DOBSON —The message delivered during last week’s quarterly meeting of local elected officials was simple: The public school system in North Carolina can change lives.
The meeting, a gathering of school and community officials, was held in the cafeteria of Dobson Elementary School, where speaker Katherine Joyce spent many of her early school days.
Joyce, a product of the Surry County school system, is the executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, a group formed to trumpet the effectiveness of public education in the state.
For Joyce, her path to success began in the county schools.
“I had my first lunch in this very cafeteria,” she said, looking around the room. “And every teacher I ever encountered in this school, and every year thereafter, encouraged me to learn.”
Joyce said she grew up in a home where neither parent completed high school.
“My mother relied on the education experts in the Surry County Schools to make sure I was getting what I needed,” she said. “And that’s what parents across the state are doing today. They rely on the school system to help raise their children. Schools are a vital part of what makes a community and are vital to a community’s future.”
Looking back on her years in the county school system, Joyce said her life changed in the fifth grade at Dobson Elementary School.
“That year, I encountered an extraordinary teacher,” she said of former teacher Jan Goodman. “That’s what every child in this state needs, a teacher like her.”
Goodman encouraged Joyce to pursue writing, which led to her being on the yearbook staff while a student at Surry Central High School, which led to a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Because of Jan Goodman, I won two scholarships and went to college without any financial support from my family,” she said. “I received a four-year degree without spending a penny, and it was all because of her.”
Such experience has led Joyce to form a group to help improve the way the public views public education.
“Right now, our public schools are in a battle for survival,” she said. “The battle involves public perception, an ever-changing curriculum and increased regulations.
“We have to tell the real story and tell the public about the great successes and accomplishments that public schools are making possible,” Joyce added. “I really believe our public schools have to have the support of the public to give students like me the chances they deserve.
“Because I’m a firm believer that the education I received in Surry County Schools gave me the foundation I needed to reach where I am today, and my mission is to work with public schools to give every child a chance,” she said.
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.