8/20/11 NEW YEAR ON THE BOOKS

NEW YEAR ON THE BOOKS
Teachers rally for students’ return to school
By Michael D. Abernethy The Times-News 8/20/11     
Reprinted with permission.

Graham Middle School teacher Tyronna Hooker watches her son, Myles, pop out of a suitcase before her speech at the Alamance-Burlington School System back-to-school celebration Friday at Williams High School.

Photos by Sam Roberts / Times-News

Graham Middle School teacher Tyronna Hooker watches her son, Myles, pop out of a suitcase before her speech at the Alamance-Burlington School System back-to-school celebration Friday at Williams High School.

 Crazy wigs, dancing mascots, pom-poms and cheers: The celebration inside Williams High School auditorium Friday afternoon resembled most school pep rallies in every way but one.

 The shouting, bouncing, singing crowd was made up entirely of teachers. About 600 of them, in fact, climbing the walls in giddy excitement and T-shirts displaying their school spirit.

 The only students to be seen Friday afternoon were members of the Western Alamance Marching Band, who slyly played Darth Vader’s “Imperial March” theme as some instructors filed into the auditorium, but more tactfully played Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al” during Alamance-Burlington Schools’ annual back-to-school celebration for teachers at schools on a traditional calendar.

 To accommodate more than 1,700 of the district’s classroom teachers and employees, there were actually two celebrations Friday.

 At each, the school whose staff showed the most spirit won a trophy and an ice cream social from Smitty’s homemade ice cream. This year’s winners were Smith Elementary — where several staff members paraded through the crowd in a school bus while singing — and Garrett Elementary — whose staff dressed as characters from the show “Swamp People” and carried fishing poles and gator mascots.

 Tyronna Hooker, Alamance-Burlington Schools’ and North Carolina’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, spoke to both crowds. The Graham Middle School teacher will be out of the classroom this year as she tours the state’s schools and competes for the national teacher of the year title.

 Hooker spoke about the need to connect with students in the classroom and help them feel successful.

 “Students may not know where they are going, but they have put their trust in you to get them there,” Hooker said. “Your job this year is to find a way to create a ‘yes’ in someone’s story.”

 The district’s 1,450 classroom teachers have a busy week of putting classrooms together, making lesson plans and gathering supplies before students start school Thursday.

 “Many of you do not want to be here,” Hooker said flatly. “Your classrooms aren’t ready, your bulletin boards aren’t done, there are supplies you want to pick up at Office Depot and sales going on at Walmart. I have one message to give: Education is not broken. Some areas are stalled, but there are pockets of excellence. It can be repaired. We can’t give up.”

 During the afternoon program, Rep. Dan Ingle, R-Alamance, presented Hooker with a proclamation from the state House of Representatives and Gov. Beverly Perdue, as well as the state flag that flew over the Capitol in Hooker’s honor July 28.

Broadview Middle School seventh-grade English teacher John Kilsheimer dresses up as the school’s mascot, the bobcat, before the celebration.
Broadview Middle School seventh-grade English teacher John Kilsheimer dresses up as the school’s mascot, the bobcat, before the celebration.

 N.C. Superintendent of Education June Atkinson told Alamance County teachers to think of themselves as GPS guides that are constantly focused on getting students to graduation day.

 “Our destination is that every child graduates careerand college-ready,” Atkinson said.

 “We need that annoying voice saying ‘recalculating’ in our classroom every day. Our goal should be paying more attention on how (students are) doing along the way than focusing on where they are at the very end.”

 Lillie Cox, Alamance-Burlington Schools’ new superintendent, pledged to improve leadership at the district and school level and to help make it easier for teachers to do their jobs.