ROCKINGHAM — Everybody has a teacher that has made a significant impact in their lives, and sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that can inspire a student.
The Richmond County Partnership for Children held the 17th Annual Child Care Professional Appreciation Banquet at the Cole Auditorium Monday to recognize those in the county who do that little extra for their students.
The award winners were chosen based on letters from parents or family of students at their respective schools, which were then read by a team of judges looking for content — the ones who gave them “goosebumps” as Michell Kocan, administrator for the Partnership, said — rather than volume of letters recommending each individual or institution.
In the letter that convinced the judges to select the winner of Center of the Year, the Sandhills Children’s Center, the writer felt words couldn’t encapsulate the impact the center had on their great nephew.
“My great nephew had a tough start with life. After some developmental struggles he started attending this center and I have observed him flourishing in many areas of his development thanks to the staff and administration,” the letter read. “They are beyond awesome. To the world they may just be one child care center but to me my family and my great nephew they are the world.”
For Teacher of the Year winner Hope Potter of Roberdel Baptist Preschool, the deciding letter described Potter as “the type of teacher that makes you think, ‘I want to teach but I could never teach like that.”
“She has an amazing ability to put all things in perspective for each individual child,” the letter continued. “Often children are pushed and pulled here or there as we parents trudge through our daily lives. But in her class, her children get to be children — they get to build the tallest tower, rocket to the moon or even save the world.”
The Teacher of the Year award is given in honor of Bernice Ratliff, a Head Start teacher who won the award at the first banquet in 2002 and later died in a car accident, according to Kocan.
The Positive Attitude Award is given in honor of Kathy Alexander, who, Kocan said, owned a child care facility in Richmond County for many years and died in a motorcycle accident several years ago.
This award was given to Justin Clark, program director for Sandhills Children’s Center, who, the letter writer explained, may not work in a classroom everyday but still manages to impact students’ lives.
“First, this person knows each and every child that attends this center. This in itself is a great feat considering the number of the children enrolled at this center,” the writer opined. “Also, this person is the one that makes certain that all the children get everything that they each need both collectively and individually.”
Clark said of this recognition, “I have a great staff that makes it easy for me.”
Also recognized were Alyssa Cain, of Sandy’s Creative Kids and Fayetteville Street Head Start. Cain was recognized as an individual for educational achievement, earning an Associate in Applied Science degree. Head Start was recognized for increasing its star rating from four to five, the most an institution can have, according to Kocan.
Tanya Dennis, an early childhood consultant, spoke to the more than 150 teachers and staff gathered at the Cole about how get students engaged in their school work. She played a game in which the attendees were given colored ribbons that matched with “Everybody,” “Somebody,” “Anybody” and “Nobody.” These became characters in a story about an “important job” to be done, and the kinds of thinking that prevent it from getting accomplished. Each time Dennis said one of the words, those with the corresponding color had to wave it in the air.
“Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it,” the parable went. “It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.”
Dennis said this, along with several dances and call-and-response chants, are examples of touchstones teachers can use to communicate ideas to students, like when it’s time to be focused and taking responsibility for their own work.
“Kids need more face time, not Facebook,” she said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]