Education is everywhere you look.
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8 12 14
Superintendent’s Letter Grow Local Principal of the Year Teacher of the Year
Behind the Scenes: Cafeteria Worker
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About the Cover Students Bella Taweel, Ameyah Sharpe, Chloe Taweel, Leslie Vicente De La Peña, La´Questa Carter, Jeffrey Warren, Gunner Mollison, Jeremiah Teele, Sabrina Wang, Jacob RamirezPerez, Jack Shinpaugh, Ysabella Olivo, Rodrigo Nunez-Gomez and Colton Price thank James Newsome (center), the operations manager at Darone Dancey. Inspire — Education is everywhere you look. is published annually for the Pitt County School System, in collaboration with The Times-Leader, The Daily Reflector and The Farmville Enterprise. Contents of this publication are the property of Pitt County Schools and Adams Publishing Group and may not be reproduced without consent of the publisher. For information about this issue, please contact Jennifer Johnson at 252-830-4219. To advertise in this publication, please contact Angela Harne at 252-747-3883.
E d u c at i o n i s everywhere you look.
insp re 37 ...........................................A.G. Cox Middle 38 ................................................Ayden Elem. 38 ......................................Ayden-Grifton HS 39 ............................................. Ayden Middle 39 ............................................. Belvoir Elem. 40 .........................................................Bethel 40 ...................................... C.M. Eppes Middle 41 ......................................................... Chicod 41 .........................................Creekside Elem. 42 ............................................D.H. Conley HS 42 .................................... E.B. Aycock Middle 43 ............................................Eastern Elem. 43 ......................................... Elmhurst Elem. 44 ..........................................Falkland Elem. 44 ...............................Farmville Central HS 45 ...................................... Farmville Middle 45 .............................................G.R. Whitfield 46 ....................................................... Grifton 46 ................ H.B. Sugg & Sam D. Bundy Elem. 47 ................................................Hope Middle 47 ................... Innovation Early College HS 48 .................................................J.H. Rose HS 48 ...................................... Lakeforest Elem. 49 ............................................. North Pitt HS 49 .......................................Northwest Elem. 50 .....................................................Pactolus 50 ............................... Pitt Early College HS 51 ....................................... Ridgewood Elem. 51 ......................................South Central HS 52 ............................South Greenville Elem. 52 .........................................................Stokes 53 .................................. W.H. Robinson Elem. 53 ....................................Wahl-Coates Elem. 54 .........................Wellcome Middle School 54 ......................Wintergreen Intermediate 54 ...............................Wintergreen Primary 5
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su p eri nt en d ent ’s lett er insp re
Dr. Ethan Lenker Superintendent Pitt County Schools
Thank you for your interest in learning more about Pitt County Schools, especially as the current landscape of education is rapidly changing. Our 21st century learners are part of a unique time period where tearing down walls, defeating obstacles, customizing learning and personalizing the educational experience is occurring more than ever before. Technological advancement along with widespread digital access has also begun to carve a new path for education. At the same time, our community’s professional partners are seeking more skilled workers, critical thinkers and employees with an innovative mindset. As one of the 15 largest educational systems in North Carolina, we are meeting these challenges head-on, and proudly, we are not alone. As a community, we understand that collaborative, innovative and meaningful partnerships are what will bring authentic learning experiences to our students as well as unique and welcomed resources. In this edition of Inspire, you’ll learn how our city’s Chamber of Commerce and our own Career and Technological Education department worked to connect more than 2,000 Pitt County middle and high school students directly to more than 100 businesses, colleges and organizations through an award-winning effort called Grow Local. You’ll hear of community partners who often travel to schools through grant funding, bringing hands-on STEM experiences and dispelling scientific myths. You’ll follow a student’s digital learning path through our Pitt County Virtual Academy and be touched by an exceptional student’s journey to connect to a meaningful work experience through Project Search. You’ll understand the power of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
programs in preparing students for college, beginning at the elementary school level. Also, you’ll follow how our high school students are advancing on to college coursework through dual-enrollment efforts and our two early colleges, located on the campuses of Pitt Community College and East Carolina University. Our students aren’t the only ones we are investing in. PCS and our community partners also understand the importance of fully preparing our local educators through grant-funded programs like Trauma-Informed Care as well as offering multiple opportunities for advancement through our comprehensive Teacher Leadership Institute. Whether you have a child in one of our schools, you are considering us for your child’s education, or you are a curious member of the community, you can reference this edition of Inspire to learn about these and other collaborative opportunities provided to the nearly 24,000 students who inspire us on a daily basis here at Pitt County Schools. In all, PCS is comprised of 16 elementary schools, six K-8 schools, seven middle schools, six high schools, two early colleges and a pre-K education center. We are also located in a county that is among the state’s fastest growing and features a thriving business, medical and educational community. Together, we are Celebrating Every Child and Challenging Every Learner in Pitt County. We hope you are inspired to join us!
Dr. Ethan Lenker Superintendent, Pitt County Schools 7
By AmBer revels-stocks ore than 2,000 students
the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of
and linemen. They might not realize they
also have administrative staff. … There’s a
companies across Pitt County
“This program is designed to take the
during “Take Your Child to Work Week”
students into a business or the business into
lot of jobs that make up an entire company,
March 18-22, 2019, as part of the first Grow
a school to give the students information
Local program initiative. The program is
about all the career paths within the
collaboration between the Greenville-
designed to introduce, involve, inspire and
business,” she said. “For example, if a
Pitt County Chamber of Commerce, the
invest in middle and high school students,
student thinks about Greenville Utilities,
according to Kate Teel, the president of
they automatically think of the light poles
Commission and Pitt County Schools,
no matter what that company might be.” The
among other entities. The goal of the program is to invest in local students, according to Beth Ann Trueblood, the director of Career and Technical Education for Pitt County Schools. “Students don’t know what businesses and type of jobs are here,” Trueblood said. “We want them to know there are jobs here in Pitt County for them in any area they might be interested in.” Interested teachers signed up their classes to go to related businesses. For example, a welding class could sign up to visit a company that performs commercial
This is an opportunity for my students to get more exposure, so they’re not just seeing it in a classroom setting, but in a real-world setting.
- Christina MCCray, teaCher
welding so students can get an idea of what the job looks like in the real world. Farmville Central High School chemistry teacher Christina McCray took her students to the N.C. Biotechnology Center regional office in Greenville to learn more about jobs in pharmacology. “We talk about chemistry, the science behind making things, and I wanted to give them a real-world, applicable setting to invoke interest — this may be something they’ve never considered doing before,” McCray said. “This is an opportunity for my students to get more exposure, so they’re not just seeing it in a classroom setting, but in a real-world setting.” Students learn better when they can connect the topic to something outside of the classroom, according to McCray. “They really learn when they’re able to apply what they learn,” she said. “This is awesome. They’re getting the chance to see the science behind what goes into their aspirin, their acetaminophen.” Her students learned about how pharmaceutical companies create tablets from powders, including using a manual tablet press to create a lactose tablet, a type of placebo. Junior Ulises Jauregui-Gamez got to turn the wheel of the press to move the powder through a series of dies. “I feel like it’s an opportunity to explore the job options. This is a way to understand and comprehend more than what they see when they go to the store,” he said. “If I were in the classroom, we may have done a lab, but that lab doesn’t give you the full extent of knowledge that being here does. The equipment they use here isn’t something we can have in the classroom.” Chemistry students at J.H. Rose also got to learn about pharmacology at Mayne Pharma. Rising junior Paige McKeel learns through real-life application, she said. “Seeing how everything worked together and how it all combined to form something (medication) we take for
granted everyday was cool,” she said. “I
read. It was a valuable experience for
grow somebody than hire somebody
want to pursue medical sciences because
them to see this in action first hand. …
from another company. Everybody is
my father has a broken neck and back. I
The best part of getting the students into
seeing a need for young people to come
saw what he went through. I want to help
a local business was seeing them engage
into this industry. Not long ago, we did an
other people. (This tour furthers her goals
with The Daily Reflector personnel. They
average age of my employees. It was 48
because) I saw how even taking a pill, most
were engaged and wanted to be there.”
people won’t think twice about, takes so much work and effort (to produce).”
Her students helped write an article about their experiences.
“We just don’t have many 20- and 30-year-olds joining this business. We
Vanessa Iorizzo’s English class from
Advanced Mechanical Heating and Air
all have this vision that we want young
North Pitt High School toured The
Conditioning in Winterville hosted several
people to enter this industry. Grow Local
Daily Reflector to learn about the role
groups of students throughout the week.
is just one way we’re trying to get them
journalism plays in the community.
Owner Randy Riddle supports the role
“Many of my students don't ever leave Pitt County. I wanted them to experience
of Career and Technical Education in Pitt County Schools.
Hyster-Yale Greenville also hosted several groups of students. The company
what is available for them right here
“We see a big gap in the labor force;
is heavily involved in similar programs.
where they live so they knew what their
we are struggling as an industry right now
It has seen rewards already, according
options were for after high school,” Iorizzo
to find qualified people,” he said. “We
to Human Resources Manager for the
said. “I always encourage my students to
can’t find people to enter the trades and
engineering group, Wayne Washington.
question what people say and what they
grow in the trades. Ethically, we’d rather
“Just within my realm of engineering,
Having seen the Grow Local program from fruition, I see the value of it. We see the value of getting these kids ready in high school and seeing what we have out here. Obviously, it’s a win-win situation for the community and the students. - Wayne Washington
hyster-yale greenville hr Manager 10
we started out with one to two (college)
signing up for Grow Local and thought,
pilot program,” Trueblood said with a
interns per year. We’re now up to eight.
‘Let’s push ourselves a little bit and stretch
laugh. “But I expect this will go beyond
Through the whole process of STEM,
that goal to a thousand.’ They kept coming
the three years (originally scheduled) and
we’ve gotten our first engineer basically
and coming,” she said. “I cannot think of
continue on for a long time.”
out of the relationship we built from
one ‘no’ that I’ve heard from a business or
Pitt County Schools is overjoyed
middle school and high school through
a volunteer, which goes to show you the
about the level of participation, according
college. We’ve definitely seen rewards
need for something like this.”
to Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker.
(from similar programs),” he said. “Having
Fifteen schools and 2,734 students
“Grow Local truly shows the value the
seen the (Grow Local) program from
participated in the event, according to
community has for the school system,”
fruition, I see the value of it. … We see the
he said. “Pitt County has eight percent of
value of getting these kids ready in high
“The teachers are excited because it’s
students in the state involved in ‘Take Your
school and seeing what we have out here.
another opportunity to teach outside the
Child to Work Week.’ We’re only about 1
Obviously, it’s a win-win situation for the
four walls of the classroom,” she said.
percent of the student population. There
community and the students.” The response across the district was amazing, according to Teel. “We had a goal of 800 students
As the first year of the program, this
are 280 companies involved statewide;
was supposed to be Grow Local’s pilot
we have 100 of them. That truly shows
the relationship we have with the
“It’s grown a bit bigger than a traditional
By AmBer revels-stocks
eing the principal of two schools is a tough job,
has a master’s in school administration and a bachelor’s in
but Pitt County Schools’ Principal of the Year
early childhood education from East Carolina University.
Cathy Kirkland handles it with grace.
Becoming an administrator was a natural progression
She is the principal of Wintergreen Primary and
for Kirkland. “I had taught for 14 years and just decided I would
“The foundation of any successful educational
follow in my father’s footsteps and be an administrator.
environment is to put the students first. Students must be
My husband encouraged me to do it,” Kirkland said. “My
provided an environment where stability and opportunity
father’s passed away, but he was a retired superintendent
are constant,” she said. “This is more true than ever in
of schools. He was amazing.”
today’s constantly changing world.” Her
Her father had great expectations for Kirkland, and she revolves
relationships. “My thoughts about leadership are the same as my thoughts about life. Everything boils down to relationships,” Kirkland said. She prides herself on cultivating relationships not just
has strived to meet them. “He was very loving but knew what needed to be done and made sure to do it,” she said. “I’ve just tried to emulate that in my career.” She loves her job and says she is lost on the weekends when she cannot go to school.
with her staff and students but also with educators across
“You really have to love education to be successful at
the state. Kirkland serves as treasurer for the N.C. Principals
it,” Kirkland said. “It’s important for children to be reminded
and Assistant Principals Association and works closely with
that they are still kids. In schools, there’s so much stress for
Pitt County Schools’ senior staff. She often meets with
them to perform well. We want them to excel; we want
them before Pitt County Board of Education meetings to
their (end-of-grade) scores to be where they should be.
present information and concerns.
But we also want kids to just be kids.”
Like all administrators, Kirkland strives to promote student success. “Like life, educational leadership is a delicate balance of molding, coaching, encouragement and at times, tough love,” Kirkland said. “When these things exist, we place ourselves in a position to promote student success. My amazing family is very supportive; without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do this work.” Kirkland’s favorite part of being a principal is working with students. “Seeing the children every day and getting to love them is the best part,” Kirkland said. “I want what’s best for them, and I get to push my staff to want to provide to them opportunities they deserve.” Kirkland, who has served Pitt County Schools for 21 years, became the principal at Wintergreen in 2016. She
By AmBer revels-stocks
eachers across the district work long hours to make sure their students receive the best possible education. Some of them are lucky enough to receive recognition for their hard work. Ann Marie Mehdi, a science teacher at South Central High School, was named Farm Bureau’s 2019-20 Teacher of the Year. An East Carolina University graduate, she has taught at South Central since 2015. “I do a lot of work in my classroom to make sure my kids are getting the best they can get,” Mehdi said. “This means that all that work means something to other people, too. They recognize how much goes into making sure your kids are successful. “I’m just glad I have kids who enjoy seeing me every day. There are kids who come back to the school and say, ‘Ms. Mehdi, we’re glad you did what you did for us.’ I get the feeling that what I’m doing makes a difference in the world.” Mehdi followed her family into the classroom. Her mother is an eighth-grade math teacher, and her aunt is a high school chemistry teacher. “I don't think that I would be half of what I am today if I did not have the family I have,” she said. “Just being around them and seeing the impact they made over time really pushed me to do the same thing.” Like her aunt, her favorite class to teach is chemistry.
“Chemistry by far is where I’m in my element,” Mehdi said. “You can explain all the things kids can’t see, like why things happen the way they happen. Also, we get to blow stuff up; we get to do experiments and work with chemicals. It’s really hands-on. The kids just really get into that.” The challenge of teaching brings Mehdi joy. Having been prepared by her family, she knew to expect challenges in the classroom. “I didn't go into teaching thinking it was going to be this easy, sugar-pie thing where the kids were going to be great and it was going to be fun every day. I knew that teaching
was the biggest challenge I would ever accept,” Mehdi said. “No day is ever the same. Every day I walk in, I know it’s going to be completely different. I’m never bored.” Her students say they also never get bored. “Mrs. Mehdi is a great chemistry teacher. She’s the best teacher over the science classes that I’ve had,” said rising senior Kashmere Everett. “Her class is more fun than doing worksheets all the time. It’s really a lot of fun, and I like her.” Mehdi likes to bring real world applications into the classroom, as well as engaging her class whenever possible. Everett’s favorite
Ann Marie Mehdi BRINGS FUN TO CHEMISTRY CLASS class activity was related to the periodic table and the properties of elements. “We went into the lab. We had flames and had different types of elements off the
ask the same question.”
do so many things in class. They’re all fun.
Class of 2019 graduate Nkosi Tyson
“We were playing classroom basketball.
appreciates how hard Mehdi works to make
We solved this problem, and if you had the
sure her students are prepared.
answer right, you got to shoot for your points.
periodic table. We’d put it over the flames, and
“If you don’t understand, she’ll be there to
You got to shoot a paper ball into a basket, and
(the element would) change colors,” she said.
help you. She’ll take her time and make sure
you could score points for your team. That
“Mrs. Mehdi prepared us really well for it. …
you are successful,” he said. “She always gives
was a lot of fun, and we studied (for exams)
We went over the procedure, and she told us
us extra tutoring. She’ll stay after school to
without knowing it.”
what to do and what not to do, so all we really
make sure we understand. She gives us extra
had to do was follow directions.”
opportunities to be successful. …
Mehdi makes sure her students rise to the
“Tutoring with Mrs. Mehdi is like a higher
challenge of difficult activities by breaking
level. She gives more one-on-one (time) to
complicated tasks down into small steps,
make sure you understand.”
according to Everett.
Tyson took physical science with Mehdi
Several students appreciate that Mehdi makes learning feel like fun rather than work, including rising senior Philisha Chen. “She’s fun, and she’s active. She helps you,” Chen said. “She explains it. She has cool songs to help you learn. She’s just a joy to be around.”
“Not all teachers do that. She makes it
and enjoyed it so much he decided to take
One of the most difficult things she ever
make sense by teaching us the pieces. If
chemistry with her as well. His favorite thing
learned was the difference between an ionic
we’re struggling, she re-teaches it,” Everett
about her teaching style is her energy.
and a covalent bond. Mehdi made it easy to
said. “When we have questions, she helps us
“Mrs. Mehdi’s just energetic. She has a lot
by giving us good answers. Unlimited. She
of energy. She likes to make jokes and play
“She broke it down day-by-day. Like we
doesn’t care how many times you ask her, she
games to keep us entertained instead of just
had a foldable and one day we did one part
still helps you. She doesn’t get irritated if you
sitting down and taking notes,” he said. “We
and the next day was a review of that part. She
learn, she said.
made sure we had learned it before we went to the next part. Then we went to the covalent part of the foldable. She broke it down that way,” Chen said. “She takes her time with the class. My class talks a lot, but she still takes her time with us. If you need help one-on-one, she does help you a lot. … “She makes the hard parts easier.” As Teacher of the Year, Mehdi received a 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan to drive for a year, courtesy of Pecheles Automotive, along with gifts from Farm Bureau, Pitt County Educational Foundation and other sponsors. She represented Pitt County in regional competition. The regional winner will compete for 2020 N.C. Teacher of the Year.
B y A mB e r r ev els -s tocks
A Time for Science teaches fourth-graders through hands-on activities
very fourth-grader in Pitt County
as a guideline for McDaniel when
do this too. We want to expose them to
she designed the Step into STEM
learning thanks to a local science
curriculum. However, she could have
museum and nature center and a grant from Duke Energy.
decided he wants to be a paleontologist,
McDaniel said. “We work with a great
so digging for fossils was his favorite
which has a museum in Greenville
paleontologist, George Powell, and he
and a nature center in Grifton, visited
has provided us with authentic fossils.
“(A paleontologist) is what I want
every school in six counties, including
We put them in what we think is an
to be when I grow up. A lot of people
Pitt. At every stop on their tour, the
authentic situation as a paleontologist.
think that things that went extinct
group invited students into a mobile
Then we have an astronomer working
won’t be able to live, but scientists are
planetarium to see the phases of
with us and a mobile planetarium, so
actually thinking of ways to bring back
the moon, asked them to become
that was a given. A lot of teachers shy
animals.” he said. “When I was younger,
paleontologists and looked for fossils,
away from rocks and minerals; we have
I liked to dig in the dirt in my backyard.
made them into amateur gemologists
the knowledge and the materials, so we
… We don’t get to dig in class. In the
and showed them how magnets and
thought it was something we could do.
classroom, we usually talk about energy
We have the equipment and ability to
and how things work.”
N.C. essential standards, so everything
Instructors from A Time for Science,
“Everything we do is based on the
show them electricity and magnetism and get them excited.
Johnson was not the only student excited about getting to work with his
we do here is something they’re going
“These are things we think we really
hands. Jamichael Hyman likes science,
to learn this year. Either they’ve already
do well and that we could expand on for
but the Step into STEM program
learned it and we’re expanding that
the kids. We want them to know that
increased his enthusiasm.
knowledge, or they’re going to learn it
everybody can be a scientist. You don’t
“We learned about different stuff
and we’ve put a peg in for them to hang
have to be a male with wild hair to be a
that we don’t learn in class. This is cooler
that new knowledge on,” said Maria
scientist. You can be a beautiful female
than what we learn in class,” Hyman
McDaniel, an educational program
and be a scientist. We’re trying to make
said. “I want to go home and tell my
director at A Time for Science.
this as real world as possible. These are
mom all the stuff I learned today that
things scientists really do, and you can
she doesn’t know.”
The N.C. essential standards served
chosen from several topics.
Cayden Harmon was also excited to teach others. “If
to juggle the schedules a little bit and work with our schools. Our principals
are fantastic. They provided some
planetarium, it’s amazing and makes
transportation and organized all of
you feel like you’re really in space,” he
that. We had to have one or two
said. “It’s really fun (to sit inside). In
schools go to another school for a day
class, we just learn about it; we don’t
just to get everybody in.”
get to experience it like this.” That experience is why Pitt County Schools science curriculum specialist Fritz Robinett was excited about the grant.
A Time for Science often saw students from multiple schools in one day. “We’d set up in one school and see their students in the morning,
“This kind of learning is really the
and then two other schools would be
cutting edge of science education. This
bused in. At 11 a.m., we’d see a second
kind of phenomena-based learning is
school, and at 1 p.m., a third school,”
where kids experience some sort of
McDaniel said. “We have a planetarium
interesting phenomena and then have
that requires a 15-foot ceiling height.
to connect it to their real world,” he
We had to be in schools that could
said. “Duke Energy is always working
accommodate us with a large enough
to support STEM education. They have
space for three other activities to go on
a number of grants that our students
at the same time.”
have benefitted from, including a
While the program was a one-time
summer STEM camp for girls. Any
grant, A Time for Science applied for
time Duke Energy is providing funding,
another Duke Energy grant in order to
we always work as hard as we can to
continue the program in fourth grades.
find something that will be mutually
“We targeted fourth grade mainly
beneficial for our students and for
because third grade is so busy with
testing and fifth grade is their first
He and McDaniel worked hard
end-of-grade science test,” McDaniel
to make certain that every fourth-
said. “We thought we could whet their
grader in Pitt County Schools got the
appetite for science in fourth grade
opportunity to experience Step into
and really make them want to learn
about science, so when they get to
“That took a little bit of work
fifth grade, they’re already in love
because this is a regional program, so
with it. … We are anxious to get back
she’s serving a lot of other counties
on the road and start over with a new
as well,” Robinett said. “We just had
program with a new grant.”
D I na
ue to a high success rate, AVID
effectively, collaborate with other students,
read deeper for understanding and WICOR
It also allows for teachers to help
(writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization
monitor students’ grades and helps students
achieve success by providing students with
spreading throughout Pitt County Schools.
themselves,” Bell said.
“It’s important to know that AVID assists
postsecondary college readiness system
the average student and provides them with
“A lot of our AVID students initially might
designed to increase the number of students
the skills to be an amazing student while they
not have the confidence to try an advanced
who enroll and succeed in higher education
are learning about themselves personally. It
preparation class or a college course in
and succeed in their lives beyond high school.
creates a good work ethic,” Bell said.
high school. An AVID teacher is as much
encouragement and tools to succeed.
“AVID teaches our students organization
The system allows for students to be self-
a cheerleader as a teacher,” said Preston
skills, study skills and it opens their eyes to
sufficient learners and advocates for their
Bowers, the district’s High School Facilitator
opportunities and allows them to see other
and AVID director.
things that they would not have seen,” said
“For the future, it helps get them organized
Ashley Bell, an N.C. Principal Fellow and
within the system. They are forced to do some
former AVID site coordinator at Wellcome Middle School. AVID took root in Ayden-Grifton, North Pitt and Farmville Central high schools in
self-reflection, and they are responsible for their grades. It’s almost policing themselves and what they need. They are advocates for
coordinator added, “We try to figure out how to support them. If they are doing bad in a class, they can focus their time on a certain class while building confidence with us as a mentor and supporting them.”
2005 as an elective course, with a mission to
AVID also allows for students to develop
help close the achievement gap by preparing
relationships with their peers as they work
students for college readiness and success in
together in groups.
a global society. AVID
groups and working together. You’ll see some
importance of organization, how to take notes
of them come out as leaders. It’s a big support
“Just in the classroom, we do a lot with peer students
system. The kids are really encouraging each
math and science teacher at Sam D. Bundy
AVID strategies go beyond the elective
other. They have a family atmosphere where
into all aspects of the school. Students also
they look out for each other,” said Baker.
Allison Setser, the principal at H.B. Sugg
begin frequenting college campuses as they
Bowers added, “Students talk about their
and Sam D. Bundy elementary schools,
continue their journeys to higher education
school family in AVID and how much they
added, “This is where you plant the seed.
and learn how to calculate their grade point
support each other to be their best. That is a
This is where opportunities are so open to
consistent statement (among students).”
them. And the skill set we’re teaching them
AVID is taught at 10 of the district’s 37
now — how to take notes, how to study — is
schools with 920 students enrolled in the
really setting the stage with the tools to be
2018-19 school year.
successful going forward.”
College visits allow students to explore possible colleges and gain life experiences. “Not only did they get to see the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, but they got
“We’ve grown this year. Last year, AVID
Students are introduced to AVID’s core
to experience life things,” Bell said, adding
was across nine campuses. This year, we’re
principles in K-3, with more strategies
some students had never seen the beach
at ten. We’re looking to expand to five more
learned in grades 4-5. AVID strategies are
schools in 2019-20,” Bowers said.
incorporated into everyday learning and are
In the 2019-20, Grifton School will
often associated with real world situations and
launch AVID. The program is already offered
careers to coincide with learning principles.
at Wellcome, Farmville and Ayden middle
H.B. Sugg and Sam D. Bundy were the first elementary schools in Pitt County to use the AVID system. Falkland, Northwest and South
At the high school level, AVID coordinators
program in the 2019-20 school year.
classrooms. Students are up and moving and
and instructors, in conjunction with the school
talking and collaborating,” Setser said.
counselors, assist students with their college
At the elementary level, AVID is a
Greenville elementary schools will launch the
foundational concept spread throughout
Phillips added, “My kids retain information
applications, financial need paperwork and
the entirety of the school. WICOR concepts
a lot more than what they have been with
answer questions about the process. High
are taught, and students begin to learn
connecting the information with careers. They
school students also tour colleges.
organizational and leadership skills.
are a lot more engaged and they want to know
“We’re just sparking their interest so they
all about it.”
AVID also serves as a system of support and a method of confidence building as
can design their path to what they want to be
At the high school and middle school
students are given the choice to take AP and
in the future,” said Kelsey Phillips, a fifth grade
level, AVID is offered as an elective course.
college classes while in high school, Baker said.
“We’re just sparking their interest so they can design their path to what they want to be in the future.” -Kelsey Phillips, Teacher
Exceptional Ch i ldren By Donna Marie WilliaMs
Children’s Department seeks to bring a sense of inclusiveness and provide
opportunities for special needs students. Partnering
students,” said Virginia Gaynor, the director of
to partnerships with the N.C. Council on
the Exceptional Children’s Department.
Developmental Disabilities, Vidant Medical
Entering its fifth year in the 2019-20 school year, Project SEARCH provides opportunities
Center, Vocational Rehabilitation and RHA Health Services.
for students with developmental disabilities
Project SEARCH is a year-long program,
businesses and churches, the district is able
to learn job-related skills that are transferable.
open to seniors with an Individualized
to offer valuable opportunities for these
“Our job is to make sure they have those
Education Plan or developmental disability.
job preparedness skills. Project SEARCH is
Students first apply to be a part of the program
one of these options. The difference between
and then proceed through an interview
students. “We’re really one as a community and supporting
Project SEARCH and other job programs is
process. Up to 10 students are chosen each
who make up humanity … I’m looking at
that this is specifically developed for students
partnerships. It just broadens the bank of
with cognitive or intellectual delays and
resources we can go to as a school district
various level disabilities,” Gaynor said.
when we’re trying to help and support
Students then complete a one-year internship at Vidant Medical Center. Students
are trained at Vidant Medical and given the
skills they need to work in various locations around the facility. Jobs include working in the NICU where students learn how to put
The program has enrolled 29 interns,
them. Attendees arrived in limos, had
with 19 graduating from the program.
their photo taken on the red carpet and
Twelve graduates have received jobs in
danced the night away.
the community. “They have the same hopes. They
children have to live outside the walls
may also work in groundskeeping,
want to be independent citizens. They
want to be viable citizens and to help
of the classroom and home. It makes
environmental services, food services,
grow our community with the skills they
receiving, orthopedics and mail services.
have,” Gaynor said.
Each student completes a rotation
Pitt County Schools partnered with
between three of the available job areas.
St. James United Methodist Church in
While in the program, students also
February 2019 to sponsor Greenville’s
learn soft skills such as communicating
first-ever prom, “A Night to Shine.”
effectively and how to work together with others. The
The prom was open to students, age 14 and older, with special needs. A Night
inclusiveness. We’re all a part of this humanity,” Gaynor said. The Department
Olympics annually at J.H. Rose High School, thanks to partnerships with East Carolina University, Community Schools and local parks and recreation
to Shine was created by the Tim Tebow
Foundation, as a way to show God’s love
departments. Students in grades preK-
for people with special needs.
12 can compete.
employment. Vocational rehabilitation
Students and their special guests
Without the community support,
helps to place graduated students
arrived at St. James in prom attire.
the Exceptional Children’s Department
into job positions throughout the
While they walked down a red carpet,
would not be what it is today, Gaynor
volunteers cheered and welcomed
They have the same hopes. They want to be independent citizens. They want to be viable citizens and to help grow our community with the skills they have.
- Virginia Gaynor Director of the Exceptional Children Department.
sense that they want to be a part of
skills. It helps to provide them with
“These are our children. These
supplies in the correct place. Students
It All Comes Together in the Greenville, NC MSA. Many communities have a “good quality of life” and “business-friendly environment.” What reinforces these assets are strong partnerships that make all the difference in a good community and a great one. We’re a great community where everything comes together. Join us in the Greenville, NC MSA. The best location – with strong collaboration.
Behind The Scenes
By Donna Marie WilliaMs
C a fet er I a
C o n s u elo M o n t i el
School Nutrition Services assistant manager Consuelo Montiel is making a name for herself and Pitt County Schools, as she pursues her passion and represents the district as a fierce competitor.
Montiel was named Pitt County’s Employee of the Year during her first year of employment. Each morning she reports to work at 6:15 a.m. and begins preparing breakfast.
Montiel has worked in school nutrition for the
“We prepare our breakfast for our children
past eight years. She began her employment
a day before, so when I come in the morning, I
with Pitt County Schools at an entry-level
have everything prepared,” Montiel said.
position with School Nutrition Services. One year later, she earned a promotion to assistant manager. “I love what I do and I like to go to work every
day,” Montiel said.
Montiel also helps to keep the kitchen stocked and assists in serving lunch for the children at Pactolus Elementary School. Montiel knows that her job is important,
especially to the children she serves. “We have a lot of children who are really hungry. We give them food and sometimes they ask me, ‘Ms. Consuelo, can I have more because I’m really hungry?’ We don’t know if they have food at home. On Mondays, they come and get breakfast and get so excited. Who knows if they had breakfast over the weekend?” Montiel said. Montiel is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside her coworkers at Pactolus School. “I really enjoy working with my group at Pactolus. They’re like family. It doesn’t even feel like a job because they’re so happy doing it,” Montiel said. But what truly brings joy to Montiel is competing. She has competed and placed in the N.C. School Nutrition Creative and Culinary Arts Show multiple times. Montiel has secured Best in Show for the past three years. The competition features child nutrition departments from schools across the state. “The more I do, the more I want to go back,” Montiel said, adding she loves competing for the district. Each department competes in several different categories. “It is a great honor to win in all the categories that are offered to participate in. Each category has its own criteria and expectations. They all return to some part of our meal pattern, a la carte items, nutrition education, seasonal decorations or specific theme decorations that managers would use on their serving lines, bulletin boards or table presentation in their dining rooms,” said Gretchen Wilson, Pitt County Schools director of School Nutrition Services. Montiel has also earned many awards in the annual state competition, including the Ralph Eaton award in 2015 and 2016, second place in Commodity Vegetable in 2017 and 2018 and first place Ethnic Plate in 2017 and 2018. She also won Best of Show Complete School Lunch or Breakfast Plate consecutively since 2015. “I feel proud of what I am doing and that’s what keeps me going. I hope to win more,” she said. To ensure she is the best employee she can be, Montiel is constantly continuing her education with certifications from the School Nutrition Association. She is working toward a level 4 certification. She has also earned certifications in Norovirus for Schools, CT 6-using seasoning, weights and measuring and two human relations series for creating a motivating workplace and communication skills for managers. Montiel also has a certification in SERV Safe, which has provided her with the knowledge of proper cooking procedures as well as health and sanitation. Driven by her passion, Montiel plans to continue to pursue her education and continue to cook. “Cooking is my favorite. It is something that I really like. One day, I really want to be a chef,” Montiel said.
Teachers learn to help students refocus in effort to decrease discipline By AmBer revels-stocks
ducators and community partners
negative behaviors, including substance abuse
from across Pitt County are learning
and discipline problems, according to Student
how to respond to children and youth
Services director Karen Harrington.
for Resilience. “We teach people about how their nervous systems work in response to stress and trauma
using trauma-informed, resiliency-focused
Examples of ACEs include having divorced
and then teach seven tools to help build
practices through a series of workshops called
parents or seeing a parent being abused. They
resiliency,” she said. “We’ll teach all sorts of
Reconnect for Resilience.
are very common, with almost 28 percent of
people, including folks who are incarcerated,
study participants reporting at least one ACE,
because anyone with a nervous system can
educators and community partners practical
according to the U.S. Department of Health
learn and benefit from this curriculum.
and Human Services.
“These tools help put the brake pedal on
threat management. They are facilitated
“Our Student Services staff in all 38
our stress response. Basically, a lot of folks are
by Resources for Resilience, a group of out
schools did an introduction to ACEs training
dealing with a lot of stress and trauma. They
Asheville, in conjunction with Pitt County
with all of the staff at some point during the
can calm the stress response when we don’t
(2018-19 school) year, just to expose them to
need to be in a heightened state of stress
TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, St.
what this is and what kind of behaviors may
activation using these tools.”
Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Greenville and
manifest,” Harrington said. “Our second phase
One of the methods Rogers teaches is
several other community organizations.
of that is ‘What do we do about that?’ That’s
“orienting.” It is a type of rapid reset activity
what this training does.”
that brings positive sensory awareness into
The group held three Reconnect for Resilience trainings and an introduction to
The training teaches participants how to
the present moment to calm someone down
Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs
recognize the signs of stress within one’s self
training for administrators during the last
and others. It teaches methods of alleviating
“Look around the room and pay attention
when they want to fight or shutdown.
physical stress to bring one back to a balance
to anything pleasing that catches your
ACEs are stressful or traumatic events
or “resilient zone,” according to Ann DuPre
attention,” Rogers said. “Where do you begin
that can result in the development of several
Rogers, the program director for Resources
to notice positive or neutral physical feelings?
Take your time. What do you notice now
happy and not make bad choices because
suicidal thoughts, that would be amazing,”
about your breathing, heart rate and muscle
they don’t feel like they have another path. I’m
Harrington said. “If we can get to them before
looking forward to bringing these techniques
consequences are necessary, that’s our goal.”
While there was some skepticism at first, Pitt County Schools’ staff says the training is helpful. “I’ll be honest. At first, I thought ‘There’s a big difference between Asheville and
back to the classroom to reach students in a more effective way.” In addition to Student Services staff, the
With that in mind, Harrington sent 10 staff members from around the district to a
district has made the training available to
Champions training. These staff members will
teachers and community partners.
be responsible for introducing other staff to
Greenville. Will this work here?’ but Resources
“The teachers coming (to the training) is
for Resilience came over the summer and
the biggest bang for our buck,” Harrington
did a two-hour intro session, and I realized
said. “They are constantly in the classroom
it’s really simple things schools can do,”
with these kids, and this training is something
simple that they can do really quickly to just
the Reconnect techniques. “My ideal is that every staff person, including teacher assistants and bus drivers, receive this training,” Harrington said. “If we
Lisa Mayo, a seventh grade English and
help their students refocus that negative
can get this to where everyone says, ‘What
Language Arts teacher at E.B. Aycock Middle
energy and turn it into something where they
happened to you to make you react that way?’
School, was excited to use the training in her
can calm themselves.”
and reframing kids’ behavior, that would be
classroom. “I’m pretty cynical about workshops. I don’t like to go to workshops because it’s more fun
Several teachers are using the tactics taught by the training, both in their classrooms and in their daily lives.
for me to be in the classroom. This is unlike
“This is the one training where I’ve gotten
anything I’ve seen before,” she said. “It really
phone calls the next day from teachers saying,
struck a chord with me because I can really see
‘I’m using this, and it’s helping so much,’”
how my students exhibit signs of emotional
trauma in the classroom. Now that I’ve seen
The district hopes by refocusing students it
the research, I understand where they’re
can decrease discipline and increase student
coming from, and I want to help my students
engagement in the classroom.
deal with their emotions more productively.
“We’re not going to get rid of all
amazing.” The Reconnect for Resilience training is made available through a N.C. Department of Public Instruction School Safety grant. Pitt County Schools invites 10 community partners to every training. “We want to get this out to the community,” Harrington said. “Pitt County needs to become a trauma-informed community
“As a teacher, my first job is to increase
consequences, but if we can calm students
because it can’t just be the school system
their literacy, but as a human being and one
down before they start screaming at the
doing it; there has to be the therapists, the
of the adults in their lives, I want them to be
teacher or shutting down and thinking
doctors and Social Services, too.”
Students see enrichment through
Go Grow, PC Virtual Academy
By AmBer revels-stocks ore than 2,000 students participate in Academically &
regardless of whether they are in second grade or kindergarten, have
Intellectually Gifted or AIG programs across Pitt County
the opportunity to work together with a teacher on reading at the
Schools. Elementary students have the opportunity to
participate in Go Grow, an inquiry-based learning program that draws
“Twenty percent of their time is spent in activities that are of
out students’ potential, while middle and high school students can
interest to them,” DeCresie explained. “They may do yoga, different
participate in the Pitt County Virtual Academy, which offers students
types of coding, ceramics. Each teacher picks their own club, and the
a quality education through online, interactive course content created
kids decide what they want to do.
and led by teachers at Pitt County Schools. Northwest Elementary School is a Restart School; however, all of its students are part of the Go Grow program. “At some schools, we’ve been trying to bring students into Go Grow without them being identified (as AIG). Instead of lowering our standards, we’re looking at how to provide service to bring them up to the bar,” said Tim DeCresie, the AIG program coordinator and director of digital learning. “We’ve had great success with that. The schools are loving the flexibility.” For example, students who are at a second-grade reading level,
“Attendance has risen on Fridays because it’s Fun Fridays. They’re still learning, but they can choose the activities. … The whole philosophy behind Go Grow is to cultivate that desire to learn. That’s what we try to focus on. If the kid is excited to learn something, they’re more willing to do the academics behind it.” The Pitt County Virtual Academy or PCVA has been around since 2013, according to DeCresie. “When we started this, Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker gave us the goal to reinvest in our own teachers,” DeCresie said. “This is money we can put in our own teachers. We’re still spending the same amount
every month, so it’s not really a cost savings. The money is just staying here now.” During the 2018-19 school year, 1,200 students took PCVA classes, a growth of 23 percent from two years ago. Courses offered range from core classes, such as English and math I, to electives, such as African American studies and marine science, to AP courses, such as art history and world history. “Mostly, it is juniors and seniors since they’re not required to be on campus and have a flexibility to their schedules,” DeCresie said. “Some kids use PCVA because they play sports, so they use that fourth period class as their online class so when they’re pulled out (to travel to away games) they’re not missing instructional time. … “The other big use of that is our eighth-graders. Through our gifted program, we’ve been using the Virtual Academy to accelerate their learning while they’re still in middle school, so they’re challenged a little bit more and can get to those Advanced Placement classes sooner.” During the registration process, students can ask their guidance counselor to be placed in PCVA courses rather than face-to-face courses. The guidance counselors have been trained to decide if students are good candidates for online learning. They look for the basic characteristics of online learners, such as being goal-oriented, while also making sure students are capable of success in AP and Honors level classes. “That person’s job is to keep up with a) the gifted kids in high school
looking to expand my career. … I took my whole master’s degree online, and I enjoyed being an online student so I felt like I would enjoy teaching online,” Woolard said. “I’m a very organized person; that’s one of my strengths. As an online student, you have to be very organized, so I think this plays to my strengths as a teacher. “The other thing I really enjoy about teaching for PCVA is that it provides lots of options for the students and caters to their individual needs.”
and b) the kids doing online work,” DeCresie said. “They’ll go in and
At the middle school level, PCVA is an enrichment program to help
check their grades. There is a system in place where teachers can send
them accelerate their studies. Online courses are pass/fail at that level,
alerts to the advisor. Then, they can go out to the high school and
but they still receive the credit hours if they pass. Rising freshman Daniel Akhnmukh took math III and Earth and
follow up with the student to see what’s going on.” PCVA teachers are highly effective, veteran teachers. They create curriculum based on the standards, which can be shared with beginning
environmental science online as an eighth-grader because he had exhausted the math options at Aycock. “They don’t really offer any more advanced math classes beyond
teachers throughout the county. Stephanie Woolard is one of those teachers.
math I,” he said. “If I finish all my math credits at the high school, I can
She is an AIG teacher at Aycock Middle School and a PCVA English
take (college courses) because they don’t want you to finish high school
teacher. She teaches every student at Innovation Early College High
courses early and then never take another class.” He recommends students take the PCVA classes if they are
School through the program. “I had heard about the program when it was still fairly new. I was
organized because most of the work is done by one’s self.
The whole philosophy behind Go Grow is to cultivate that desire to learn. That’s what we try to focus on. If the kid is excited to learn something, they’re more willing to do the academics behind it. 31
Teacher Leadership Institute AM
itt County Schools has been able to provide various levels of training to its
Instead of just teaching all beginning teachers the same, we recognize there are some who are excelling and doing really great things. If we can empower them, it’s a whole other level of support for teachers in Pitt County.
- Thomas Feller, director of professional learning and leadership development and division of educator effectiveness and leadership
The one-year program features four elements - orientation, training, resources and advocacy.
educators and has improved teacher
Beginning teachers gain access to a shared
retention through the Pitt County Educational
Google drive with resources such as lesson plans,
template designs and parent letters, among other
The foundation offers three primary programs designed to foster teacher enhancement and retention.
items that can be shared with every teacher in the district. Teachers collaborate and receive training and
The Key Beginning Teacher program is the
tips for being an effective teacher through the
first of the three and is “in the arch of support
program, as well as learn how to advocate for
that program centers around engaging and
themselves and their classrooms with the state
empowering our beginner teacher leaders so
government to receive funding and support.
they can become collaborative teachers among
Next, the Teacher Leadership Institute or TLI
beginning teachers,” according to Dr. Seth Brown,
allows the district to engage “teacher leaders
the director of Educator Support and Leadership
who are excellent in the classroom working with
students and getting them to lead other teachers,”
Thomas Feller, the director of Professional
Learning and Leadership Development and
“That requires a whole new set of skills. The first
Division of Educator Effectiveness and Leadership,
group really taught us about that. That’s a program
added, “Instead of just teaching all beginning
right now I’m really excited about,” Brown added.
teachers the same, we recognize there are some
TLI is a two-year leadership development
who are excelling and doing really great things. If
program that highlights the premise that any
we can empower them, it’s a whole other level of
teacher can be a leader. Teachers learn how to
support for teachers in Pitt County. (Key Beginning
lead themselves, lead individuals and lead groups.
Teacher Program) is really about engaging our
“We don’t tell them who or what kind of leader
teacher leaders from the beginning of their first
they need to be. We just give them skills to try
these things out,” said Lauren Bowers, a teacher
leadership coordinator. The program is in high demand among
Two primary paths exist in the model community practice and co-teaching.
are able to learn more effectively,” Feller said. State and federal grants fund the programs.
teachers, with more than 60 applications being
“We work with teachers to design the
“The whole grant is a human management
submitted for the 2021 cohort, and has helped
pathways model to give these advance
to improve teacher retention rates.
teaching roles to our advanced teachers to
system, so it’s comprehensive in nature. It
“We’ve had 50 graduates, and out of the 50
allow them to stay in the classroom and
graduates, we only had two teachers leave the
expand their influence to other teachers and
district and it was for family reasons,” Bowers
also take on some extra responsibilities and
said. “I think the benefits are the increased
give them extra supplements to compensate
skills, compensation and building relationships.
them for that,” Feller said.
deals with so many elements from the very beginning of being a teacher all the way up through the most experienced folks who could retire but choose to work with other teachers,” Feller said. “The original purpose of the grant
Our teachers leave us feeling confident.
The community practice model features a
was to increase teacher effectiveness. Initial
They feel confident and capable and sure of
facilitating teacher that leads a small team of
data would suggest we are. Teachers enrolled
themselves. I think they have a new identity
teachers to do action research in the school to
in these programs remain in the district longer
of what leadership is, and how it impacts the
identify where students are struggling and then
than those that don’t.”
tries to assists the student.
The Career Pathway Model is another avenue for teacher leadership.
Brown added, “If we take our best teachers
“The second one is what we call co-teaching model,
or teachers that are very effective and allow
them to teach more students and work with
“That’s by far the largest of the three in
Teachers (MCTs). You have a lead teacher who
terms of funding and number of teachers. The
works in the classroom with other novice
other teachers to improve their practice. That’s
whole idea behind the Career Pathway Model
teachers, and it helps them improve their craft.
is investigating some ways we can keep some
They’re helping them really understand how
of our best teachers in the classroom working
to become a better teacher. The idea is that
with kids. For years we got some really good
over time the lead teacher will fade out of that
teachers that leave,” Feller said, adding teachers
the philosophy. “We have excellent teachers in this county … For me, I can’t expect a single principal in a single school to fix the school. It takes everybody working together. The idea is to
cited two primary reasons for leaving. “They
The idea is we can pour in and support these
engage our teacher leaders to be right there
want to have a bigger influence (and would say)
teacher leaders, and they can turn around and
and beside the principal, working together.
‘I want to reach more kids and I feel like this is
pour in and support other teachers who then
That’s the key to tackling some of these wicked
the only way I can make money.’ ”
turn around and support the kids. So the kids
problems we have been facing for years.”
By AmBer revels-stocks
P arent e n gage ment P ro gram
Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County graduated 14 engaged parents in May 2019 from its year-long Parent Engagement Program.
over the topic of public education in such an amazing way.”
“I was a product of Pitt County Schools, and I work in public education. I have a real
Pitt County Schools supports PEP because
passion for it, so I wanted to see how I could
its graduates become active, engaged parents,
be more involved,” she said. “I found (the
The Parent Engagement Program, or PEP,
which is something every school district
program) beneficial to me. I work in public
prepared parents to be effective partners
needs more of, according to Superintendent
education, but I gained so much more in-
in the education system by teaching them
Dr. Ethan Lenker.
depth information. … I think it’s extremely
how schools are run, while also developing
“Anytime you can build parent advocacy
beneficial for any parent to do the PEP
effective communication tools, according
and parent understanding is a good thing,” he
program and go to the presentations (Parents
to Kylene Dibble, the director of Parents for
said. “The whole program has been so positive
for Public Schools) offer throughout the year.”
for me personally, I can’t say enough about
Amy Cole, District 2 representative, has two
“These students have spent about six
it. We support it because the idea of getting
children in Farmville schools. She understands
hours, or one day per month, learning all
parents actively engaged is huge, especially in
the importance of parent engagement; this is
that they could about public education and
today’s world where so much is changing.”
why she wanted to participate.
committing to being positive, well-equipped
Among the 14 graduates are two members
“I wanted to learn everything I could about
advocates for public education,” Dibble said.
of the Pitt County Board of Education, who
the public school system. … I’m going to make
“This was probably one of our more diverse
were elected in November 2018.
myself a better board member, a better parent
groups, everything from where they were
District 1 representative Tracy Everette-
and a stronger advocate based on what I
from to their racial, ethnic and socioeconomic
Lenz learned about the program online, while
learned,” she said. “The most interesting thing
backgrounds. It’s been an incredibly diverse
she was researching ways to become more
I learned, as far as being a PEP participant, was
group that all came together and has unified
involved as a parent.
about learning styles. We learned about how
our learning is going to be different from our children. I’m also a teacher, so I found it very fascinating to learn about how my students might learn.” They are not the only school board members to have participated in PEP. Anna Barrett Smith (District 5), Betsy Flanagan (District 4), Caroline Doherty (District 7) and Melinda Fagundus (District 8) have all graduated from the program as well. “I would love for every parent in Pitt County to have an opportunity to take this program because now I have a whole new perspective,” said Flanagan. “As I went through this program, I realized how much I wanted to get even more involved. It really opened the door to empowering me to run for the Board of Education. … All parents could really benefit from the education you get from Parents for Public Schools. They have a full curriculum you go through. A lot of times, what I get calls about, are things that parents don’t understand the board is not responsible for. It’s a good idea to know what the county funds, what the state funds, who regulates testing. It really could be beneficial to every parent in Pitt County.” Ayden resident Ashley Watkins wanted to
they do things a certain way, I could help
comfortable being a part of something. They’ll
others understand that too and become better
spend time with them during lunch and
advocates for our students and our teachers,”
recess. The principal will be checking in with
she said. “One of my favorite modules was on
them to see if everything’s going well and if
the school budget and how school budgets
not, he’ll find out what the issue is,” Jones said.
work … There’s a lot more involved than you
“I’m gathering information for the families
would expect. It’s really interesting to learn.”
about what’s available in Grifton so they have
Toward the end of the program, each
this information in hand. It’s based on what I
participant is tasked with completing a project
would want to know if I was moving into a new
that will enhance a school in Pitt County.
community. It’s in both English and Spanish
Those projects ranged from beautification of
since Grifton has a large Hispanic population
schools to enhancing agriculture programs,
according to Dibble.
While Jones does not have any children in
Greenville resident Lori Jones created a
Pitt County Schools, she felt it was important
new student welcome program at Grifton
to learn more about the education system in
learn more about how schools operate, so she
“There are two student ambassadors who
can be a better advocate for her two children.
“Every child deserves a good education.
will be active participants in giving school tours
“I’ve always loved and appreciated what
Public school is usually their only avenue. It’s
to the new students, answering any questions
very different down here than it was up north.
our public schools do for our children and
they might have. The student ambassadors
A lot of the children I’ve worked with (at the
communities, but I felt that if I had a better
will also be spending two weeks with the
Boys and Girls Club) needed someone to
understanding of how they worked and why
students when they come in so they get more
advocate for them. Then they’d get a better
“This was probably one of our more diverse groups, everything from where they were from to their racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s been an incredibly diverse group that all came together and has unified over the topic of public education in such an amazing way.” - Kylene Dibble, Parents for Public Schools Director
education,” she said. This is the fourth cohort the program has graduated, which means 70 parents overall have graduated from PEP. Parents for Public Schools is offering workshops throughout the 2019-20 school year. They are single sessions held in the evening. Each attendance area will have the option to host at least one workshop over the course of the year. Last school year, Parents for Public Schools held 26 conversations with more than 370 participants. The group also holds school tours for interested parents. The next PEP cohort will be held in 2020-21.
A.G. COX MIDDLE SCHOOL Students at A.G. Cox were put to the test in the 2018-19 Science Olympiad. The school participated in the nationwide STEM competition for the first time after a 10-year lull. Students participated in 16 of the 24 competition categories that were designed to test students’ problem-solving skills and knowledge of science principles. Some of the categories included constructing a rollercoaster and meteorology. Students spent five months preparing for the competition by conducting their own research based off of prior knowledge and practicing constructions for the competition. Some competition categories were designed for students to work individually; others were group competition. A.G. Cox placed 10th. “That was a good start. I’m just excited we were able to get it back up and running. I think it’s a good experience for the kids. I’m excited going into next year,” said Jill Mullis, a sixth grade Science and Social Studies teacher. Along with testing their knowledge, Science Olympiad allows students to learn to work together in a team and brings new life to
STEM ideas, Mullis said. “It was a very hard event. Just to see the interest going in the science field is interesting in itself. A lot of kids have never experienced this stuff. Kids get so caught up that scholarships are only athletic and that you don’t get scholarships for science,” Mullis said, adding scholarships are available at the high school level. School officials plan to compete each year.
A YDEN E LEMENTARY S CHOOL Flexible seating options for students has proven to increase engagement with less behavioral issues. “When children are comfortable, they are more apt to focus at the task at hand,” said principal Amy Hilliard. Entering its third year of flexible seating, fourth grade teacher Hannah McClure and third grade teacher Austin Reese first launched flexible seating options in their classrooms in 2017. “We saw a huge difference in the students’ willingness to engage,” Hilliard said. “It is not ‘you have to do it this way.’ Teaching and engaging conversations doesn’t have to fit in a box. And students are happy to have a break from the norm.” Students have the option to sit on futons, pillows, stools at high-top tables or exercise balls. Some classrooms feature floor mats, hammocks, video gaming rockers, scoop rockers, beanbag chairs, tires furnished with pillows and even a teepee and trampoline. “We are taking the children out of the desk. Students will take a book and go sit where they are comfortable,” Hilliard said.
There are still students who prefer to sit at a desk or table, and that is fine, Hilliard added. “People have different behaviors, and we want to maintain options. They have the say-so. It empowers them, and for many, that’s huge,” she said. Reese added, “You can give students a voice and a choice, and still have them engaged.” Students with significant behavioral issues benefit greatly from option seating, Reese said. “If they are bouncing on a ball, energy is flowing to their brain, which allows them to focus on their work. The bounce balls also help with posture. They can’t lean back or slouch, so they are in a constant state of learning,” Reese said, adding flexible seating helps deter fidgeting because the students are able to move in their seat choice. Some chair options feature fidget bands on the chair legs, which allows fidgety students to continually move their feet on the band. For others who have a tendency to move a lot in their seat, cushions deter that movement. Reese saw behavioral issues decrease by 85
percent in her classroom. “They are focused more, so they make better decisions in the classroom,” McClure said. “I have definitely noticed a difference. Their choice is their responsibility. They have to make a positive choice of what fits them.” Teachers have applied for grants through the school’s PTA and Donors Choose to purchase various seating options. Others brought furniture in from their homes or purchased seating options using their own money.
A YDEN -G RIFTON H IGH S CHOOL Ayden-Grifton revamped its AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program six years ago to reach its first-generation college students. AVID, which teaches students organizational and notetaking skills and introduces them to college options and career opportunities, began 11 years ago with one teacher running the program for students in grades 9-12. Today, there is an AVID teacher in each grade level following a schoolwide approach, according to AVID teacher Gracie Baker. Approximately 25 students per grade level are enrolled in AVID. Freshmen and sophomores focus on digital and binder organizational skills and communication skills. The skills build a foundation for students to not only be successful in high school, but in college and throughout life, Baker said. Juniors and seniors focus on the college process, including touring campuses, filling out college applications and financial need forms, applying for scholarships and taking the SAT and ACT tests. AVID students are encouraged to take college level courses or AP classes. As seniors, AVID students must be dual-enrolled in high school and online college classes. AVID students must complete at least 20 hours of community
service. They participate in team-building activities at The Refuge in Ayden and East Carolina University’s ropes course. “We want our students to be well-rounded,” said principal Dr. Chena Cayton. “AVID shows students college can be a reality. It is right in their grasp.”
A YDEN M IDDLE S CHOOL Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Ayden Middle School administrators ensure their students are fed, so they can focus on learning and not hunger pains. In 2019, the school launched Second Chance Breakfast, which is served at 9:25 a.m. “On average, we were only seeing 25 students a day during the 7:15 a.m. breakfast. This was a growing concern. We want to make sure everyone gets breakfast,” said principal Marieka Harrison. Second Chance Breakfast is a “grab-and-go” system. For a dollar, students can grab a fruit, entrée and carton of milk and eat their breakfast in the classroom. By day three of Second Chance Breakfast, participation grew from 50 students to 100 students grabbing breakfast on the run — to class. “Some kids don’t like to eat first thing in the morning,” Harrison said.
desired. Pitt County Schools School Nutrition Services suggested
Second Chance Breakfast allows students to eat later in the morning hours “when they are awake,” she added. Students who eat at 7:15 a.m. can eat again at 9:25 a.m. if so
Second Chance Breakfast, which has seen strong support from parents, Harrison said. The children are also thankful, she added.
B ELVOIR E LEMENTARY S CHOOL Students at Belvoir Elementary School
up, and thinks in Spanish. He writes in
have the opportunity to learn English and
Spanish and talks in English. The students
Spanish starting in kindergarten.
know the process,” said principal Alison
Now offered in grades K-4, Dos Mundos
Covington. “Our students will be fluent in
immerses students in two languages.
both languages by the time they leave fifth
Students rotate days between all Spanish
and all English — meaning in the Spanish
English and Spanish teachers collaborate
classroom, everything is spoken and written
not only with each other, but with teachers
in Spanish and in the English classroom
in other countries. Students also FaceTime
everything is English-based.
with other students.
“Our students are immersed in a diverse
Honduras, Spain, Ecuador and Costa Rica on
environment, constantly getting a rich
Instructional Coach Courtney Dubis
staff to teach the Spanish lessons. Another
learning experience. We want them to grow
teacher in each grade level is teaching using
up with different experiences,” Covington
added, “When they go into math, it is a
Spanish,” Covington said.
continuation of the lesson. It is not a repeat of the English day.”
Through the program, students not only
The learning content is standards-based,
become bi-lingual, but bi-lateral, which
so when students are learning all-day in
means they can read and speak English and
Spanish, they are being taught core subject
K-5, and the program does not end in fifth
grade. Dual-enrollment programs will be
“My son is in the program. He wakes
“They are not just learning how to speak
By 2020-21, Dos Mundos will be taught
offered in middle school and high school.
B ETHEL S CHOOL With 25 percent of the town’s population in
makes you want to do good in school.”
Bethel School, the school becomes children’s go-
Close relationships go hand in hand with
to place for education, support, friendship and fun,
excellent education, according to Elaina Wingfield,
during and after hours.
an English and social studies teacher for grades 5-8
The 300 students at the K-8 school literally
and adviser for three clubs.
grow up together like siblings, and teachers
“It’s normalcy that doesn’t exist in another
become like second parents.
public school. It’s a beautiful place to be. You get
“I have a teacher or friend I can go to when I
to know all the students and their families. You
need help with something. We’re like a big, happy
are their counselor, their babysitter, their mom.
family,” said rising high school freshman Zaniyla Watts. There is always something to do at Bethel School. “When you walk through the doors at Bethel School, you feel welcome. The teachers want
It’s important to not only teach but also immerse only three public schools to go to state competition
yourself in their world, because you may be the
in the spring.
only person in that kid’s world,” Wingfield said.
Whether or not one is a high-achieving student, Bethel sees that all students reach their goals.
Rising freshman Iseuri Bautista was new last year, but quickly fit right in.
“I’m not the smartest kid in the world, but I like
“I love Bethel because everyone is so
school,” said rising freshman Cadence Mundell,
sports. My teachers understand that. The teachers
welcoming. The first day, I wasn’t shy because
a yearbook staffer, SGA president, Beta Club
will do everything in their power to help you do
everyone walks up to you to talk to you,” she said.
treasurer, volleyball player and cheerleader. Bethel
what you want to do,” said three-sport athlete and
The community lends outstanding support
is excited to share their welcome to principal Leigh
rising freshman Hunter Manning, adding teachers
to the school. For example, churches and
Ann Swinson as well.
you to be actively engaged inside and outside of
attend his sporting events, too. “Knowing your
organizations raised $700 in two days to sponsor
Mundell is also a proud member of the school’s
teachers care enough to go to your sporting events
the Quiz Bowl Team’s lodging and meal at the state
winning Quiz Bowl team, which was one of the
… lets you know how much you mean to them and
C.M. E PPES M IDDLE S CHOOL School resource officer Bruce Groccia is making a “phenomenal” difference in the lives of students at C.M. Eppes, according to principal Cornelia Cox. “If the entire nation could see what we see in him, this is what interaction should look like. I have learned more from him about relationships. He knows every story. He knows every situation,” Cox said. “We are living in a society that is so divided between the police and community. (Groccia) is that bridge for C.M. Eppes. He makes relationshipbuilding even easier. When we begin to rebuild a relationship, he’s that gateway.” Groccia has “genuine compassion” and builds genuine relationships, Cox added. “He is the definition of what an SRO should be,” she said. “He is forming relationships with children we sometimes can’t reach.” Groccia truly cares about the students and is dedicated to the staff, she said. He strives to ensure the students’ needs are met. “Their needs not met at home are met
here. (Groccia) goes above and beyond. He is not here just to exist. He wants to be here. I can see the bonds. A lot of kids just need to know you’re genuine. We can’t teach them if they don’t trust us,” Cox said. Being an SRO is “more than just security and more than keeping the building safe — it is about forming relationships that can’t be broken,” she said. It is all about how one talks to another, Groccia said. “I talk to our students the way I would want to be treated. I want them to know I love them. I am their friend. That’s how you make a difference,” he said. “I wake up with a smile knowing I’m coming to work, and I come home with a smile. I love these kids and couldn’t think about doing anything else.” Groccia made a lasting impression on rising freshman Ironeé Cox. “He helps me. He talks to me when I’m in trouble. He looks after me as a friend and family. I know I can go to him for help,” Cox said, adding she believes Groccia’s lessons
and support helped her mature, which has prepared her for high school. “I know he wants me to do good. I feel good about myself.” Groccia strives to be an advocate for the students. “We don’t always know what is happening behind closed doors. We have to ask. Some don’t have a home. What can we do? We need to make sure our students succeed. For some, their home lives are tough. You need to have a heart,” Groccia said.
C HICOD S CHOOL Chicod’s new Maker Space lab not only helps
students better understand math and science
“We assigned an amount to each item and they
concepts, it also allows students to participate in
got to see how much it would cost the company to
activities that teach them team work, accountability,
buy that equipment, so if it were lost, how much
spreadsheets, inventory and more.
could come out of your paycheck,” Sheppard said.
Career and Technical Education coordinator Renee Sheppard and K-8 Technology Instructor Paige Stanley are planning use of the space.
In addition to science and math, students wrote about their experience. “Kids that are leaders in their other classes began
Sixth-graders worked in six groups using K’Nex
to depend on the kids they haven’t depended on
construction system kits to build amusement rides.
before. It was cool to see those kids make decisions
“We would not be able to do six of them at a time in a regular classroom,” Stanley said.
for their group,” Stanley said. Sheppard said, “Kids that we see in other classes
“It allowed us to set it up as our ‘factory’ and
who don’t necessarily shine or stand out, don’t ask
they were the workers. We talked about being on
questions or maybe have a behavior problem, we
time and accountable to your teammates. If you are
saw them in a completely different way here. Some
absent then somebody is going to have to pull your
of those kids became our leaders. It was good to see
moment.” Teachers have sought grants to obtain other technology for their classrooms. “It’s interesting to see 5-year-olds and their own little iPads,” Sheppard said. Virtual reality glasses and JIMU robots students program to walk and dance have also been game
Sheppard added, “We had quality control. … If
Chicod’s AIG coordinator Kristin Justice, who has
they weren’t constructed well, then it would throw
used hands-on technology like spherical robots in
the passengers out. We tied it to the real world of
her classroom, said, “These projects help kids better
“We’re excited about it. It’s going to take us years
understand the concepts their teachers are teaching
to catch up to where some (schools) are now, but
in the classroom. It’s great to see that light bulb
we’re getting there slowly,” Sheppard said.
changers for hands-on learning opportunities.
C REEKSIDE E LEMENTARY S CHOOL Creekside Elementary School offers students
gives students the opportunity to participate in both.
many opportunities outside of the normal classroom
The school’s running club meets after school
settings. Through its clubs, students can expand their
Tuesdays and Thursdays in the spring and fall. It is
horizons in music, art, maker space and physical
open to students in grades 3-5. The club practices for
two 5K races it participates in.
The school’s chorus club is open to fifth graders
“We want to get our bodies strengthened and
and meets Fridays during recess. Members practice
give back to the community,” said physical education
songs for upcoming performances, like the winter
teacher Jimmy Bowen, explaining the races benefit
and spring programs, Winterville Christmas tree
juvenile diabetes and East Carolina University
lighting ceremony and Barnes & Noble School Nights.
“The club gives students something to look
Entering its seventh year in the 2019-20 school
forward to with friends. They get to be part of a group,
year, the running club typically averages 60-plus
and learn to use their voice to the best of their ability,
while growing socially,” said chorus teacher Katie Alford.
“I love to run. It’s my out, and I wanted to inspire others,” said Bowen, who started the running club.
Art club meets Wednesdays during fifth grade
“Running is a great way to handle stress and exercise.
recess. The club offers students “more freedom in
Participants are at all levels, all shapes and sizes.
the art room,” said art teacher Caitlin Curte.
For some, it’s a walking social club. Our parents and
“They get extra time to work on challenging projects and have more choices. It is opportunity for enrichment,” she said. Offering the music and art clubs on different days
teachers are a part of it.” The running club teaches students responsibility. They are responsible for remembering their workout clothes, shoes and water bottle.
“There is also the social aspect. They are engaging with others and learning to lift people up who are struggling,” Bowen said. Alford added, “Our clubs give kids the opportunity to socialize with others who share their same likes.” Curte said, “They are building relationships and stronger bonds.” The maker space club is open to students in grades K-5, featuring hands-on activities to learn how to build and code and complete art projects through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). The club meets at various times throughout the day. Students work in groups to solve the problems.
D.H. C ONLEY H IGH S CHOOL Students interested in health sciences can get a taste of seven of 12 medical careers in Conley High
view X-rays. The
School’s health careers STEM lab. Pairs of students
techniques and drawing blood from simulated
rotate through a series of modules of lessons,
videos, hands-on and written assignments related
“One student thought she wanted to be a nurse,
to the fields of dentistry, nursing, medical imaging,
but the sight of the needle and simulated blood
ophthalmology, clinical lab, veterinary medicine,
made her change her mind,” Stanley said.
emergency medical technician, pharmacology, therapeutic services, speech therapy, biotechnology and information management.
Medical Imaging covers radiology, reading X-rays and how to use an endoscope. Ophthalmology, eye care and disease, shows
“They know they want to go into a health care
students how to do eye exams, study different
field, but they are not sure which one. Hopefully,
lenses and fit glasses. In clinical lab, students
medical coding and medical records. Each module
it will help some of them decide which route they
examine specimens and learn to read lab results,
offers concepts, vocabulary, reading, procedure
want to take,” said teacher Jennifer Stanley, a former
which is vital in other medical fields, Stanley said.
videos and a hands-on activity to complete with a
respiratory therapist. “A lot of them think they know
The EMT module teaches CPR, operation of an
what a job consists of, but they don’t really know.
automated external defibrillator, bleeding control,
This class can either stimulate or eliminate interest
wound dressing and more.
in a particular field.” Students love it because it’s hands-on, not just lecturing or taking notes, she added.
“Just knowing skills in general is helpful, in case you are out with friends and something happens,” Stanley said.
In dentistry, students learn to use dental tools
Students learn about DNA and genetics in
to remove plaque and drill teeth, make molds and
biotechnology. Information management covers
lab partner, using materials contained in a supply cabinet at each station. “There’s something different every day. I think that’s why they like it,” Stanley said. Rising sophomore Sarah Chrisman said, “It lets you get a little taste of everything. … It’s hands-on. You get to see what you can do. Drilling and filling cavities was pretty cool.”
E.B. A YCOCK M IDDLE S CHOOL Nine Pitt County elementary schools feed into
school program to make sure the kids that need to be
Aycock Middle, creating a melting pot of cultures,
in it are there. We are getting better at adding more
socio-economic and academic backgrounds.
pieces to the program,” said principal Darryl Thomas,
“I think students are happy to be here. I know
referring to the iReady data.
teachers are, because we serve a wide variety of
Every spring and fall, students receive extra help
population,” said eighth-grade science teacher
from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and
Angela Grillo. “You have to get to know all of them
and meet them where they are. I think we do a good job of that here at Aycock.” Aycock focuses on data from the iReady interactive online learning program to address each student’s unique needs. “If a student uses the program, they will grow (in knowledge and skill),” Grillo said.
“The kids want to come. They beg to stay,” Grillo said. Parents are pleased to know extra help in available, according to Thomas. “A lot of parents might not be able to afford tutoring. We provide free transportation home and free snacks,” he said.
their recipe written out,” Thomas said. “These nights and after-school tutoring go a long way toward connecting with parents.” Building relationships with one another is just as
In the spring, math and reading teachers created
Aycock strives to engage parents. Before school
a March Madness theme for an iReady bracket
starts, an open house just for new sixth-grade
competition between classes to make increased use
students and parents is held. Each grade level also
of iReady more fun. In the end, a cookout was held to
has individual curriculum nights for parents. An old-
reward the classes with the most use and completed
school spelling bee using end-of-grade vocabulary
Circles, in which students answer questions and
words also draws parents to the school.
communicate from the heart.
important for students, Grillo said. For 20 minutes every other Friday, as many as 60 students meet in the media center for Restorative
Now entering its fourth year, Aycock’s afterschool
Also popular is a healthy food competition that
“That is the most powerful thing I have ever done
tutoring program is popular with students and
has students build meals at home and then serve it to
in my teaching,” Grillo said. “It allows students to learn
judges at Family Food Night.
that even though they all look different, they have
“We are being more intentional with our after-
“Students dress nice, do a table setting and have
similar stories. They get to know each other’s stories.”
E ASTERN E LEMENTARY S CHOOL In 2018, Eastern introduced the Sanford Harmony program to its fourth grade teachers, who are now teaching it to other teachers. Sanford Harmony is a program that promotes social and emotional skills. Teachers receive lesson plans, storybooks, games and conversation cards to get them started. Children are given opportunity to connect and get comfortable with one another before academic class work begins. “Once you start to know a person, what they like and don’t like, what they’re interested in, what makes them happy or sad, or what’s going on in their life, then you’re able to develop more empathy,” said Janey Hachmeister, a fourth grade math and science teacher using the program. “We want kids to work on soft skills of empathy, resilience, persistence, but it’s hard to teach those. Sanford Harmony is about letting our kids get to know each other and let them problem solve outside of education, just hanging out, then they’re going to be able to do that within instruction. “I don’t think just test prep is really preparing kids
for the optimism, flexibility. If you are not able to work with somebody, how are you going to get or keep those jobs you want?” Her class practices greeting each other with a handshake, looking each other in the eye and saying the other’s name. Then they have a brief time to comment on what’s going on in their lives. “It’s been a game-changer. They have developed a caring culture among themselves. They’re nicer to each other, more empathetic. Sanford Harmony is something I will not get rid of. I hold it sacred,” Hachmeister said. “I had a kid that is usually happy that was sad one day. That concerns time gave him the platform to share that his brother was in the hospital.” That turned into the whole class sending handmade get well cards to the boy’s brother, which made them all happy and further connected the peer group. She also introduced the kids to Eli, the empathetic elephant, a Beanie Baby that is daily awarded from one to another based on witnessed acts of empathy. “You get to know people better, get to know their
names, get to know what’s happening. If they have a concern, we can make them feel better. If they have a celebration, we celebrate with them,” said rising fifthgrader Tristian Crawford. Rising fifth-grader Antwan Bell added, “This class is like family. When I wanted to quit the talent show, they encouraged me not to,” Bell said. “I believe you should spread the love everywhere.” Hachmeister said, “You want to see the kids happy and excited, and that is what I see when we have morning meetings.”
E LMHURST E LEMENTARY S CHOOL The popular Spanish program at Elmhurst is going into its third year. Marcoantonio Meza-Carrillo, 35, taught English in his native country of Colombia.
and sequence curriculum for teaching Spanish to children of six grade levels. Each class in grades K-5 comes to him once a week as an encore, or elective, class.
“This is my passion. It is something you enjoy
“We want them to be able to read and write in
and at the same time you learn something from
Spanish before they get ready for middle school,
the kids. I’m still learning English. So when I say
but once a week is not enough opportunity to
something wrong, the kids say, ‘It’s like this,’” he said.
become fluent, but they can have a basic skill set,”
“I think it’s good that I came here to teach Spanish,
said principal Colleen Burt.
because they thought just Mexican people are Spanish.” Teaching American children is quite different. Meza-Carrillo is used to classes of up to 60 students
Meza-Carrillo teaches vocabulary, the alphabet, farm animals and more, which he approaches with age appropriate techniques.
“We’re fortunate to even be able to explore and
Meza-Carrillo also ventures to other classes like
have that option. Families enjoy it, when they come
physical education or the computer lab to introduce
on tours, this is one of the first rooms they want to
“If you come here and just talk, they won’t
Spanish in other areas of the school. The school also
learn. They need something that we move, sing,
has a Spanish Club for older students and native
go in,” Burt said. “Mr. Meza is very animated, so they
something different. They have more energy. I feel
speakers who meet with him during the lunch
I need to be many different things compared to
who listen with rapt attention.
Colombian kids,” he said.
Having an international Spanish teacher allows
are always up and dancing and singing and using the smart board. It makes parents feel good that this is an opportunity they might not have at another
North Carolina does not have a standard course
the students to be introduced to many aspects of
school. We are the only school that has Spanish
of study for foreign language for elementary
the Spanish culture, not just its language, such as
as an encore class for all students. It’s part of our
education. Elmhurst had to create its own scope
festivals, pageants and Vallenato music.
school’s global health and wellness theme.”
F ALKLAND E LEMENTARY S CHOOL Falkland Elementary is taking a new
approach to teaching using small groups
“The climate has changed. Parents are
that are “individualized and purposeful,” said
receiving positive phone calls home, and
principal Anthony Perkins.
the parents are buying in, and support from
“We see through collaboration, small
home is increasing,” Perkins said.
groups focus on skills. We are meeting the
A small-group learning environment
needs of where each student is. We are
serves as an independent practice or form of
expanding minds and building dreams,”
assessment, according to assistant principal
Changing their teaching approach from the whole class to small group settings is
“This allows the teacher to reflect and fill in the gaps,” Gilbert said.
an immediate positive shift in its students.
Small group learning also allows for more
“Our students are more excited to learn,
No child is falling in the cracks.
one-on-one learning between a teacher
and want to be here,” Perkins said. “One kid at
“We can see the target need and grow the
and student. While the class is working in
a time. We know we are making a difference.”
making an impact, he added.
student to the next level,” Perkins said.
groups, a teacher can take a student aside
Title I Community Outreach coordinator
The staff is fully committed to the new
and provide additional opportunities to learn
Beth Ward added, “They see we believe in
approach. Rapport among students and
and be proactive, according to counselor
them, and they are beginning to believe in
staff has improved and so are students’
confidence levels. Staff has also noticed the
Launching the new teaching approach in
closer relationships are resulting in positive
the 2018-19 school year, Falkland staff saw
Falkland is a CAP Restart School with a focus on coding and robotics.
F ARMVILLE C ENTRAL H IGH S CHOOL The high school may be small, but its offerings are unlimited. “What makes us unique and different is we are a small high school with all the things large high schools have, but being small makes it easier for our students to take advantage of what we offer,” said principal Brad Johnston. Students have options for dualenrollment through Pitt Community College. In their freshmen and sophomore years, students complete all high school requirements. As juniors and seniors, they are mainly at Pitt Community College. “Only 30 to 40 percent of our seniors are on campus for one to two classes. The rest is through dual-enrollment and online classes,” Johnston said. “Since we are small, we can cater to each child. We have the luxury of knowing kids individually, and can personalize and tailor their high school experience from an academic side.”
Farmville Central’s students are “known, regardless of being the best athletically or the best academically,” Johnston added. “You don’t have to be the best, and you will still be recognized. In larger settings, it is harder to see them all. They are one of 1,500. We don’t have that problem. In the first month of school, staff has learned our freshmen and we know each kid. We learn their goals and ambitions, and make sure we do everything to help them get there,” he said. A majority of Farmville Central’s seniors graduate with college credits giving them a two-semester “jump on college,” Johnston said. “That saved a lot of money on tuition. I can’t ever emphasize that enough to parents,” he said, adding Farmville Central also caters to career paths. “These college credits are not just for four-year colleges. Many of our students take two-year programs into the
industrial workforce.” Through its CTE programs, students are graduating with certificates and associate degrees in welding, nursing and more. Nationwide, many are faced with college loans and debt — a $200,000 debt, only making $30,000 to $40,000 a year. “It doesn’t make economic sense. Why not save through dual-enrollment and get a year’s tuition free? It’s starting to change and shift, and high school looks different,” Johnston said.
F ARMVILLE M IDDLE S CHOOL The arts are a crucial part of learning.
“I didn’t have enough, so students had to
Music teacher Kathi Howell understands the
buddy up. Group A would play, and then they
value of music in the classroom and strives to
would pass the instrument to their partner
reach as many students as she can through
and Group B would play,” Howell said.
The Perkins grant has enabled each
She received a $52,064 Perkins Trust
student to have access to an instrument.
grant, which allowed her to purchase
Through the grant, Farmville Middle School
purchased six string bass (fiddles), 15 violins,
School administration agrees that without
10 violas, 10 cellos and a piano. The grant
the grant, many of Farmville Middle School’s
covered the costs of six sets of chorus risers
students wouldn’t have access to play an
with safety guards, instrument racks, music
stands and carts.
Having music and the arts in school is
Howell is always thrilled to put an
“Students who can’t afford to buy an
crucial to developing a well-rounded student,
instrument in a student’s hand for the first
instrument can now try. It would break my
Howell added. Principal Jeremiah Miller, a
heart when I didn’t have an instrument to
musician himself, agrees.
“In general music, they learn to play
give a student. Now, it does my heart good.
“The creative part of their brain is working.
violin. So many are interested that they join
I can see the confidence in them. Music is a
They are doing a lot at one time. They have
orchestra,” Howell said.
release of expression and emotion. They feel
to count the rhythm, think more and work
better … music brings out joy for these kids,”
individually. Their minds are growing daily,”
Unfortunately the interest outnumbered the instruments available.
G.R. W HITFIELD S CHOOL G.R. Whitfield is continuing to foster relationships between staff and students in an effort to help the students both socially and academically. “We know the children. When you have them from kindergarten to eighth grade, you get to know them pretty well. We know them academically and socially,” said school administration representative Will Sanderson. The relationships between staff and students help foster academic growth and allow teachers to know which students struggle and which students excel in every aspect of their education. Knowing specific strengths and weaknesses of students allow teachers to customize lessons plans that are challenging and engaging and allows students to receive extra help if needed, Sanderson said. “You know the students’ needs and work on them, but you also know the students’ strengths and work on them. You can measure their growth. What we do is prepare them for high school and beyond,” Sanderson said. Along with staff and student relationships, parent involvement with the school plays a large role at G.R. Whitfield. “We have really strong community support. Parent support is really good. We have a good parent-teacher association, and
athletic booster club that the parents run. We’re all trying to help the kids. That’s what we’re here for,” Sanderson said. Parent and community support help foster a love of learning, he added. “It’s a really good place for kids to learn and grow in.” Sanderson said. G.R. Whitfield looks forward to its first year with principal Ashley Wheeler as well.
G RIFTON S CHOOL Grifton School garnered a three-year grant in the 2018-19 school year, which is helping eighth-graders transition to high school. The grant funds a dual classroom teacher, who is teaching English to students at Grifton School and its feeder high school, AydenGrifton High School. In the 2018-19 school year, Grifton School launched AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to its eighth-graders. AVID not only teaches students how to stay organized and become strong note-takers, but it also introduces students to college options. Students tour colleges, learn how to interview for jobs and enhance their communication skills. Through its partnership with Ayden-Grifton High School, which also offers AVID, Grifton School students had access to information about high school pathways, Career & Technical Education and ROTC. “I see their confidence building. They are ready for high school and excited about high school,” said principal Kevin Smith. “They are fully informed about their options of early college, dual-enrollment or high school.” The partnership is “expanding horizons,” Smith said. “We want to mirror high school and have our students prepared and ready,” Smith said. “Going from a K-8 school to high school can be a struggle. It is a big change, and we want our students to succeed.
Their confidence levels are on the rise. We want them to have the tools to be resilient. They are in control of their lives and can make a difference.” AVID will be offered to students in grades 7-8 in the 2019-20 school year.
H.B. S UGG & S AM D. B UNDY E LEMENTARY S CHOOLS H.B. Sugg and Sam D. Bundy elementary schools are the first stepping stone in Farmville’s three-school campus. With a community-school atmosphere in place, principal Allison Setser has spent the past four years working toward growing strong partnerships with the community. The school hosts Doughnuts and Dudes for fathers and their child, Ladies and Lemonade for the mothers and Schoola-Palooza, a community-wide event featuring middle and high school students volunteering their time to host games and activities for elementary students and the community itself. Last year, the school launched Parent University focusing on the importance of school attendance, positive behavior, activities at home that enrich learning and lessons on anti-bullying. The school provided childcare and food for attendees and even transportation. More than 200
families attended Parent University. “We must work together,” Setser said. Sugg-Bundy was also the only AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) elementary school in the district until the 2019-20 school year. Now, Sugg-Bundy is assisting the district’s Restart Schools in launching AVID. “Our community leaders support AVID to ensure equitable learning for all of our kids,” Setser said. “It is an investment for the future of our community.” Any initiative pitched, the community buy-in is there, Setser said. “Our schools support one another. We have the community support. Our staff supports the town,” she said. “Our staff shops local. We support the businesses who support us. It is a beneficial partnership. It is important we invest in them, like they do us.” Sugg-Bundy has strong partnerships
with McDonald’s, which hosts its McTeacher Nights and Food Lion for Math Night. Local businesses also contribute gift cards and items for Sugg-Bundy’s new teacher welcome baskets. Staff can also been seen throughout town at A Taste of Farmville, Hometown Halloween, the Christmas Parade, Fourth of July, agri-markets and more.
H OPE M IDDLE S CHOOL The last day of the school week at Hope is no longer just Friday. It is Why Day. “Our school clientele is representative of the world. We have a lot of variety, a lot of needs and dealing with students with mental health issues. As we look at our students, we have to also focus on our teachers. ‘Why are we here? What is our role?’” said former principal Jennifer Poplin, who helped begin the Why Day movement. Principal Jennifer Johnson will continue leadership of the movement with the Hope staff. Instructional coach Sarah Adams said, “We have a lot of pressures. Mental health is a big issue. We also have the pressures of accountability. The heat is on schools. ‘Are you performing?’ And the measurements of our performance may or may not be fair or legitimate. We have to be constantly reassessing ourselves; sometimes second guessing ourselves. It can be a drain.” Teachers did not choose to be teachers to make great test scores. It was about kids.
“We decided we needed to be in this together. We needed to refocus on why we are here in the first place, so that we can open ourselves up to the collaborative culture that supports our students,” Adams said. At the start of the 2018-19 school year, teachers wrote on index cards the reason why they chose to work at Hope. Whether in the cafeteria, driving a bus, as a bookkeeper, custodian or teacher, all play a role in influencing students. Every staff members’ “why” was printed on T-shirts that were distributed at the end of semester teacher workday. “I feel strongly that it was very much appreciated and was very timely,” Poplin said. “It lifts them up. Some teachers have posted on their Facebook page little stories, without revealing any children, this happened today. ‘This is why I came here.’ ‘This is why I teach.’” Teachers said they want to inspire greatness, to develop future ready learners, to help children love books and reading, or to challenge
and enrich their students. The Why Day spirit grew to include a schoolwide online PowerPoint created by assistant principal Daniale Stancil, where staff can post inspirational experiences that come along to remind them of their original goal. “There’s a lot of noise about how we’re not doing enough — from the state, from parents. There is way more positive going on, and we’re trying to focus on that. If we don’t remind ourselves, we get bogged down in the negative noise,” Adams said.
I NNOVATION E ARLY C OLLEGE H IGH S CHOOL Students are more than just a grade. That
career readiness tips.
is the idea behind the Academic College and
“They’ll have conversations about high
Career Emotional and Social or ACEs class at
school drama and why people start stirring it
up at this age. They’ve discussed how to use ‘I’
“It’s a non-credit-bearing class that my
messages when we don’t like what someone
counselor, Lauren Brittenham, teaches, so
has said, such as ‘I felt hurt’ or ‘I disagree,’”
the students don’t get grades,” said principal
James explained. “They’ll talk about how to
Jennifer James. “Ms. Brittenham focuses on
deal with not liking somebody or what you do
social and emotional well-being.”
when you feel someone has done something
Topics include things like mindfulness, how to shake hands and growth mindset. “She has created several lessons for all
“We focus on that emotional and social piece to ensure they succeed, and not just academically,” James said.
wrong to you. Ms. Brittenham talks about all those things to increase their social and emotional well-being and their resilience.”
of these,” James said. “Sometimes, she has
That is especially important at Innovation
guest speakers who come in and talk about
because its population of students tend
to score higher on the Adverse Childhood
Since Innovation is on East Carolina
Experiences surveys, which Brittenham
University’s campus, some of the speakers
conducted with the students in the class.
are from the university’s resources, such as
She uses that information along with the
speakers from the LGBT center or student
information she gains during check-ins to
services. Others may teach college and
J.H. R OSE H IGH S CHOOL No other Pitt County school does flextime, like J.H. Rose. “Refresh” breaks the school’s three mid-day lunch periods into blocks. Students choose one block for lunch and then sign up for enrichment activities in the other two blocks. Rose is the first school in the state to use the Flex Time Manager program of computerized scheduling that allows students to set up their own schedule. It also allows school staff to account for every student’s whereabouts. In addition, Refresh offers students practical and interesting learning opportunities such as how to change a tire, manage money or administer CPR. Students also need time outside the classroom to meet with counselors, complete scholarship applications and attend club meetings. Teachers are required to schedule academic enrichment at least once a week. The rest is up to the teacher. Students can schedule a block to meet with teachers or counselors, check
out a new club, work on projects or study. Or they can take up yoga, cake decorating, first aid, poetry, participate in intramural sports to expend energy, learn to play chess, learn table manners or just relax in a teacher’s classroom. It has opened up opportunity for more students to be involved in more activities. “That way we are not holding students after school or before school. We are leveling the playing field for students who are bus bound, to make sure they have the same opportunities as everybody else,” said Ashleigh Wagoner, the Career Development coordinator and Refresh Design Committee member. Refresh allows teachers and students to build new relationships around personal interests in relaxed settings. “Teachers and students love it, but I think the parents are the most outspoken about how important it has been for their students,” said Amity Rea, a social studies teacher, who is also on the Refresh design committee. “We are
truly passionate about it. We feel this is what’s best for our students.” Wagoner added, “It’s part of our school culture at this point. It’s what you expect when you come to Rose.” Principal Monica Jacobson also said, “We want our students to feel a connection to our school. Every student is not the most academic. This lets them connect in other ways.”
LAKEFOREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL The Girls Living a Mission, or GLAM Girls, program at Lakeforest provides girls with character education, leadership development, health and wellness, fun events and service projects. In 2015, the founder Daughters of Worth, Liz Liles, became acquainted with victims of sex trafficking, rape, incest, domestic violence, neglect, homelessness, teen pregnancy and hunger. At first, the organization partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain. “We teach girls that they can create the tomorrow of their dreams by the decisions they make today. No matter what situation you come from, your life is up to you,” Liles said. GLAM teaches integrity, self-worth, to value their body, make positive friendship choices, to have a vision for their life, set goals and to serve others. Throughout the year, participants earn points for positive academic and behavioral improvements, for the chance to be named GLAM Girl of the Year and attend a glamorous gala.
Liles and Lakeforest guidance counselor Brittany Taylor co-facilitate the sessions with 22 GLAM Girls every other Monday. “I see the kids building relationships and trust in each other. If the girls in that group can (support) each other, we could see such potential in the culture of our school,” Taylor said. Principal Diana Denham added, “They need people to help them navigate positively through middle and high school. … They need those people that can pour into them different ideas and resources about who and what they can be, and who is there to support and build them up.” GLAM Girl Makayla Jordan, a rising fifthgrader, liked reading the assigned inspirational books and learned to express herself. Rising sixth-grader Kateryah Hill liked the service projects, like the canned food drive to benefit Joy Soup Kitchen. Being in GLAM Girls taught her the importance of showing other girls empathy and encouragement. Rising sixth-grader Nashiya Frank said,
“We get to talk about what we’ve been going through and help other girls in what they are going through. I have learned not to (fight) and fuss them out,” she said. GLAM Girls teaches how to socialize with others, said rising sixth-grader La’Kirah Beale. “It helps us realize we don’t need to put other girls down,” she said. “I use to fuss with other girls a lot.” Danazia Moore, a rising sixth-grader, has made new friends through the program. “It’s good to have true friends,” she said.
N ORTH P ITT H IGH S CHOOL North Pitt offers high tech education. The STEM lab offers three levels of exploration into the engineering careers of alternative energy, environmental technology, architectural design, manufacturing technology, robotics, material science, construction technology and biotechnology. STEM I focusing on four careers, STEM II focuses on another four and STEM III teaches college-level foundations of engineering and technology. Students are introduced to the careers through interactive lessons, group projects and oral presentations. “We can literally serve all types of students here in the STEM lab. Some come just to explore,” said STEM coordinator Tonya Miles. Miles helps students connect what they learn in the lab with related skills through field trips to the school’s own carpentry and welding shops.
“When I first came to this class, I had no clue what I wanted to do. Now I’m either interested in mechanical or civil engineering,” said Saul Chavez-Lopez, a rising senior, who has had three years in the STEM lab. Jorge Prado, a rising junior, who completed STEM III, added, “I came into the class not knowing what I wanted to do. As soon as I got into the architect module, I fell in love with it and that’s what I want to be now. I’m going to go to a four-year college and get an architect degree.” Miles McMillan, a rising senior, now wants to study construction management after he graduates high school. “I didn’t know that much engineering and things like that until I got in this class. Then I started learning about what they do. I got to see plans and designs and all that. It really helped me, because if I wouldn’t have taken the class, I wouldn’t have known about that and be interested in it,” he said, as he pointed
out a miniature house he and his classmates designed and built. Meanwhile, media coordinator Laura Mangum guides North Pitt students in how other facets of technology can be applied in their core classes. In the media center, Mangum facilitates the use of green screen video and stop action photography, electrical engineering, computerized paper crafting, digital music design and recording, robotics, virtual reality headsets and more.
NORTHWEST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Entering its third year as a Restart School, Northwest Elementary School utilizes a Go Grow plan for personalized learning, inquiry and student choice. This year’s focus will more on inquiry and question-based learning, according to principal Sara English. For example, in fifth grade, students learn about force and motion. Rather than reading about it first, students will first participate in an activity. The hands-on learning approach stimulates the mind, which leads to questions, English said. “Students learn from discovery first, and it is supported with content,” she said. “We want our students to get the experience first and then the academic content.” Open-ended learning allows students to be more engaged compared to reading a textbook, English explained. “It promotes a higher level of learning,” she said. “Our kids are more engaged, and our staff is phenomenal at thinking outside of the box.”
English joined the Northwest family in the 2018-19 school year. Her focus was building parent relationships. The school hosted Parent University, which saw a “remarkable” turnout, she said. “We must support one another,” English said. This year, she will focus her attention on building strong partnerships with stakeholders. Last year’s Go Grow plans focused on reading in grades K-2. This school year, math will be added for students in grades K-3. As a Restart School, Northwest’s calendar year is two weeks longer than other schools. The extended school year provides time for more instruction, STEM activities and field trips. The school is also STEM based. “Technology comes in with inquiry. Through robotics and coding, students are using their creativity,” English said. “As a Restart School, technology is a tool we use to get our students thinking, engaged and becoming problem solvers.”
Every Friday, students have a choice to participate in a club, like video production, robotics, gardening, yoga, dance and more. “It is the student’s choice. They all participate in two clubs. We want to make learning fun, and this gives them the opportunity to explore something they would not otherwise experience.” English said. “We want our students to develop interests and get a taste of things they otherwise would not experience.” This year, Northwest is also launching AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determine) in grades 4-5.
P ACTOLUS S CHOOL Social workers at Pactolus Elementary want students to feel safe and SECURE. The SECURE group provides students a safe haven, where they can express themselves and share their emotions through art, music and writing. Most of the students in the program have low self-esteem, but SECURE helps to build their confidence and public speaking skills, said social worker Rene Lee-Bryan. “The program is individualized. We want them to know they have a voice, and they matter. They all have talents. Many are artistically and musically inclined,” she said. “We pull on their strengths.” SECURE will enter its third year in the 2019-20 school year. Last year, the students worked collaboratively to create a mural in the school’s cafeteria. “The design was the students’ idea — to be the change you wish to see in the world,” Lee-Bryan said, adding through SECURE, Pactolus is changing the world, one student at a time. SECURE meets once a week for 30 minutes during encore classes. Students in the program feel better about themselves. “I’ve made new friends, and have closer bonds. SECURE has made me feel great about myself,” one student said. SECURE helps another student “take their mind off the bad things.” “They can forget about what’s going on for a few minutes,” said
intern Haley Narins, who is working toward her master in social work at East Carolina University. Pactolus plans to expand the program to include parents through Parents SECURE, which will allow social workers a more in-depth look at the whole picture — parents, child and environment, Lee-Bryan said.
PITT EARLY COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL Students at Pitt County Early College
the recycling program be more successful.”
High School who take design thinking
Students are expected to research their
classes have the opportunity to indulge their
topics, using a variety of sources, including
someone working in the field, if possible.
They are allowed to choose topics
Early college students have connected with
they are interested in, which the students
civil rights advocates, judges, authors and
then research and think of ideas they can
contribute to the topic. Then, the students
“Their world becomes bigger because
have to develop a 2- to 3-minute pitch that
they get to experience things they haven’t
they can deliver repeatedly in a trade show
before through talking to people who are
County Schools with some work that was
experts,” Martin said. “It helps them learn
done with the ECU Innovation and Design
“Being teenagers, many times they are
that research goes beyond looking up a
Lab. We started exploring skills that students
social entrepreneurship ideas,” said Elizabeth
dead author or a war, but is involved in every
need but employers are telling us they don’t
Martin, an instructional coach at the school.
day work life as well. It allows them to learn
have. … Skills like being able to carry through
“We actually have two girls that have done a
how to really dig deep.”
a project or being able to quickly and
great job of creating a recycling club here this
Forty students competed in the Young
concisely present an idea,” Martin said. “In
semester. They are very excited about being
Entrepreneurship Program challenge during
essence, we are using the main principles of
able to work with (recycling coordinator)
the 2018-19 school year, but the passion
design to help students look at the process
Holly Parrott from the City of the Greenville
projects did not start with that goal in mind.
of how they should go about approaching
and (Pitt Community College) and helping
“The passion projects originated in Pitt
R IDGEWOOD E LEMENTARY S CHOOL Ridgewood Elementary School recently expanded its student leadership program, which provides service-learning opportunities to students in grades 3-5. Students are eligible to serve their school in 14 different committees, which range from working in the library and front office, assisting younger students by reading to them raising the flags, welcoming people to the school and assisting with music and art classes. Students also assist with the school’s Buddy Bag program. The program is designed to help encourage leadership skills, foster independence and create relationships between staff and other adults. “A lot of times, elementary students are not given the opportunity to be involved in leadership. I think service learning is an important part to what we need to teach kids as good citizens. We learn to volunteer and how to take care of others. Kids really are capable of these things,” said school counselor
eight-year history with 120 students. Typically, the program accepts 60 to 70 students. “We have been growing and adding more committees each
Olivia Salter. The 2018-19 program had its largest participation in its
year,” Salter said.
SOUTH CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL South Central offers classes that are unique to Pitt County Schools. It is the only school that teaches Japanese I and II, which it has done for going on 16 years. “It’s a staple, a household name here at South Central. Parents are excited about it,” said principal Janarde Cannon. Teacher Sandy Satterthwaite is not Japanese, but has lived in Japan and studied its language and culture, which she enthusiastically shares with her students. “It definitely helps to have the high school experience before you move on to the college level and study abroad,” she said, adding Japan is always looking for English teachers. South Central students taking the Japanese class are eager and devoted. Many of them find the culture fascinating and dream of going to Japan. In addition to learning to speak the language, students also learn to write it, which is quite the challenge. They also learn about the country’s
customs, history and foods, including the use of chopsticks. “In Japan, they are quite surprised when Americans can use chopsticks,” Satterthwaite tells her students. South Central is also unique because it has the only JROTC program with two female instructors, retired 1st Sgt. Jo Ann Sadler and Maj. Ernestine Scott. Sadler is a 29-year U.S. Army veteran, while Scott served 16 years. “At first cadets didn’t think it was going to be the same as having a male instructor,” she said. “Me being a former drill sergeant, it was a no-brainer.” South Central is also big on cooking. It offers a basic foods course in a lab, as well as three levels of culinary arts in an industrial kitchen. Culinary covers food production, baking techniques, service skills, table setting, plate serving, grilling and frying, meats, poultry and seafood, menu design and pricing.
Every Friday, culinary students operate a tiny café of sorts, where a student serves as the manager and they serve lunch meals to staff. Another outstanding offering at the school is the AP Human Geography/AVID class. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teaches organizational and study skills, meaningful note taking, meeting deadlines, personal responsibility and accountability. The goal is to help them be college ready.
S OUTH G REENVILLE E LEMENTARY S CHOOL After three consecutive years of low performance, South Greenville was slated for the state’s Restart program, which eases constraints to allow leadership and staff to rebuild its programs and practices from the bottom up and bring new life back into the school. “You can mold it, customize it the way you think it needs to fit best,” said principal Ferdonia Stewart. “We are looking at how we address the whole child, not just the curriculum. There are some things that make South Greenville really unique.” For example, the social and emotional dynamic that impacts learning. “No matter what curriculum you have, no matter how much technology you have, if the students are struggling with adjusting to their life, their environment, things happening, that will not really impact the student unless we address the core,” Stewart said. The summer has been full of training for South Greenville faculty and administration. The school plans to implement AVID
(Advancement Via Individual Determination) in grades 4-5. AVID teaches organizational and study skills, meaningful note taking, meeting deadlines, personal responsibility and accountability. AVID requires strong practices for teachers, Stewart said. “It’s really about having the right people in the right place. This is a challenge; not everybody can work in a challenging situation,” she said. Another initiative is the Reconnect for Resilience program, which looks at how traumatic experiences, such as homelessness or domestic violence, adversely affects student learning and how teachers can help students cope. The school will also find ways to connect with parents to get them more involved in their child’s education. “It’s hard to see a vision for your children when you don’t really have a vision for yourself or when your life appears to be hopeless. … I have met some very warm and
carrying parents that want to help but don’t know how,” Stewart said. Stewart envisions more personnel to assist teachers in classrooms, scheduling that allows teachers to collaborate and an afterschool program. “We are impacting and changing their lives. If we change the life of one, that changes the home of one — that affects many people. … There is a lasting impact we are making here. We may not see it right away, but we are embedding those seeds,” she said.
STOKES SCHOOL Stokes Elementary School is an Exemplar Leader in Me School with a Lighthouse certification. It is the only Leader in Me School in Pitt County and the only school with these distinctions east of I-95. Worldwide, there are only 413 Lighthouse certified schools and 3,960 Leader in Me schools. All of the Stokes’ staff are trained in Sean Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” Staff uses these habits in their teaching methods and daily actions. The school tracks its goals in the form of WIGs (widely important goals) and PIGs (pretty important goals). The method and goal approach has resulted in an increase in reading and math proficiency, said (former) principal Jennifer Johnson. “Students own their own data by tracking it in their notebooks. They set their own goals and have accountability partners,” Johnson said. “They strive to reach each goal. There are victories and setbacks.” Leader in Me Schools are molding leaders of tomorrow, while also teaching students basic soft skills, like public speaking, eye contact and confident handshakes. “They use and find their voice,” Johnson said. “Our students are comfortable talking about the seven habits and living the habits. Our whole culture is based on the seven habits in everyday life. It is why our students, staff and parents are happy. They are pausing to reflect, helping others and taking care of their self.”
The 2019-20 school year marks Stokes’ sixth year as a Leader in Me School, and current principal Megan Newman will lead the charge. The Lighthouse status is a five-year certification, up for renewal in 2023. The school’s next goal is to become a Legacy School. Currently, there is only one Legacy School in the world.
W.H. R OBINSON E LEMENTARY S CHOOL W.H. Robinson Elementary School’s slogan is, “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.” In the 2018-19 school year, W.H. Robinson joined schools across the nation in promoting PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center’s Unity Day. “We feel like bullying happens a lot, not necessarily here in our school, but in our society in general. Whether it is social media, in the classroom or on the recreation ball field. The sooner we start talking about it the better it will be and hopefully we can prevent some bullying,” said PTA member Amy Credle. Partnering with the PTA, the school hosted its first-ever Unity Day in October 2018. Unity Day served as a way to take a stance against bullying while promoting kindness. The day began with a presentation informing students what bullying is, along with personal testimonies of students who had been bullied and continued with activities throughout the school. Students also participated in an anti-bullying walk around the track field. “It was a way to reflect on what they were learning. We had our mascot Buddy the Bear out there encouraging students,” said PTA member Melissa Anderson. Students were informed on how to identify what bullying is, how to prevent it and ways to receive help if they are ever bullied. Students sported orange spirit wear and received bracelets
with the school’s slogan on it. #WHRbearsAreKind has become the school’s hashtag. At the conclusion of the event, students signed a pledge on a bookmark to also help serve as a reminder of the lessons they learned from Unity Day. The event is just a continuation of the school’s efforts to encourage students to promote inclusion and kindness daily.
WAHL-COATES ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Through community partnerships, Wahl-Coates has been able to continue its efforts as a School of the Arts and promote academic and social learning opportunities to its students. “Through our partnerships, it touches the students. We want our kids and parents to be an active part and love our school. We really want to be a community school and bring community back in the school,” said principal Marty Baker. The school partners with community leaders to provide two leadership programs: Men of Distinction for males and Girls of Distinction for female students. These programs are geared to provide leadership skills to students as well as build relationships within the community. The school also partners with East Carolina University, whose students frequent Wahl-Coates providing students
with mini arts and music lessons. United Way allows students to attend boot camps and (after-school) end-ofgrade practice testing sessions held at the school by providing funding for the buses to transport students from the school. Wahl-Coates also partners with St. James United Methodist Church, and has assisted the school in acquiring a new playground. St. James also allows the school to hold some of its leadership meetings at its facility. The partnerships extend across the sea to The University of Hiroshima in Japan. The university sends its students to WahlCoates to teach art and writing lessons. In the summer, Wahl-Coates teachers attend the university for additional training. Students participated in the Devantae Dortch SwimSafe program to provide swimming classes to students, free of charge. A partnership between Pitt County
Schools, Vidant Medical Center, Bojangle’s and Aquaventure enables this program. “In return, in terms of the partnerships, we do service projects as a way to give back to the organizations and the community,” Baker said.
W ELLCOME M IDDLE S CHOOL The AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program teaches organizational and study skills, meaningful note taking, meeting deadlines, personal responsibility and accountability. The goal is to help students be college ready. Students track their grades and police themselves. If they fall behind, they are expected to contact their teacher to catch up. Students participate in tutorials twice a week, where they identify their weak spots or where they get bogged down in assignments. Guest speakers are also invited to class. AVID students manage a large binder that contains a planner, dividers, pencil pouch, index tabs and a color-coded system. Students keep a calendar, set goals and write a weekly reflection log, which makes them aware of how they did or did not meet their goals. Students must apply for the program and be interviewed. “It looks at the whole child, not just a
test score,” said Ashley Bell, a former AVID coordinator and NC Principal Fellow. AVID coordinator Tenisha Powell added, “The program is geared toward students who have been traditionally underserved in college, are low income or first generation college.” Some students may already know the profession they want, while others just want or need the extra help to get there. Rising freshman Shanasia Brown wants to work in the medical field and knew AVID would help. “I love kids and babies. I want to discover new stuff. I have Type 2 diabetes, and I want to encourage people they can do it and not give up,” she said. “In AVID, the teachers help you every step of the way.” Taking AVID class in middle school prepares students for high school, which launches them into college or the workforce. “Them being successful here will help them be successful there,” Powell said.
AVID students go on field trips to tour colleges. Trips may be simply to experience life beyond Pitt County, such as the ocean or the mountains or trying new foods. “I don’t want to say we’re preparing them to be an adult. We’re just opening their eyes to opportunities that they may not otherwise know about,” Bell said. AVID will be introduced into more Pitt County Schools in 2019-20. The intent is to expand it countywide, Wellcome principal Kim Harris said.
WINTERGREEN INTERMEDIATE & PRIMARY
The success of Wintergreen Intermediate School’s Millionaire Word Wall has trickled to Wintergreen Primary creating a Wall of Super Readers. “We use this to encourage our children to read,” said principal Cathy Kirkland. The Super Reader Wall features students and classrooms that have the highest rank of accelerated readers points, unlike the Millionaire Word Wall which ranks students by the quantity of words a student reads. Each nine weeks, students are given an accelerated reading goal. The goal is determined based upon the student’s grade and reading level. Students first choose a book that is acceptable for their reading level and then read the book. When the book is completed, students take a test on the book. When they pass them with 80 percent accuracy they’re considered to be proficient,” Kirkland said. Each nine weeks, the number of points and reading level increases based on the student’s performance and ability. At the end of each nine weeks, the classroom and students with the most accelerated reader points have their photos placed on the wall.
To ensure students are successful, the school holds an open library check out every day that allows teachers to send students to check out books during the day. Media coordinator Angelia Lake also teaches students how to identify books within their reading level.