Recognition of TLC Runners in Annual 5K & Half Marathon


Last week students that ran in the annual Kickin’ Asphalt 5K and Half Marathon sponsored by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce were recognized in a special ceremony.  Race organizers and Director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Phyllis Blackmon, were on hand to hand out certificates and awards.

Best-selling author Peter Jenkins to speak in Murphy. Save the date!


“Make the world your classroom.” That is what award-winning travel author, Peter Jenkins urged of students during his 2012 visit to The Learning Center! Charter School. The celebrated author, who is traveling the country working on a new book, will make a return visit to the school for a PUBLIC speaking engagement on MARCH 21. The Learning Center will be offering tickets for the much anticipated event and more details are to come so make sure you save the date.

Jenkins is the author of three New York Times best sellers along with a list of other must reads.  Walk Across America has been used in schools across the country and was the inspiration for The Learning Center’s Venture Out Program (a cross-curricular Appalachian studies program combining education with travel.  Use the category selector on the right hand column of this blog to select “Venture Out” for a more extensive description of the Jenkin’s inspired program.)

“We are so excited and honored by his exclusive speaking engagement to our school and expect a sellout crowd,” said director, Mary Jo Dyre. “Our students have been following Jenkins’ travels on his Facebook page. It has really added a new dimension to read and study about his adventures in a book and then follow his recent travels via social media.” If you would like to follow Peter Jenkins adventures please click  <<<HERE>>>> to visit his Facebook page.

We will post updates on his visit on our website at and right here on the blog.   Additionally we will be working with local Curiosity Bookstore to make copies of Jenkin’s work available to our community.

A Whole Hog Education

[This guest post comes from Debby Intemann, our school chef and educator.  Thank you for taking the time to write this moving piece Ms. Debby.]



There had been a “buzz” building for days. The seventh and eighth grade students were, as part of their science classes, going to participate in the butchering of a hog. In Ms. Chris’s room, the red letter day was marked simply on the calendar with the notation “The Pig”. As it turned out, the pig in question, with the help of some brave and inspired teachers and community members, turned itself into one of the most multi-faceted and engaging learning experiences I have ever participated in.

When we arrived the hog had already been dispatched, and yes, as the butchering process began there was plenty of “eww” and “gross” to be heard. These are middle school students after all. But there was something else too. There was curiosity and there were questions. As Josh skinned the pig, he explained the process. We talked about what pigs eat. What they cost. Why they stink. What this particular pig was fed. Where it came from—it was raised locally by one of our families at school. We talked about the need to acknowledge that all the meat we eat was once a live animal and that it had to be killed and butchered, just like this hog. Meat, even from the grocery store, does not begin as neat, bloodless cuts on white Styrofoam.

As the process continued another adult and one of the students stepped in to help. Butchering animals was traditionally not a one-person job. It takes many hands. Community members pitched in, helped one another. Josh mentions that as recently as maybe fifty years ago, folks in this area still raised and butchered their own meat and much of that was pork. Maybe not even that long, I add. When I came here as a girl in the mid-seventies, it was still very much part of the culture. I can remember people in my community waiting on “hog-butchering weather” in the fall.

The hide is carefully peeled down. We don’t want the outside of the animal to contaminate the meat, Josh explains. Bacteria, if there is any, will be on the outside. Food safety questions pop up. What bacteria is most associated with pork? Trichinosis.

The hog is beginning to look less like a barnyard animal and more like meat. We discuss the carcass in terms of musculature. Adam points out and names some of the specific muscles. And we also discuss it in terms of cuts of meat. The students say it looks like bacon to them now. No, it isn’t all bacon. If you eat a ham it is this part. I point out the large back thigh sections. Bacon comes from here, on the side. The top cuts along the back of the hog are the best—thus the saying “eating high on the hog”. What’s the white stuff? It is fat, lard. It was used as cooking fat. Also it can be rendered and used in soap making.

The skinning is complete. The students are each given clipboards with diagrams of internal structures they are to label. It is time to eviscerate the carcass, and I hold my breath a little. If anyone is going to get sick, it will probably be now. But no one is sick. Clipboards in hand, a tight knot of students leans in to observe. Colon, small intestine, liver, spleen…

It is time for me to get back to school. I pull myself away and leave reluctantly because, I too, am engaged, am learning. I am amazed at the range of topics covered during this one morning’s event—anatomy, sure, and in way that I am certain will be remembered, but also local culture, food, community, respect, death, life. I am certain that a morning with a textbook would never have yielded such richness. A textbook could never compete with a pig.

Learning Center float a tribute to the arts


At the recent Murphy Christmas parade on November 30th, some float enthusiasts were surprised to see The Learning Center! Charter School, (who are regulars in the annual local float competition), show up at the Valley River Shopping Center with the same float–“The Nutcracker Music Box,” that had taken Best in Show in the 2011 parade. Even more surprised looks came when the school made it clear that the float was not entered into this year’s competition. 

Director of the school, Mary Jo Dyre explained, “Last year our school had designed the float with the idea of using it for three years running as a tribute to the arts.” She pointed out that both the school and the Cherokee County Arts Council are placing emphasis on the arts in our community. Dyre went on to say, “We are grateful for a community that values the arts, the Jackie Ward Foundation that directly supports our arts program, and the many dedicated community members and volunteers who have helped us to provide an incredible arts program.”  

For this year’s float entry, one of the upper-grades electives was involved in creating the large dramatic masks and the mini “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” float that accompanied the giant-sized music box as walkers. Pat Hegstrom, a local artist, volunteered her time to work with the student contributions.

Tennessee Valley Authority Shows Support of The Learning Center! Charter School’s Project Creek Bank Educational Area


Lucas Luther, from the local Tennessee Valley Authority,, is seen presenting a check to The Learning Center! Charter School Director Mary Jo Dyre for support of the school’s environmental project that focuses on the waters and surrounding land of Conaheeta Creek, a tributary to the Valley River here in Murphy, North Carolina.  The money will be used for tools and equipment related to this environmental clean-up effort.

The Learning Center! Charter School first began their efforts to revitalize this tributary that runs into the nearby Valley River and Hiwassee River in 2009.  With the help of Callie Moore and Tony Ward, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, the charter school provided staff and students training in identification of invasive plants, methods of removal of invasive plants, as well as identifying native plants that are in danger of being overtaken by the invasive growth.

The Learning Center! Charter School has historically taken environmental responsibility seriously. Students are taught through a variety of approaches the importance of caring for the environment and how to take active steps toward that maintenance effort. TVA’s donation will put tools in the hands of the many students, staff and volunteers that are committed to the restoration of Conaheeta Creek and surrounding land.

You can learn more about the school’s green programs and philosophy by visiting


Call for Auditions

Ryan Bender and Judy Coleman, representing the Music and Drama programs at The Learning Center! Charter School drew the winning ticket for a copy of The Princess and the Pea book signed by cast members of the GrowZone Players and Director Bender.  The school’s premiere performance of last spring’s musical kicked off this fundraising raffle to support the drama program in conjunction with the Jackie Ward Foundation (see Jackie Ward Foundation at whose goal is to support an arts program that impacts the local charter school with outreach to the community at large.

Announcing a winner of the coveted The Princess and the Pea book, donated by Linda Ray of Curiosity Book Store, was planned to coordinate with the CALL FOR AUDITIONS for this year’s musical LAW &ORDER: C-rhyme and Pun-ishment, a “once upon a time”  play set in Nursery Rhyme Land,  with scenes in Mother Goose’s forensics lab and other fantastical places, complete with characters that include Bo Peep, Jack Be Nimble, Mother Goose herself and, of course, the victim Humpty Dumpty.


DATE: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012

TIME: 3:30-5:00

at The Henn Theatre at 110 Tennessee St., Murphy, NC

Looking for talented youth who are willing to work hard and set a good example of proper rehearsal etiquette.  Auditions are open to students from the 5th grade to 12th grade.  All 5th-8th grade cast members must be available for rehearsals which will run every Friday beginning January 4th 2013 from 12:30-2:55.  High School cast ONLY will be permitted to participate in practices starting at the end of their school day.  Practice times will expand untill 5:00pm beginning sometime in March until the plays’ productions.

Performance dates are set for:

Thursday, May 16th 2013, open to public (6:30 pm)

Friday, May 17th 2013 – TLC! matinee performance

Monday, May 20th 2013 – open to public (6:30 pm)

Drama Educational Goal: To assemble the best ensemble of actors and set, lighting and costume support who will work well together to meet a common goal of putting on the best production possible.

Questions: Please call 828-835-7240 or email



Murphy Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Each year TLC! is honored to be part of the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the square in downtown Murphy.  This year was no exception!  Students in K-4 chorus performed at the ceremony.   TLC students love that their singing is what greets Santa upon his arrival!


Monster Mash a Hit Thanks to Volunteers

Monster Mash a Hit Thanks to Volunteers


The Learning Center! Charter School’s 9th annual Monster Mash Bash was a smash thanks to multitude of talented, hardworking and creative volunteers. From teachers, parents, grandparents, community members and local business owners, each is appreciated and invaluable in putting on this community-wide Halloween event.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to our DIAMOND Level sponsors: WKRK Radio, Sounds Good Electronics,Ground to Graphics, Hot Foot Street Rods, Tusquittee Valley Farm, Indian Hills Spring Water Jacob Anderson Tree Service / Eastern Recycling, Signs Fast Inc., and Nathan Baerreis Photography

Gold Sponsors: Acadia,Mike Davis, Hurlburt-Johnson Friendship House and Carpet Mart.

Silver Sponsors: The Kevas Family, Blomeley Law Firm, Marguerite Stricker Melanie Rothchild and Lee Erker

Bronze Sponsors: Jim & Billie Bell, Antiquities, Dr. Richard & Joy Knee, Robby Evans, Jamie Donaldson

We also thank board members, staff and parents of The Learning Center!, who worked booths, helped with set-up, parking and clean-up. Costume judges John Snow and Jennifer Badger and Joe Fowler also deserve a special thanks.

In addition, high school students and community members volunteered time for acting, make-up, and set design.

Thanks again to Mayor Bill Hughes for participation in our “pre-event PR stunt,” The Cherokee County Chamber, and those who gave anonymously so students in need could participate in the fun in spite of these tough economic times.


Mary Jo Dyre, Director of The Learning Center!

Greenhouse Update

A few lucky fourth graders recently assisted Tom Willey in setting up the new greenhouse for TLC!  Tom has donated time and supplies to enable us to begin our garden to cafeteria program.  In these pictures he is showing the students the basics of soil preparation.  He explains the variety of organic and inorganic matter needed to germinate and grow greens.

Thank you Mr. Willey!