A Smiling Welcome for Students at Gibson
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JANUARY 28, 2019 – On Monday morning, Winston-Salem State students Ashley Taylor and Alexis Jones headed over to Gibson Elementary in time to greet students as they arrived for the day.
“I am here to encourage the students,” said Taylor, a sophomore majoring in biology.
She wanted them to have a great day at school, she said.
Jones, a senior majoring in exercise science, said, “I am trying to encourage students to stay positive and to have a great semester.”
Asked whether they had to get up earlier than usual to get to Gibson in time to greet the students, they said, not at all. Both are members of the track-and-field team at Winston-Salem State University, and three days a week they meet for practice at 6 a.m.
Taylor and Jones were among a number of adults who came to Gibson as part of a program Principal Glenn Starnes II started during the 2017-18 school year. At the beginning of the school year and at the beginning of each quarter, he invites people from the community to come and greet students.
In addition to providing students with a fresh start for each quarter, Starnes said, it gives members of the community to opportunity to connect with the school and to invest in the students’ future.
Many of the people there this morning were from Winston-Salem State – both students participating in sports and members of the WSSU staff, such as Tiwana Gould, the finance director for athletics. Other greeters included regular volunteers at the school and people based in the school system’s Central Office.
Kelley Bendheim, the Early Learning Coordinator for the school system, had also participated in earlier greetings.
“I love the consistency of the support,” Bendheim said. “It’s exciting for students. We can never underestimate the power of ‘Good morning,’ and a smile, and ‘Welcome.’”
Kelly Nichols is the AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted) Lead Teacher for Elementary Schools.
“I love what is happening at Gibson,” she said. “I want to be part of the excitement. They are trying to do something different to get to the kids.”
When it was time for students to begin arriving, one group of volunteers went to the front of the school to greet students being dropped off by family members while another group greeted students getting off the bus at the back of the school.
When one student learned that everyone was there to greet him because it was the start of the third quarter, he pumped his fist and said that was great news because that meant summer was coming closer.
When some students saw the greeters out front, they smiled right away and walked down the center of the two lines, slapping hands with the adults.
Others weren’t quite sure what to make of the greeters. Once they realized they were there to give them attention, many smiled and got into it.
One or two didn’t have it in them to interact with adults they didn’t know. One boy set a new elementary school record for the 25-yard dash as he zipped by outside the lines of greeters.
At least one adult took the opportunity to start the day with a special greeting.
After Sharon Ralston came out the other end of the greeting line, she said, “It’s a nice way to start the morning.”
As a volunteer with ReadWS (Read Write Spell), Ralston comes to Gibson regularly to tutor students.
Along with the greeters there today, students arriving by car at Gibson also have daily greeters who open car doors as students arrive.
One of them is fifth-grader Ixchel Lopez, who is a member of the school’s Safety Patrol. It’s a responsibility she enjoys.
“We get to open the door for kids so they get to their class and eat breakfast,” Ixchel said.
Other daily greeters include fifth-grader Alex Jones and other members of the Safety Patrol; Monica Elder, a Teacher Assistant for the third grade; Lauren Pierce, a Technology teacher; Damian Anderson, an EC (Exceptional Children) Teacher Assistant; and Brittany Coad, a Teacher Assistant for the third grade.
While Ixchel and others were welcoming car riders, fifth-grader Alissa Stewart and fourth-grader Aixa Perez , who are also members of the Safety Patrol, were at the flag pole seeing to the display of the United States and North Carolina flags.
“I like representing our country and state,” Alissa said.
Aixa said that’s why she enjoys her morning responsibility as well.
Other volunteer greeters out front included Marc Winbush, who coaches lacrosse at both Gibson and Forsyth Country Day School; Karren Jeter, a WSSU sophomore who plays football; Vanessa Osborne, the school system’s Pathway to K Program Director; and Richard Watts, a former principal at Gibson.
In the school’s lobby was a bulletin board serving as a reminder that Gibson is filled with people working hard to support students every day.
The bulletin board honors Brenda Williams as “Teacher of the Year,” Hannah Hammaker as “Support Staff of the Year,” and Ashley McIntosh at “Classified Employee of the Year.”