While Monday might be the official opening for Mount Airy City Schools, preparations for the start of the year have been going on since the dismissal bell rang on June 8 signaling the end of last year’s school session.
Many of the system’s teachers have spent the summer attending professional development offerings, leading summer school sessions, and facilitating summer camp opportunities.
That work was recognized, and the upcoming arrival of students was marked, during the annual convocation held Tuesday.
“This event is a time for new employees to meet their peers across the district, enjoy breakfast, hear from the district’s teacher of the year, featured speaker, and participate in a Goosechase,” the school system said in announcing the gathering. “For the third year in a row, the four schools have competed in a timed, digital scavenger hunt that serves as a bonding experience for new teams and a way to infuse excitement into the day.
This year staff scurried around Mount Airy High School sporting identical shirts reading “find your strength; build your future.” The goal was to successfully complete the most missions, earn the highest points, and win a free breakfast for their school. The game allowed staff members to meet new employees, decide who to call in various situations, and learn something personal about their teammates.
The Mount Airy High School Pep Band kicked off the assembly by playing three upbeat songs for the audience of educators. Education board Vice Chair Tim Matthews got a laugh out of the crowd noting, “Generally cheerleaders or football players follow the band, but today you just get me.”
Mount Airy Middle School math teacher Patricia Combs presented a short video showcasing her thoughts. In her video, she noted, “In Mount Airy City Schools we provide our students with a solid foundation by building relationships and providing strong academic, athletics, exploratories, innovations, and extra-curriculars.”
Her video went on to use pictures showing how “We keep moving forward by providing opportunities to lead, innovate, and serve.”
School-based administrators took turns introducing their newest team members to the district. Throughout the system, 21 new faces were welcomed. Dr. Kim Morrison, superintendent, followed with statistics regarding the district’s achievements over the past year.
She said “240,500 meals were served in the 2017-2018 year and 72,000 miles were traveled by bus. Students came to school over 95 percent of the time and 90 percent of students graduated on time with 88 percent of the senior class going on to a two- or four-year college. Over the summer, over 660 students attended academic and athletic camps.
“One caring adult in a child’s life often determines whether the child makes it or not,” she said. “Teachers are often the first ones to see signs of mental illness. Teachers are often the first ones to see giftedness in students. If teachers have a conversation about hope with their students the effects last the entire year. A caring and responsive school can mean the difference between death and life for a student.”
She continued by outlining careers that would be on the rise for the upcoming years and how schools can connect learners to their passions and these paths.
Morrison challenged staff to reflect on their own educational experience and think about whether it prepared them for their future.
“Every day we can connect what they are learning with a career they are interested in but we must get to know our students in a very individual way. We need to know their hopes, dreams and aspirations. We need to constantly think about their future and what part we play in it. If we don’t know what students want for their future, how can we help them build it? It’s important that we help our students find their strength so they can build their future.”
Brandon Helton, assistant vice president and relationship manager for Wells Fargo Executive Benefits and youth pastor at Oak Springs Missionary Baptist Church, addressed those gathered.
After highlighting the success of the district he asked, “What’s next?” He quoted Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski stating, “If what you did yesterday looks good to you, then you haven’t done much today.”
Helton left staff members with three pieces of advice meant to encourage the establishment of bonds between staff and students. “One, know your why. Two, work to establish the right type of relationships with students. Three, be intentional in never leaving a child behind.”