The cornerstone for the Surry County Schools Educators of the Year Breakfast all boiled down to a “short” Coca-Cola and a pack of Nabs.
“This (the celebration) is a token of our appreciation of what you all do every day,” began Surry County Board of Education Chairman Earlie Coe as he opened the ceremony at Cross Creek Country Club.
Dobson Elementary School Principal Jan Varney gave the keynote speech themed “Fresh Start.”
“I love the beginning of school,” said Varney. “Every parent, student and educator came in (to school open houses) with hope in their hearts. The students each came in with a hope they would be in a room with their best friend and with their favorite teacher. Each year is a new beginning. A new start.”
Varney, a veteran educator with more than 24 years experience, recalled realizing the excitement of earning teacher of the year honors. She said she was told how the honor carried with it the responsibility to be a spokesperson for all the teachers in Surry County.
“You are the change agent at your school,” said Varney. “You’re there because people see you and see hope. This includes the leadership team. Thank God for fresh starts and new beginnings.”
Surry County Principal of the Year Neil Atkins opened his speech by saying he was relieved he did not have to follow county Teacher of the Year, Jamie Martin. He said he has struggled to think of something to say that he hadn’t said at convocation.
“It finally came to me that I would do what my mentor, Tom Hemmings, would do. I would roll up his sleeves and get to work,” said Atkins. He noted that he has worked with seven of the 19 teachers honored at the event.
“Your paths have crossed with other great teachers and you wished your children had been taught by them,” added Atkins. “You’ve been given a gift of greatness for a reason, to use this in service to others. Go back to your schools to inspire, model and expect greatness of your colleagues.”
The small Cokes and the packs of snack crackers were an integral part of Martin’s message. She also has been named Franklin Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
“Today’s going to be a little different,” said Martin as she began her speech, referring to the “flash mob” and speech given at annual convocation earlier. “It’s time to say something I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
Martin told the group about her graduate school project which was to tell something she felt strongly about. She chose to write a children’s book about the compassion shown by her sixth-grade teacher, Elaine Royster. Martin said that year was the year she was in the same room as her best friend and with her favorite teacher.
“Life was great,” read Martin. “Then one morning, everything got quiet on the bus. Greg, the neighborhood bully, was yelling for Jamie. He asked if she’d read the newspaper. The bully yelled out Jamie’s dad was on the front page. He yelled out her dad was in trouble and would go to prison.”
The emotionally crushed sixth-grader got off the bus and made her way her classroom.
“Mrs. Royster was there in the room,” continued Martin. “She said gently, ‘come with me darling,’ as she walked and talked with Jamie. She wanted to answer but words would not come to Jamie.” Martin read how Royster took the child into the teacher’s lounge, sat her down, bought her “a short coke and a pack of nabs” and comforted her until the hurt went away and she (Jamie) felt safe. Martin said that is why she is a teacher. She added that before she goes into class, she prays she will be used for another like Royster was for her.
“That smile you see on Jamie’s face is the same one you saw in the sixth grade,” said Royster, who also attended the event. “Jamie is Jamie always.”
Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson told the group no parent should ever have to worry about what teacher their child will have because of a lack of confidence in the teacher.
“My greatest responsibility is to make sure every child has a teacher I would want my child to have,” concluded Hinson. “You (Teachers of the Year) represent the very best we have. There is absolutely nothing more important than that unconditional love given for children in the classroom. Think of children taking virtual or home school and any child facing a bully without a Mrs. Royster.”
Teachers of the Year presented with special certificates and plaques included Cathy Wetter, Kellie Cochran, Jordan Edmonds, Kelly Mayes, Brandon Cook, Katie Hall, Jamie Martin, Jamie Mosley, Ashley parsons, Audrey Riggs, Angie Cave, Denise Phillips, Laura Custodio, Kim Clayton, Sherri Thompson, Jason Brick, D.J. Sheets and Kelly Oakley.
Laura Hardy was recognized as Volunteer of the Year and Mountain Park Elementary School Principal Cathy Hull sang for the group. Local businesses and individuals who donated items for the gift bags were the Surry County Board of Education, Horace Mann, State Employees Credit Union, Staples, Chipita, Allison Tree and Harold Produce.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.