With the school year in full swing, we want to say a huge welcome back to all of our students and educators in the classroom this week! We had the privilege of kicking off a week back to school in the best way possible – by attending this year’s Extraordinary Educators luncheon. Hosted by Guilford Education Alliance, and their High Point affiliate, High Point Schools Partnership, this year’s Extraordinary Educators awards were presented to 24 educators across High Point schools who have given above and beyond in the classroom to make their students’ experiences truly extraordinary – even in the midst of a pandemic.
While everyone has a better understanding now of just how integral strong educators are in our students’ classrooms, the call from each of the speakers at the luncheon was for our community to be closely involved in the work of partnering with educators.
Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser, Founding Director of the HPU AmeriCorps VISTA Program, opened up the luncheon by stating that “great communities need great schools.”
“We need to rally as a community around our schools, around you as our educators,” he went on, “so that you know we value you, we support you, and we want to be here for you.”
Dr. Blosser highlighted all of the ways that our city works in partnership with schools to create an ecosystem that supports students after graduation. From churches to businesses, to non-profits, the city of High Point joins hands to create a healthy environment both to foster learning during school years and to motivate community engagement after graduation.
Dr. Sharon Contreras, Superintendent of Guilford County Schools, echoed many of Dr. Blosser’s statements in her address to the Extraordinary Educators.
“It’s a great day to be an educator – even in the midst of a pandemic,” she began. While Superintendent Contreras noted that this upcoming year will hold more divisiveness and uncertainty as our schools navigate another year in the pandemic, she thanked the teachers for the passion and support they bring to the classroom each day.
“Teachers, my goal is that when you are working day in and day out, when things feel like they are changing on a daily or sometimes hourly basis, and you get yet another email from me… and it feels like perhaps we don’t understand or we don’t appreciate the work you’re doing, you look at this award, and you remember, we do see you, we do see the work you are doing, and that we appreciate that you chose this career,” she said.
She notes that the entire School Board is grateful for these educators’ choices to teach in Guilford County schools. Her admonition, to remember that the world has been through worse, and we must hold fast to hope, came with a special word of encouragement for teachers to prioritize loving their students – especially in the midst of another tumultuous year.
“More than anything else we can do for our children, love them deeply,” Superintendent Contreras encouraged. “More than even your teaching skill, what they will cherish the most is if you love them. Love truly does lift… All the other things fall in line, because if you love , then you can teach them and they’ll learn. They’ll become members of the community that will contribute forever to High Point, to Greensboro, to Guilford County.”
In addition to the leaders who thanked the Extraordinary Educators for their service, T. Wingate Andrews High School sophomore, Alexis Harris, also thanked the educators in the room. As a member of the Communities in Schools’ Summer Leadership Program, and now as a member of the Youth Ambassadors Council at Andrews, Alexis spoke on behalf of the students these educators impact daily.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do online school, until now…” Alexis admitted, jokingly. “But I’ve come to question why teachers are important. Teachers are important because to individuals like me, they provide moral support. They can give you guidance, and be there to cheer you on throughout doubt… They can be there to motivate you and push you to do something you’re too afraid to commit to.”
With goals to become a professional athlete and enter the medical field, Alexis gave a special thanks to the teachers and administrators in the room who have made her growth possible through their support.
After Representative Kathy Manning presented each educator with their award and shared their administrator’s nomination, the Extraordinary Educators’ luncheon closed with some final words from Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Dr. Marcus Gause, Principal at Andrews High School.
Rev. Dr. Thomas put the call out to each member at the luncheon to continue reminding the community of ways they can support schools – volunteering, advocating, and giving. He noted that a citizen doesn’t have to have a child currently in the Guilford County School System to see that supporting educating matters. In fact, he encouraged all community members to engage in order to see our city as a whole rise.
“Give like it matters to you,” he admonished.
Dr. Gause noted as a parent he saw the challenge of keeping his children engaged for each of their 60-90-minute classroom sessions throughout the day during the 2020 school year.
“That’s a difficult task to do face-to-face, but it takes superheroes to do that remotely,” he said.
“No one truly understands what it felt like to be leading schools in the midst of a pandemic except for those of us who were boots on the ground,” Dr. Gause added. “Whether you were one of those members who went out into the community and served food to families, whether you were transporting students’ work to students’ homes, whether you had these ‘porch parent conferences,’ please know that whatever little thing you have done does not go unnoticed, and we certainly appreciate it. We could not have gotten through this time without you all and the support that you provided for our students.”
Dr. Gause also pointed back to a moment he shared with his faculty at Andrews in the previous school year, where he encouraged each of them to see themselves as a vital piece of our community’s puzzle, and to love the students that are sometimes the most difficult to love.
“It doesn’t take just one kind , it takes every single one of us to inspire, to educate, to equip, to empower every single one of our students,” Dr. Gause said. “When students succeed, when we have great schools, when we have great school buildings, everyone in this room wins. You no longer have to look for great employees for your business. They’re coming because we have great schools. You no longer have to worry about economic vitality of our area because we have great schools. And at the very least we know every student that comes through our doors is going to be loved and appreciated every day. That goes further than we think.”
After two years of getting to know our educators in High Point, we know on a deep level the daily investment these men and women bring to our students, our schools, and our community, does indeed, go further than we think. As we move into the 2021-2022 school year, you will notice that we are featuring the organizations like Guilford Education Alliance, Communities in Schools, and High Point Schools Partnership that rally our community to support our school system. We encourage you to follow GEA on Facebook, as they highlight the Extraordinary Educators in this program we have had the privilege to help launch.
We also hope you will consider how you can take up the call put before us by Dr. Blosser, Dr. Contreras, Dr. Thomas, and Dr. Gause. How can you as a community member take an active role in supporting our city’s students and our city’s future? Is it volunteering through a lunch buddy or reading buddy program? Is by it giving financially to support initiatives like the Teacher Supply Warehouse, which provides school supplies to educators through GEA? However you can give or support, we echo Dr. Thomas’ words – “give like it matters to you.”
Because at the end of the day, it does matter. The success of our city lies within the hands of our future leaders, future educators, future businessmen and women, future doctors, future thinkers. It lies in the hands of our students who are influenced every day by our educators, so let’s help make their education experience extraordinary.
Extraordinary Educators 2021
Florence Joyner – Allen Jay Elementary School
Lauren Ackerman – Allen Jay Preparatory Middle School
James Dixon – T. Wingate Andrews High School
Muriel Sanders – Fairview Elementary School
Geoffrey Butler – Ferndale Middle School
Kelsey Williams – Florence Elementary School
Dan Myers – High Point Central High School
Valerie Bonde – Johnson Street Global Studies School
Sandra Cordova – The Kearns Academy School
Sandra Cango – Kirkman Park Elementary School
Sally Shipley – The Middle College at GTCC High Point
Carley Hand – Montlieu Academy of Technology
Shaneeka Chase – Northwood Elementary School
Caitlyn Polito – Oak Hill Elementary School
Gina Sanchez – Oak View Elementary School
Juandalynn Jones-Hunt – Parkview Village Elementary School
Tiffany Faison – Penn-Griffin School of the Arts
Sheila Hernandez – Shadybrook Elementary School
Carmen Longest – Southwest Guilford Elementary School
Michelle Lovett – Southwest Guilford High School
April Glover – Southwest Guilford Middle School
Janita Jackson – Triangle Lake Montessori School
Aiesha Lanier – Union Hill Elementary School
Heidi Davis – Welborn Academy of Science and Technology
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team
Photography by Kingdom Work Creative