PILOT MOUNTAIN — Change was a rally cry for Surry County educators Friday at Pilot Mountain Middle School during the annual convocation ceremony.
“We will never let any child be shortchanged on their education by lack of dollars,” began Surry County School Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson. “You are the ones who will do that better than anyone else.”
“Welcome back. We’ve had the best year we ever had last year,” commented Board of Education Chairman Earlie Coe. “The landscape of North Carolina education is changing.” He offered evidence of this by noting the growing number of charter schools in the state.
He said that he learned at a State Board of Education meeting that eight more charter schools are being considered for approval with 25 requests for establishing other charter schools on the state board’s agenda. He said 60 charter school applications are anticipated next year. Coe said one district had 20 percent of its 2,100 students enrolled in charter schools.
Coe said change could be a verb or a noun. He said it was something that is done or something made to happen. His predicted change would happen no matter what. He spoke highly of Hinson, who has tendered his retirement notice to the board. Hinson is the 19th superintendent for the county schools and is slated to depart in January. Hinson and his family were honored by the group.
County Principal of the Year Neil Atkins told the group about all whose support had made his career possible. He noted his mother’s rule to settle for nothing but one’s best effort and his father’s advice to “know how to act in front of people.”
“It is such an honor to stand before you today,” said Atkins. “I am thrilled to be here in a place that means so much to me.” Atkins, the former principal of PMMS, has been assigned as principal at Central Middle School.
He asked the group to visualize those who influenced them with their unconditional love and support. He then asked the first of three questions. Atkins asked the group to think what their lives would have been like without those loving persons.
“We are surrounded by children who do not have the luxury we did (with support),” said Atkins. “Who ever said life is not fair worked with needy children.”
Atkins told them they were the answer.
“There is an equalizer. You and I and everyone here are the great equalizers,” continued Atkins. “If only we embrace it, accept it as our normal obligation.”
His second question was if they did not prepare children for life, who would? He told the crowd that they were the most important variable in children’s lives. He asked his third question, who would they be that something for, today and this school year?
The ceremony went into high gear as county Teacher of the Year Jamie Martin, a 13-veteran at Franklin Elementary School, addressed the crowd.
“For 13 years I sat in the audience listening to the words of convocation speakers. I love every minute of it,” began Martin. “I find myself in a little different situation this year. I’m not taking it lightly. I’ve studied up all summer.”
Martin thanked family, friends and colleagues for inspiring her. She told the group she was “honored beyond words to represent Franklin Elementary and Surry County Schools.” Martin told the group she would discuss three important relationships. The first was her co-workers.
It was at this point that a flash mob broke loose with a medley of music ranging from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”
Martin, seizing on the momentum following the dancing, told the group the second important relationship was for teachers to relate to students’ parents and community. She told a story of a student’s mother confiding to her that she could not read and thanking her for explaining what was expected in terms she could understand.
“Meet your parents where they are,” counseled Martin.
She said the third relationship was a teacher relating to her students. She likened this to a McDonald’s parfait.
“For many students, we are all they have,” said Martin. “I’ve got just two words for you. McDonald’s parfait. What makes that parfait is the granola. Classroom relationship is that granola.”
Martin finished her speech by announcing tote bags with coupons donated by local businesses and individuals would be given to everyone present. She said some contained “golden tickets” for items like iPads. She said that was ending with an “Oprah” moment.
North Surry High School alumnus Albert Blackmon, Parks Scholar at N.C. State University and analytical consultant for SAS, a data management firm, also emphasized the importance of teachers in his life. Blackmon is the student in a graduation gown leading a younger down a hallway in the county’s promotional poster. The slogan on the poster is “Once you’ve taken the journey…You will never forget.”
“It’s my honor to be here,” said Blackmon. “I’m not sure what you say to people who greatly influenced your life. If I see any farther it’s because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. You are those giants and I am forever grateful.”
He noted that change pushes people out of their comfort zone.
“Once a child walks into your classroom, they will change,” said Blackmon. He credited teachers with comforting students in the wake of 911 and said that terrorist attack was like change, it happened really fast and all at once.
“With the love and support Surry County offered me, I could concentrate on being a student. It is not change but the unknown that is frightening. Educators prepare children for a future they have no idea about.” He gave examples of change being positive.
“One of the things that doesn’t change is the mission you are here to do. The mission to love, support and foster the children of Surry County has not changed. Your mission to help kids realize their potential and reach it hasn’t changed. I’m living proof of that. The love and support of teachers and principals has given me all of my success. I’m grateful I’ve been changed. Surry County, let your light shine.”
The SCS Educator Showcase Choir sang “Seasons of Love” and the SCS Male Showcase Choir performed “Man in the Mirror” at the convocation as well.
Martin’s goody bags were supported by businesses including AES, Biscuitville, Walmart, McDonald’s, Mount Airy Parks & Recreation, Reeves Community Center, Scenic Ford, Patterson Toyota, Nester Hosiery, Eagle Carports, Patterson Chrysler, Workforce Carolina, Simmons Nissan, Earthwise Electrical, Little Caesars, Staples, Surry Telephone, Surrey Bank & Trust, Mountain Valley Hospice, Chili’s Restaurant, Sheetz, Krispy Kreme, Cooke Trucking and Aarons. Individual contributors were Travis and Tyler Shelton, Ronnie and Kathy Wilmoth and Buddy and Tammy Jenkins.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.