Meet our newest teachers

L-R: Ms. Jamie, Ms. Gale, Ms. Ashley (4th grade), Ms. Ashley (2nd grade)

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.”

What exactly is a charter school anyway?

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.

So, what do you tell them?

Wikipedia says that,

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.

1st day

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.

Here goes 2010-2011.

What do teachers do during work week?

So, what exactly do teachers do during work week?

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.

I’ve even seen this. . .

Looks like they are almost ready for students!

A+ Fit School Designation for The Learning Center!

The Learning Center! Charter School is a proud recipient of both the “A+ Fit School” designation and a $7500 grant awarded by The North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF). The HWTF announced the award of eight Fit Community designations and seven A+ Fit School designations to North Carolina municipalities, nonprofit organizations and schools. These designations recognize the work that has been done to promote physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco-free lifestyles through programs, policies and environmental changes at the school and community levels.

Of the seven schools that received the A+ Fit School designation in the state of North Carolina, The Learning Center! was one of only two that received both the designation and the A+ Fit School grant. Each designated school will receive a plaque, a school banner, and a $1,000 discretionary stipend. The Charter School will also receive $7,500 in grant funding over a period of one year. In addition to the grant funding provided by HWTF, each school receives technical assistance from East Carolina University’s Department of Health Education and Promotion.

“Community and school environments have a tremendous influence on individual health behaviors,” said Dr. Chuck Willson, HWTF chair. “These designees and grantees are clearly committed to fostering healthful changes in their communities and schools, and this is vital to the success of obesity prevention efforts and to improving the health of our population.”

“The Learning Center has operated from the basic premise that nutrition and overall wellness are big factors in academic performance.” said school director Mary Jo Dyre. “Our nutrition and exercise programs such as “Far Out Food Ventures” and “Walk and Talk Fitness Group” (which includes parents) builds an environment that promotes nutrition and wellness as strongly as we promote learning in core subject areas.”

Obesity has emerged as a major threat to children and adults across the United States and is particularly prevalent here in North Carolina. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61% of North Carolina adults are overweight or obese, with obesity-related expenses adding up to more than $2.1 billion annually. HWTF’s Fit Community and A+ Fit School programs support local efforts to address this growing problem.

“We are thrilled about the award.” said Dyre. “I got a personal call and it was emphasized that the Health and Wellness commissioners were very impressed with all that our school is doing.”

Poetry & Essay Contest winners hosted by The Learning Center

Middle School Poetry & Essay Contest winners

The Learning Center! Charter School hosted The Cherokee County Middle School Poetry and Essay Contest Winner Recognition Ceremony on June 4th. This was the school’s second year for hosting this county-wide contest sponsored by Paul Donovan and The Cherokee Scout in conjunction with the North Carolina Writers’ Network WEST. Glenda Beall, a representative from the organization also attended. The ceremony fell at the end of a 2 day celebration of arts and academics at the school.

The guest speaker at the event, which took place in the The Learning Center’s dining commons, was former student, Harrison Keely, who is now a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He was also a reporter with Sentinel Newspapers, right here in Cherokee County. He was introduced by former teacher Gail Arnold who talked about what he was like as a child who overcame a disability. His passion for writing drew him to the field of journalism. His work has been published in The Washington Times, Business Week online, United Press International and McClatchy-Tribune news services in addition to appearing on PBS.

Students were awarded trophies and each was asked to either read or talk about their work to the audience. The evening was organized by parent and art teacher, Dana Bolyard. “We were able to make it a special evening for the winners through The Jackie Ward Foundation for the Academics and the Arts.” Said Bolyard. “We’d like to thank community members who contributed to our foundation. It went a long way to make it possible to reward these kids for their writing efforts.”  Bolyard also coordinated many of the events during the 2 days of “Arts & Academics” which included visiting artists in the visual, written and musical arts.

Winners are pictured above.