Teachers encouraged at Warren convocation

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 06:19 PM

WARRENTON — Tyronna Hooker, the 2011-2012 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, gave a cheering audience in the Warren County Middle School gymnasium examples of the importance of their work with young people.

She spoke at the Warren County Schools 2013-2014 Convocation on Friday as the staff embarked on a new school year.

“You are the window pane the student looks through,” Hooker said. “You may not live to know the difference you made in a child’s life. Just make sure it’s a positive difference.”

Hooker said she originally prepared for a career in criminal justice. She said she had worked on death row and with prisoners incarcerated for 10 to 20 years. Then she went to work in a middle school, where “I was allowed to spend my time with the future.”

She urged the veteran teachers to share their experience with the new teachers, and suggested that the new teachers might help the veterans with emerging technologies.

But most of all Hooker emphasized the key role educators play in the lives of young people.

“On your worst day, there is someone who needs you,” she said.

Hooker now works for Teach for America.

Superintendent Ray Spain was frank with the teachers about the obstacles they face.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges,” he said. “It was a terrible year in the General Assembly.”

He said the district has lost 8½ teachers and there are no funds for staff development or textbooks.

“I hate to tell you but it’s the truth,” Spain said. “But we’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll do the best with what we have.”

Spain emphasized the innovations Warren County Schools has begun to prepare students for competition in a global economy.

He also provided the staff with some good news. He pointed out that the legislature did not offer pay raises for teachers.

“What you got last year is what you’ll get this year,” Spain said.

However, the county commissioners provided some additional funding. The local supplement, which has been suspended in recent years, will be partially restored, he said. For teachers, one-half of the local supplement will be restored, and for administrators, one-third will be restored.

Full-time classified personnel will receive a one-time bonus of $300. Half-time classified personnel will receive $150.

“These extra dollars are not coming from Raleigh,” he said, “but from your school board and the county commissioners.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson urged the school staff to be tough.

“We need to be tough enough to have high standards,” she said. “We must be steadfast and resilient.”

She used as an example of resilience her husband’s desire to go skydiving at the North Pole, telling the audience, “After making sure that I was the beneficiary on his life insurance, I said, ‘Go for it, Bill.’”

The Warren County High School Junior ROTC color guard presented the American and North Carolina flags. Almena Mayes sang the National Anthem.

Entertainment was provided by the award-winning WCHS “Steel Stix” Drumline.

Portia Hawes, president of the Warren Education Foundation, presented checks for mini-grants to seven teachers and two schoolwide grants totaling $5,930.

Platform guests included state Sen. Angela Bryant; Betty Jo Shepheard, representing U.S. Sen. Richard Burr; Michael Jones, representing U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan; Bertadean Baker, chairwoman of the Warren County Board of Commissioners; and Neal Bullock of World View.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.