Soon after The Learning Center! Charter School had relocated to what possibly may be at least a part of our permanent location on Conaheeta Street, formerly the Old Pallet Plant, formerly an old lumber yard, Sister Terry showed up in the front office. White hair framed a smile that not only filled her face but the entire area around the front desk. She introduced herself to me as a nun from the local Catholic Church, explaining that she spent a great deal of time just right up the road at the Community Center in Texanna. Of course, she had noticed our move to the location between Joe Brown Texaco and the old Rock Gym, for she drove by it on a regular basis. She immediately explained to me that one of her contacts up North had sent her several boxes of books. She wondered if we would be interested in making use of them. I don’t always accept books sight unseen, but in this case I found myself saying that we would love to have them. Sister Terry grinned even larger, as her eyes twinkled, and added, “I am sure glad your school is here.”
Over the next few months, Sister Terry would show up unannounced, always bearing gifts. From popcorn to ice cream cones, from art supplies, to recycled products that we turned into art, she never came empty handed. As our friendship grew and blossomed, she confessed to me that she would love to teach a science lesson to some appropriate grade about the science behind fall leaves. Of course, I said yes. Next, she told me about college students that would be arriving during Spring Break needed a project to sink themselves into. I soon came to expect that Sister Terry would simply show up. I also soon learned to never try to figure out what she may bring or what service she may offer on any particular occasion. I could, however, always count on the fact that we somehow are eventually in need of whatever gift she brings our way.
Of course, Sister Terry, herself, is the gift of greatest value. I often find myself thinking that joy and happiness spill out of her pockets wherever she walks. Just a week ago, she brought a bag of teddy bears ranging in size from hand-size to big enough to make one take notice. Additionally she brought a much needed drafting table and two pairs of ladies shoes. I haven’t quite figured out all the details of the role the bears will play, but I know for certain it will come to me and be a part of some rich, diverse multi-method lesson that makes the learning experience so amazing to our students. I also would not be at all surprised if we soon hear of some woman in need of size 9 dress shoes. Yes, I have learned to simply be open to Sister Terry. I suspect she is in direct communication line with Life itself. I am certain that she has and will continue to make richer the lives of all she touches.
May we continue to bask in the smile and generosity of our own Mother Teresa….Sister Terry.
Recently I sat down with Ms. Debby to talk about the new salad bar option in our Dining Commons. This is what she had to say . . .
Normally I wouldn’t declare any new program a “success” so early in the year, but the response to our new daily salad bar has been so positive I think it is safe to say that it is a real hit.
Our salad bar includes lettuce (romaine at present, but it varies with the season and availability), various freshly prepared vegetables, a variety of protein sources such as cheese, chopped eggs, meats and beans, wheat crackers, croutons and several choices of individually portioned dressings. Students choosing the salad bar option also receive milk and fruit qualifying this as a complete meal for everyone whether or not the student qualifies for free or reduced meals.
The salad bar is available as a choice to students in grades 4-8. We have been delighted and a little bit surprised that so far more of these students are choosing the salad bar option than the hot option.
With our younger students we offer salad a little differently. Their hot meals are plated and served at their assigned tables. Tossed salad with dressing is available to them as an “extra” each day that the salad bar is offered to the upper grades. Our hope is that by making salad available to them daily, these younger ones will learn to consider greens an enjoyable part of a good meal.
Thanks Ms. Debby. You’ve got the best lunch in town!
The Learning Center! Charter School has added 3 new teachers and one new assistant this year, increasing their staff to an all-time high of forty two teachers and staff members. New this year are teachers Ashley Gibbs, Jamie Hill, Ashley Tate, and assistant, Gale Oliphant.
Ashley Gibbs, from New York, is a second grade teacher with a focus on language arts. She also works as an E.C. teacher. Ashley has a B.A. in elementary special education and a Masters in Literacy and is a Reading Specialist.
Jamie Hill hails from New York and serves as one of a team of 3 intervention teachers at the school. In addition to elementary certification, Jamie is presently completing a master program for Exceptional Children.
Gale Oliphant is an assistant with physical education after school activities and assists the intervention team. She comes to the school from Weaverville Primary in Weaverville, NC.
Ashley Tate teachers fourth grade and hails from Marion VA. In addition to elementary certification, Ashley holds a B.A. in English literature and a M.A. in Educational Psychology.
The dining commons staff was also increased to enable the school nutrition manager to continue to develop the Nutrition Based Learning Program that is unique to the school. School financial officer Patty Ferguson said the increase in staff was due in part to the increase in enrollment this year. “We are up 15% from last year and now serve 180 students,” said Ferguson. When asked to what she attributed the increase, she replied, “ I think its because we have a great program here like our strings program and Odyssey of the Mind. We also have a great reading intervention program and after school program. One of the big things that parents respond well to is the one-on-one attention our tailored curriculum affords their child.”
How many of you have been at a summer cookout and have been asked, “I know your kid goes to the charter school over there down from the pool. What exactly is a charter school anyway?” How about at Thanksgiving dinner when all your distant relatives are together? Doesn’t someone invariably ask you to tell them what makes a charter school different from other schools? I’ve even been asked by the check-out person at the grocery store when they see my kid’s school t-shirt.
a charter school is a school that receives public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations) but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school’s charter. Charter schools are opened and attended by choice. While charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition.
Um. Well. Okay.
What are you going to tell Great Uncle Earl when he asks what a charter school is at your next holiday get together?
A charter school is a public school of choice. It is public. Public means no tuition. In other words, it’s free. And, you choose to go there.
A charter school offers innovation in education. A charter school has to meet the same state academic standards that every other school has to meet. However, the school itself decides how it’s going to achieve those standards.
Now you know.
So go forth and educate the world. Or at least your immediate community.
Students arriving early. Parents in tow. Bags of supplies. Smiling teachers. Nervous kindergartners. Traffic directors. Breakfast eaters. Board members. Volunteers. Running down boardwalks. Being reminded to walk. “How was your summer’s.” Welcoming back. Where do I go? Who will I know? Hey! I know you! Lunch time at last. Where is my backpack? Now where do I go? Parent meeting. Made a new friend. Cars here for pickup. Final bell rings.
I’ve been on campus with them and I can tell you there isn’t much they don’t do. I’ve seen furniture moving, computer installing, copying, stapling, cutting, sorting, vacuuming, meeting, talking, giggling, gardening and planning.