 500 local youth every year, from age seven through early adulthood in three programs:  Introductory Woodworking Classes for pre-teens, in which kids learn basic hand-tool skills and build a project to keep; Vocational and Entrepreneurial Classes where teens learn to operate traditional cabinet shop machinery, build a variety of projects, and are allowed to sell their products in the KMI gift shop, earning 100% of the profits on all their sales; and the KMI Apprenticeship Program, through which graduates who need jobs are offered paid on-the-job training positions, making custom products for the public, using both traditional, computer driven and digital technology machinery. In the fall, KMI will begin their new Skilled Trades program for older teens, introducing the basics of electrical, plumbing, masonry, construction carpentry, and HVAC.

Connecting vocational skills and income to work early in a child’s life has a way of helping to lay the foundation for success.  KMI tracks the results of their teenagers in the program, and has had a zero dropout rate for many years.  Their recidivism and ‘getting in trouble’ rate is < 2%.

KMI counts success one student at a time, and has far more success stories than we have room for here.  But here are a few:

  • Tyrell “Pop” Brockington started at KMI when he was 14, was hired as a youth apprentice at 15, took shop and after graduation from Hoggard became a full-time KMI instructor.  He turns 30 this year, and now works in a professional cabinet shop.
  • Thomas was in a gang and suspended from middle school when he first came to KMI.  After a few months, he quit the gang, got back in school, and used all of the money from his first profits check to buy his own tools and start his own woodworking business.  Other students now have their own woodworking businesses too – one of whom could be receiving a disability check but who has decided with his family not to, as he now can make it on his own.
  • Tevin and Yvonne had a tough childhood and were at New Hanover High School when they first came to KMI at 15 & 14.  Tevin is now putting himself through school at NC A&T University, and wants to become an architect, and Yvonne is putting herself through Fayetteville State to become a social worker.
  • Enrique just graduated from NHHS and will attend NC State University to become an architect in the fall.
  • Jessica started at KMI at 14, graduating from NHHS. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Paris, and inspired by her experience at KMI, Jessica is now working to start her own non-profit teaching cooking and baking to at-risk kids.

www.kidsmakingit.org; 617 Castle Street, Wilmington, 28401; (910) 763 – 6001

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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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