‘Demonstrate before we … imitate’

Students make pitch for dedication, excellence from their educators
Goodman: Student attendance must improve

By Kevin Spradlin

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HAMLET — Their deliveries were smooth. Their punchlines were perfect. Their speeches were rehearsed.

They almost stole the show.

Joydan Styles

Joydan Styles

Five students from grades 4 through 10 walked off the stage Thursday afternoon to a standing ovation of some 700 teachers as Richmond County Schools conducted its annual convocation at Cole Auditorium on the campus of Richmond Community College. It was a 70-minute ceremony in which members of the Board of Education, and Superintendent Cindy Goodman, addressed the audience , Dennis Quick announced the Assistant Principal and Principal of the Year awards, and Dr. Jeff Maples announced the Teacher of the Year.

Young Joydan Styles, an incoming fourth-grader at West Rockingham Elementary School, aspires to become a teacher. She said she requires more challenging work, a bully-free environment and one without peer pressure to do drugs or alcohol.

Thomas Barbee will on Monday be a sixth-grader at Rockingham Middle School. He has certain requirements, whether it’s academics or his role as a pre-teen food connoisseur.

Thomas Barbee

Thomas Barbee

“I’m the type of kid that has to know what’s being served ahead of time,” he said, adding that his elementary school sometimes ran out of the food advertised in advance and had to serve something else.

He then asked the group of 700-plus teachers and administrators, “Can I count on you to really know me?”

That was the theme of the five students’ speech, as each one brought a unique set of concerns to the stage. Lee Hayden, an incoming seventh-grader at Rockingham Middle School, said he intends to pursue a career in computer graphics and said teachers ought to heavily invest in technology software that allows students with his aspirations to learn and grow.

He seeks teachers who are “sweet (and) kind and passionate for their jobs.”

Lee Hayden

Lee Hayden

Sherlyn Martinez is making the leap from Ellerbe Middle School to the Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy. Martinez said students require not only guidance in their academic careers but sometimes help on the homefront, too. She credited Jennifer O’Neal, an eighth grade science teacher in Ellerbe, with being there for her. Who, she asked, will be there for their students?

“We always need someone we can count on and trust,” Martinez said.

Maggi Chambers, who will start her academic career at Richmond Senior High School on Monday as a sophomore, said she’s looking for role models, and those who exemplify teamwork not by having students read about it in a book but who live it in the workplace.

“I want my teachers to know this is more than grading period,” Chambers said. “I see my school as a place where I can grow and excel.”

Sherlyn Martinez

Sherlyn Martinez

She wants teachers who say, “yes I can” instead of “no” to whatever challenges that might, and inevitably will, arise during the school year.

Chambers said she’s looking for teachers who “demonstrate before we as students can imitate it.”

“I challenge you to go out and build your team,” Chambers said. “Aren’t we all in this together?”

Dr. Cindy Goodman, newly appointed superintendent, certainly hopes so. In fact, she noted during her brief remarks that the students must be more involved it than in previous years — and more of them have to show up for school. Goodman said 43 percent of the students in Richmond County Schools missed 10 or more days during the 2013-14 school year. That, she said, is unacceptable.

“We have got to wage our own little war on a culture that does not seem to make education a priority,” Goodman insisted.

Maggi Chambers

Maggi Chambers

Several members of the Board of Education took their own turn at rallying the troops less than four days before the start of the new school year.

Joe Richardson encouraged faculty and staff to make education a personal affair.

“I think what comes from your heart, that’s what gets your students fired up,” Richardson said.

Richardson said too many students are going to have too many negatives in their lives — even some who are living without parents or “some have parents who don’t care, which is probably worse.”

At that point, he said, ensuring your five-point lesson plan done to a “t” isn’t what the student will come back and thank you for years down the line. It’s not the distributive summarization, either.

“They will come back and speak from the heart,” he said, and thank them for helping them through difficult situations.

“Smile at ’em,” Richardson said. “A little spark of kindness … can put a colossal burst of sunshine in their life.”

New board member Bobbie Sue Ormsby hoped for teachers and administrators alike to have “the same level of enthusiasm in the spring that you have today.”

Tom McInnis noted that level of enthusiasm for the teachers and principals who stepped form the buses or their personal vehicles in the Cole Auditorium parking lot to arrive at the convocation. There was, he said, “a spring in your step … passion in your eye.”

McInnis went on to tell how a schoolteacher in Ellerbe in 1968 taught him how to fish, and that’s what today’s teachers are being asked of with today’s youth. Don’t fish for them but teach them to function on their own.

Jerry Ethridge donned a flight suit and told a story of how he learned to fly — overcoming his fear of heights. While learning to fly, he said, one must master balancing lift vs. weight and thrust vs. drag.

“What you do is very important,” said Wiley Mabe, board chairman.

Don Greene, two years removed from the classroom, acknowledged that “a teacher’s job is never done” and though no one’s getting rich anytime soon, the “smiles, laughter and successes” will be worth their weight in gold.

And if all else fails, Greene said, simply end the problem with the following phrase: “Bless ’em, Lord.”





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