Saturday, September 21, 2019

IWCS and the County Fair: Providing Learning Experiences for our Students

Did you make it to the Isle of Wight County Fair last week?  If not, you missed out on a wonderful event.  I stopped by on Friday morning to see our students who were on a field trip to the fair.  All of our preschoolers, first, and second graders had an opportunity to visit the fair.  They visited the agriculture tent where they were greeted by one of our Agriculture students and a chicken from the Land Lab.  As they filed in the tent, some stopped to touch the bird's feathers, while others gave the bird a quick study.  Inside, they found more animals from our Land Lab, including goats, cows, and a donkey.  Farm Manager Daniel Judkins, Agriculture teacher Jason Brittle, and more Ag students shared information with the students about the livestock and answered many questions from the curious youngsters.  It seemed the most asked question was "Can I pet it?"  (Of course the answer was Yes)  They also saw crop plants that play an important role in the county's economy--cotton, peanuts, corn.

Opportunities like this are invaluable to our students.  Many of them have never seen these animals in real life, or they didn't realize that peanuts grow in the ground and cotton comes from a plant.  It is important to provide our students with exposure to these unique experiences.  It expands their understanding of real world situations and increases their chance for success both in and out of school.

The fair also demonstrates the partnership between the schools and the county.  IWCS was featured in one of the tents at the fair where we showcased student work from all of our schools.  A big Thank You to Instructional Coordinator Kristan Formella who organized our displays and the volunteers to man the tables throughout the weekend.  In addition, all of our schools decorated hay bales which were lined up at the entrance to the parking areas.  Both of our high schools bands performed at the fair and entertained the students during their field trip.

I had a fabulous time at the fair.  As much as I enjoyed it, I know the students enjoyed it even more.
And while it may seem like it was just a "field trip", it was a learning experience that provided students with exposure to new situations and environments.  Experiences like this are what our students need to better prepare them for the future.

Here's a short video from my day at the fair.  You'll see quite a few of our students, staff, and volunteers in the clip.  And, of course, the farm animals make an appearance.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Remembering 9/11

On Wednesday, all of our schools took time to reflect on the tragedy that occurred 18 years ago.  For many of us, we can tell you exactly where we were when we heard about the attack on our country.  The magnitude of the events on 9/11/01 were, and remain, unparalleled.  

It occurred to me that only a very few of our students were even born when 9/11 happened.  They only know it as a historical event and don’t have the same connection to it that their parents and teachers have. To keep past events relevant to our current students, we have to show them the significance of the events and explain the impact an event like 9/11 has on all Americans.

As part of Patriots’ Day, schools throughout the division organized age appropriate activities to remember the lives lost on 9/11 and to honor our first responders who work to keep us safe.

All schools received a Freedom Flag, the Commonwealth of Virginia's official symbol of September 11, 2001.  Smithfield High and Carrsville Elementary conducted ceremonies as the flag was raised and lowered in front of the school.  Local first responders were on hand and recognized by students and staff. 

At Westside Elementary, Mrs. Pryor’s students created a video that was shared with the school where they explained the symbolism of the Freedom Flag.  In other classes, students journaled their feelings about 9/11 and why they love living in the U.S. They discussed the event, why it’s important to remember, and had an opportunity to ask questions. 

Some schools delivered the message of the Freedom Flag in solemn, school-wide announcements. 
Windsor High shared a summary of events from 9/11 on the morning announcements prior to dedicating their moment of silence to those who lost their life that day and those who responded to the events.  A second Freedom Flag will be displayed at the WHS football field in September and the announcer will review the meaning of the symbols before home games. 

Smithfield Middle and Georgie Tyler Middle students participated in activities through their English or Social Studies classes that emphasized freedom and patriotism. 

Hardy Elementary shared the importance of the Freedom Flag and the first responders followed by a moment of silence.  Second graders read the story, September Roses and created American flags.  Windsor Elementary students made cards for local first responders that will be delivered to law enforcement and fire officials.

Carrollton Elementary students, faculty, and staff visited a “9/11 reflection spot” which featured an artistic representation of the twin towers on which faculty and staff members displayed remembrances of their experiences on that fateful day. Teachers shared the children’s book September 12: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right with their classes to honor the tragedy and sacrifice of September 11th while highlighting the bravery, hope, and grit demonstrated by first responders and communities as their stories continued.  

Students and staff throughout IWCS wore red, white, and blue to celebrate patriotism and demonstrate the resiliency of our country. 

I am constantly reminded that we have loving, caring students throughout our schools.  Empathy is one of the characteristics of GREAT students.  On Wednesday, our students demonstrated empathy through their words and actions as they remembered the events of 9/11 and the devastation directly inflicted on thousands of families.  They admire, respect, and appreciate our first responders who run towards danger as others run away.  I am incredibly proud of our students and our staff for the thoughtful displays of patriotism on 9/11.  Our community, and truly the nation, will be better for the lessons we are teaching our children now.

Commemorating 9/11

Friday, September 6, 2019

Welcome Back!

On Tuesday, September 3, we welcomed over 5,500 students back to school throughout Isle of Wight County.  It was great to see so many smiling faces on both the students and staff as I visited schools. 

Smithfield High and Windsor High hosted an "UnFirst Day".  Students actually attended both their first and second semester for about 15 minutes.  The teachers had team-building activities planned as the the students learned more about their teacher and each other as they immediately began work on building relationships.  The day ended with a Pep Rally to kick off the new school year!
Several schools had groups of community members joining in on the welcome back festivities.  Westside Elementary had members from First Gravel Hill Baptist Church who joined with teachers to greet students with smiles and applause as they headed to class.

Hardy Elementary also had numerous groups on hand to welcome students back to school, including several retired teachers from Hardy, Little Zion Church Men's ministry, Smithfield Christian Church and the Hardy PTA.  The PTA hosted a "Boo-Hoo" breakfast for parents and volunteers.

Members from the Sheriff's Office also joined in on the celebrations at many of our schools. At Georgie Tyler Middle, Dairy Queen and Community Electric participated in the festivities.

We did have an issue with water at Windsor Elementary which left the school without water in the bathrooms.  We elected to move the students to GTMS so they would have access to toileting facilities. Teachers did a fabulous job of welcoming the children back to school and keeping them focused throughout the end of the day.  

Then, of course, we had an unexpected day off today due to Hurricane Dorian.

In spite of those two issues, it has been an incredible first week of school.  

I hope you will continue to follow my blog.  Each Friday, I'll share insights about issues and events related to the school division.  

A big Thank You to our teachers, administrators, and families for your assistance with a smooth start to the school year.  And as Dorian heads out to sea, enjoy your weekend and enjoy a few pictures below from the first week.

Windsor High

Smithfield High

Smithfield Middle

Georgie Tyler Middle

Westside Elementary

Windsor Elementary

Hardy Elementary

Carrollton Elementary

Carrsville Elementary

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Latest Group of College, Career and Life Ready Students--the Class of 2019

Last week we celebrated members of the Class of 2019, as students from Windsor High and Smithfield High walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.  As I shook their hands, I felt confident that we had fulfilled our promise to them, by preparing them to be college ready, career ready, and life ready. Many of the graduates will be continuing their education through a two-year or four-year college.  Others are heading to the military, while a significant number of them will immediately enter the workforce.  We have developed programs in welding, culinary arts, cosmetology, building trades, agriculture, and nursing that equip our students with the skills and certifications to be sought after by area businesses and industry.  In last week's blog I highlighted the recent Career Signing Ceremony we had for students going straight to employment from high school.  All of our students have benefited from opportunities to develop the 5Cs--creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship--in each of their classes.  Through deeper learning experiences offered by every teacher, and a focus on Profile of a Graduate, our students are leaving high school with skills to benefit them regardless of whether they are continuing their education or immediately entering the workforce.

So, on that note, congratulations to the newest SHS and WHS alumni.  Go out and do great things in this world!

Pictures from graduation will be shared on Facebook or can be accessed through the link below:

Graduation 2019

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Celebrating Students as they Embark on Careers after High School

On Thursday, May 30, Isle of Wight County Schools did something we had never done before--we hosted a Career Signing Ceremony.  The event was similar to the signing days you see with high school athletes when they commit to a college to play a sport.

But the students this day were not athletes signing with a college.  Instead, they were students who had completed coursework and certifications in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and they were signing with a business where they would use their skills in their chosen career pathway.

The ceremony recognized thirteen students in the programs of Agriculture, Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, and Welding.  Businesses ranged from local salons and restaurants, to national companies, and employers associated with the shipbuilding industry.  At the ceremony, the student sat down with a representative from the business, they both signed a ceremonial agreement, and pictures were taken of the student wearing "swag" from their employer.  Families attended, as did members from the School Board, Board of Supervisors, and Economic Development.

We talk about providing students with opportunities to develop their unique gifts and talents, and preparing students to be college, career and life ready.  We made a commitment to our students by offering programs that will prepare them for high skill, high wage, high demand jobs.  I am excited that these students have made decisions in high school that have put them on the pathway to success.

Below are the names of the students who were recognized during the career signing and the businesses who have invited them to join their family.  Scroll down further to see pictures from the ceremony.

Student                                Program                              Business
Adkins, Logan                      Building Trades                   Lowe’s
Baggett III, Webster             Welding                                Suffolk Iron Works
Beasley, Robert                    Welding                                Newport News Shipbuilding
Charles, Joshua                    Culinary Arts                        US Navy—Culinary Specialist
Crocker, Nelson                   Agriculture                            Smithfield Foods
Cross, Tobias                        Culinary Arts                        Vintage Tavern
Dalton, Tyler                        Culinary Arts                        Smithfield Station
Daughtry, Logan                  Cosmetology                         Reflections Salon
Davis, Noah                         Welding                                 Allfirst LLC
Mason, Donnell                   Building Trades                     Lowe’s
Smith, Jada                          Cosmetology                         Nails Studio LLC
Throckmorton, Davis          Welding                                 Allfirst LLC
Yost, Patrick                        Welding                                 Newport News Shipbuilding

Friday, May 31, 2019

Honoring our Retirees and Teachers of the Year

On Wednesday night, Isle of Wight County Schools held the 2019 Celebration of Education.  We recognized our Teachers of the Year and our retirees from across the division. 
We kicked off the night with a song from three of our students--Emily, Goldey, and Brooke, otherwise known as The Dempsey Sisters.  Their stirring rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was a beautiful tribute to our guests of honor.  Bill and Tricia Dempsey (Mom and Dad) shared the video below they took of the girls' performance.  

The event, held at the Smithfield Center, was catered by our Culinary Arts students, under the direction of Chef Kyle Cousins.  Their crab dip and shrimp fettuccine, along with pork tenderloin sliders, and homemade desserts, were in high demand as evidenced by the lines at those tables.  

We honored our nine teachers of the year with a beautiful jade trophy which included an inscription, along with their name, their school, and the school year.  The three grade-level Teachers of the Year received a classic silver signet ring courtesy of our partners at Jostens.  Our overall Teacher of the Year, Julie Eng, received a $50 Visa gift card, in addition to the trophy and ring.

The IWCS Teachers of the Year for 2018--2019 are
  • Morgan Chappell (Carrollton Elementary)
  • Debbie Story (Carrsville Elementary)
  • Ceceli Lleva (Westside Elementary)
  • Pamela Hall (Windsor Elementary)
  • Elizabeth Tisdel (Smithfield Middle)  
  • Deborah Simmons (Windsor High)  
  • Lee Ann Hawley (Hardy Elementary) **Elementary School Teacher of the Year**
  • Ashleigh Hazel (Georgie Tyler Middle) **Middle School Teacher of the Year**
  • Julie Eng (Smithfield High) **High School Teacher of the Year**   **Isle of Wight County Schools Teacher of the Year**
David Elliott, our Communications Coordinator, created a video that highlights all of the Teachers of the Year. 

The 2018--2019 retirees were also recognized during the evening.  There are fifteen retirees with over 360 combined years of service.  Many of the retirees have been with IWCS for their entire career.  We hate to lose their talent and expertise, but the next phase of their life is well deserved and well earned.  Each retiree receives a beautiful wooden rocking chair.  Thanks to True Value for their assistance with the special gift for our retirees.  

David Elliott put together a fabulous tribute video for our retirees, which you can watch by clicking the following link:  Retirement Video

The 2018--2019 Retirees for IWCS are:

Minette Brooks

Virginia Kimpel
Cindy Calhoon

Gwendolyn Knight
Alison Chapman

David Price
Tammi Croshaw

Pamela Riddleberger
Felix Darden

Linda Trier
Roland Downing

Victoria Ward
Karen Duerig

Brenda Williams
Dorcas Hinton

To both groups, I extend a heartfelt Thank You.  Your dedication and commitment to the children of Isle of Wight County is beyond reproach.  You created a legacy with each and every child who sat in your classroom.  They will carry the life lessons you taught them for countless years to come.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Seniors Thank an Educator who Made a Difference in their Life

Each year  we host a Senior of the Month Banquet and this blog focuses on that event.  I decided to republish the thoughts I shared last year on the banquet.  I hope you will enjoy it.  In addition, you can find a short video of the powerpoint that ran during the event.  It lists all of our sponsors, seniors and the educators they were honoring.  We also have a video below that highlights the students' speeches from the ceremony.  I hope you will watch it and hear the heartfelt messages the students had for the educators they were honoring.

How good is your memory?  Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there?  Or you are unable to find that important item that you put somewhere special for “safekeeping” that is really safe because you can’t remember where it is?  Even though we’ve all been there, it’s still frustrating.

But I bet I know something you remember without hesitation.  Can you recall a teacher who made a tremendous impact on your life?  I’m sure one teacher, or even more,  you had in school just came to mind and many memories about why they were special to you came flooding back.  Here’s the more challenging question:  Did you ever tell them how much they meant to you?  Probably not.
I realize students don’t often share with a teacher just how much they have influenced the student’s life.  Even when they do, it is typically not shared publicly.  On May 22,2019, several of our seniors had a chance to do just that.  They honored a teacher who had made a significant impact on their life at our Senior of the Month Banquet.

Each month, Windsor and Smithfield high schools nominate a Senior of the Month.  The students are recognized at a school board meeting and also receive a $500 college scholarship generously provided by our business and community partners.  This year, those partners include:  Ameresco, Barton Ford, Blue Bird Bus Sales of Virginia, Chartwells, Comfort Systems of Virginia, DeltaGraphic, Education Foundation for Isle of Wight Public Schools, ESS/Source4Teachers, Haney Phinyowattanachip PLLC, Honeywell Building Solutions, HRSD, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc., RRMM Architects. The Senior of the Month Banquet provides an opportunity for each of these 16 students to publicly thank a teacher who has made a difference in their life.  The students courageously stand before an audience of family members, scholarship sponsors and school officials and share why they are honoring their chosen educator.  They recall personal stories filled with poignancy, gratitude, and admiration.  Their heartfelt remarks bring about laughter, a few tears, and a tremendous amount of appreciation for both the teacher and the student.  The teacher receives a plaque to commemorate the occasion, but the remarks from their student are the real gift.  It is truly an incredibly special evening for all the guests.

Congratulations to the teachers who were honored by the Seniors of the Month.  I know all of our teachers have had, or will have, a significant impact on many children throughout their teaching career.  Whether the praise is public, private, or even unspoken, there is an incredible satisfaction and validation when a teacher knows they have made a difference in a child’s life. Thank you to all IWCS teachers for making a difference in some child’s life each and every day.