Carroll County Schools Systemwide Opening and Professional Development’s day on August 2 told participants to be a rock forged yet balanced against seemingly overwhelming glaciers. Featured speakers affirmed everyone in the System (and the community) is a teacher and change in another is best accomplished by a force of one.
Superintendent Dr. Shirley Perry opened the event with a PowerPoint showing Bar Harbor, Maine’s “Balancing rock.” She said the large boulder, different from surround rocks, was left at the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago.
“When I looked at this magnificent boulder defying the effects of gravity while teeter tottering on the edge in perfect balance, I thought about the strength and resiliency to stay balanced against all odds,” said Perry. “Each one of you are one of a kind. People along the way made a difference and helped mold you into the person you are today. You are unique as a result of experiences and influences. Your uniqueness is a gift and needed in Carroll. It is always because of one person that all changes which matter in the world come about. Be someone’s rock. Make a difference.”
She said great teachers make a difference and all share two important things, they listen and they care. School Board Chairman Brian Spencer told participants he was “in awe of the talent we have in this room.” He thanked them for the opportunity to work with them on behalf of children and said students had earned more than 300 State recognitions (not counting athletic honors).
“Make a difference. A few easy words to say but the actions are hard to do,” Spencer said. “Two-hundred and thirty faculty and staff work here every day and the school bell rings and you stay. You make a difference in the lives of students and for that I thank you.”
CCHS Chemistry Teacher and McGlothlin Award recipient Fred Mitchell, Carroll Middle Math Teacher Amanda Dalton and Hillsville Elementary Media Specialist Jennifer Bunn spoke on what they felt makes a great teacher.
“I have learned the power of a teacher is great but the power of a student is greater,” Mitchell said as he noted for him great teachers listen and care. “I have learned sometimes the only thing that stands between a student and success is that pencil I let them borrow for the fourth day in a row. I’ve learned that if you talk to a student like a real person they usually return the favor.”
Dalton said she felt three important components of being a great teacher were loving, understanding and lenient. One such teacher did exactly that for her when she was a middle school student, even calling her parents one evening to tell them how well she was doing in class. She said “a good relationship (with students) goes a long way.”
Bunn said there were many (education) experts in Carroll and many of them had taught her. She said learning sometimes isn’t easy and having the desire to learn is more difficult. She said the hardest thing to teach is how to care. She said the most important thing in education was respect for students and having a sense of humor, to laugh with and not at a child.
“When I think over my years in public school, I had many teachers who taught me to care. It’s so much easier to learn in an environment where I feel cared for. Care is shown in many different forms,” said Bunn. “Aromatherapy to this day works for me. When I was little and I caught a whiff of finger paint I knew we were going to do something fun. So many teachers treated me like I was their child. I always appreciated those teachers who seemed to understand I was a child. I wasn’t an adult and I’m going to make mistakes academically and socially.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette introduced Cavalier Senior Drew Reavis, Rae Center Senior Alley Mae Davis and CCMS seventh grade student Ashlyn Newman who talked about what makes a great teacher.
Reavis, noting his inclination as a 17-year old senior, said while he didn’t have lots of experience as a teacher he did have experience as a student. He recited a long listing of qualities of education and joked perhaps something less challenging, a rocket scientist or neurosurgeon, would have been a better career decision.
“I believe the best teachers have a passion for learning and a genuine passion for students. They are not text book teachers,” said Reavis “They know when to push me when I wasn’t giving it my all. It’s all about respect.”
He summed this up with a reference to The Wizard of Oz when Glinda, The Good Witch of the South, told Dorothy she had the power (to go home) all along.
Davis said she hadn’t really come prepared and had her speech outlined on one sticky note. She said a great teacher was one who understands when she doesn’t get something right the first time and would help her no matter how many times she messed up without judging.
“I just love how I can talk to all my teachers at the RAE. I don’t feel like I’m being judged. That’s pretty much it,” said Davis.
Newman said she felt the best teachers go the extra mile to reach out and encourage student to be the best they can be, not giving up on anyone.
“Students need someone to look up to,” said Newman. “It is my experience that a great teacher is passionate about learning, caring and truly loves students.”
Burnette, donning a Steve Harvey-style mustache, next asked a group of elementary students what they thought made a great teacher. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beverly Adams-Parker drew from the character of “Curly” in the movie “City Slickers” and told participants the secret to life is one thing and each person has to decide this and that becomes the driving force in their life.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-799-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave