Much to Celebrate at Jefferson Elementary
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
NOVEMBER 1, 2018 – Jefferson Elementary has much to celebrate – the rich diversity of its students, its outstanding teachers, a PTA that has received national recognition, community partners that support it in many ways, and an atmosphere that supports kindness and compassion.
On Wednesday morning, students, staff members and guests from the community gathered in the gym to celebrate all of that and more.
Students at Jefferson can trace their heritage to countries throughout the world and to such backgrounds as Native American. The members of the International Flag Team celebrated that diversity by presenting 52 flags – one for each of those different countries or heritages. Many members of the Flag Team wore clothes associated with the countries and heritages.
At the celebration, Lori Thomas Brewer, the president of the school’s PTA, announced that, through the work of its PTA, Jefferson has been named a National PTA School of Excellence – the only one in Forsyth County and one of only 11 in North Carolina.
Brewer can trace her own heritage to the Chippewa tribe in North Dakota, and, during the presentation of flags, her two children – Hayden and Addie – carried a flag representing it.
Brewer, Principal Debbie McIntyre, and Assistant Principal Katie McGregor also recognized and thanked the Community Partners that support the school.
McIntyre shared the news that Amy Talley – the school’s Teacher of the Year who went on to become the Teacher of the Year for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system – has now been named a finalist for the 2019 Piedmont-Triad Region Teacher of the Year.
The Chick-fil-A on Peace Haven Road, which is one of the school’s community partners, celebrated the high quality of the school’s teachers by naming two of them – Matthew Snow, who teaches fifth grade, and Sarah Luckadoo, who teaches third grade – Chick-fil-A Rock Stars. They were chosen by vote of teachers at the school, and the recognition came with a gift card, balloons, and a visit from the Chick-fil-A cow mascot.
After the ceremony, Snow spread a little kindness by giving one balloon to a little girl who thought it would be wonderful to have a balloon of her own.
When Luckadoo’s students gathered for a group picture, they answered the question, “Is she the best teacher ever” with an enthusiastic, “YEAH!!!”
Luckadoo laughed and said, “I paid them to say that.”
Jeff McIntosh, who is a member of the Winston-Salem City Council, and Truman Dunn, who represents Compassionate Winston-Salem, came to join the school in dedicating its Compassion Corner, a bench set up by one of the school’s playgrounds where students can encourage other students who might be feeling down.
Art teacher Katharine Bunnell decided how the corner would be painted, and Jefferson students helped paint it. The corner has two benches. Each has a heart, and, when he spoke, Dunn talked about how much he likes the two hearts.
“The heart is where kindness lives,” Dunn said.
At the celebration, one student from each grade spoke briefly about compassion and kindness.
School Counselor Eva Bishop said she chose the student speakers “based on their reputations of displaying the attributes that the bench represents, kindness and compassion to fellow classmates and students.”
The Compassion Corner project was established by Compassionate Winston-Salem, and, for the students’ remarks, Bishop chose lines from the Compassionate Winston-Salem guidebook that described what compassion is and what it looks and feels like for the students to share.
Bishop thinks it’s great that the school now has its own Compassion Corner as a symbol of the importance of kindness.
“It’s what I talk about every day,” she said. “It’s a great, visible, tangible thing that reminds them every day how they should treat other people.”
One of the speakers who spoke about compassion and kindness was Leo Neal, who is in the third grade. His mother, Amy Neal, was among the family members who had come to the celebration.
Asked what she thought about Jefferson getting a Compassion Corner, Neal said, “I think it’s wonderful. It’s good for the children to learn to be kind.”
Leo already knows much about being kind, she said. “My little boy always makes sure everybody is included.”
Noting the diverse background of Jefferson’s student body, Neal said, “All the cultures get along. It could set an example for the rest of the world.”
As part of the celebration, fourth and fifth-grade students who play the recorder played a song called "I Love You."
Speaking of the song, fourth-grader Payton Lalor said, “It’s really happy.”
Music teacher Rene Williams said, “I chose this song because the message is about loving one another as a happy family, and we at Jefferson Elementary do indeed love each other!”
“Our Jefferson family demonstrates compassion and love every day by caring about the whole child and the whole staff member!”
Another student playing recorder was fifth-grader Quinn Crater, who wants to grow up to be a movie director who makes family-friendly movies.
When McIntyre spoke, she held up one of her favorite books. It’s called All Are Welcome.
“Our strength is in our diversity,” she said. “That’s what we celebrate here at Jefferson.”
Brewer said, “It’s more than a school. It truly is a family.”
When Brewer went on to say, “Love truly lives here,” students and adults clapped.
The Jefferson PTA received the national award only after undertaking a number of projects designed to help the school nurture students as future leaders.
“It’s a pretty rigorous process,” Brewer said.
Programs the PTA put in place included ones to support the school’s cultural diversity, Brewer said. For example, when the school newsletter is sent home with students, it can be made available not only in English and Spanish but also in such other languages as Mandarin.
The PTA has organized events designed to increase family engagement with the school, bought curriculum materials for teachers, and helped support programs that send food home with students who might otherwise go hungry.
“Our PTA is more than happy to offer guidance to any other PTA's who are interested in applying for the National PTA School of Excellence Program,” Brewer said.
The celebration was held on Scarecrow Day for Jefferson kindergarten students and staff, and many kindergarteners and teachers were wearing costumes with a farm theme.
At the celebration, Dunn announced that 14 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County elementary schools now have a Compassion Corner. With the help of volunteers at Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, Compassionate Winston-Salem provides and installs the corners, and each school creates its own design for the corner.
Here’s what Bunnell had to say about the process at Jefferson:
“When Mrs. McIntyre first approached me about designing the Compassion Bench, her main goal was to have each student at Jefferson be a part of painting the design. I wanted our Jefferson blue school color and paw prints to be central to the design since we are the Jefferson Elementary School Panthers, and this is the idea I focused on during my planning.”
With the help of students Brandon Atashbar, Campden Bishop, and Jaiden Rosario, she painted the benches blue.
“After the initial coats of blue paint, I spent the next two weeks taking each of my art classes outside to the playground for a portion of their art period to paint with their fingertip dipped in black paint inside a paw print I had stenciled onto the bench. After we finished the paw prints, a couple of classes worked on filling in the two hearts that I stenciled on the center of each bench.”
“I wanted to have an inspirational quote on the bench, so I came up with idea of ‘PAWS FOR KINDNESS,’ which is kind of a word play to go along with our actual paw prints and the importance to take time at recess to ‘pause’ and be kind to someone who needs a friend.”
“I'm very pleased with how it turned out and am happy that each student at Jefferson had an opportunity to contribute to painting it in some aspect.”
The students who spoke about compassion at the celebration were:
Jevonnie Gladden, fifth grade
Leo Neal, fourth grade
Raigan Clark, third grade
Kaiden Zheng, second grade
Rajat Singh, first grade
Charly Atashbar, kindergarten
The members of the recorder group are:
The Jefferson Community Partners with representatives at the celebration included:
Chick-fil-A on Peace Haven Road
Chermak and Hanson Orthodontics
United Tae Kwon Do
Robinson & Lawing LLP
WS/FC Council of PTA's
The school’s additional Community Partners include:
Brenner Children's Hospital
Allergy Partners of the Piedmont
Novant Meadowlark Pediatrics
Spangler, Rohlfing & Lambert DDS
CR Williams and Company
Forsyth Family Eye Care