Recipe for Success

Over the past few months, the Haywood County Schools nutrition department has placed a special focus on student wellness, food variety, and local community support.

Melanie Batchelor was hired as the school system’s nutrition supervisor dietitian in August 2017. Since taking that position, Batchelor has been building on the already well-established child nutrition program to put together a strategic plan for designing menus for the county’s thousands of students who eat at school each day.

“Changes began to take shape a few years ago when Michelle Obama introduced the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act,” Batchelor explained. “That made significant changes to the school lunch program for the first time in 30 years.”

Following the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the Haywood County Schools nutrition department has worked to increase the variety of vegetables and fruit, add more whole grains, and decrease foods with added sugar and saturated fat.

Batchelor said the newest project she is most excited about is the introduction of salads into every school three days a week. Other new items on cafeteria menus are grab-and-go wraps made with vegetable-based tortillas and filled with things like egg salad.

“I think a lot of our students and parents don’t realize that the salads we serve cost the same as a traditional school lunch,” Batchelor said. “That means that if a child receives free or reduced lunch, they can just as easily get a salad if they want.”

The Haywood County Schools nutrition department serves more than 2,400 breakfasts and 4,600 lunches each day. Of those thousands of meals served, 50 percent go to children who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Many of our students consume the majority of their meals while at school,” Batchelor said. “That’s why it’s so important for me to ensure that they’re getting really healthy, well-balanced meals.”

Batchelor said the grain-based foods served by the school system’s cafeterias must be at least 50 percent whole grains, but she typically plans for 75 to 80 percent whole grains.

Not only have students noticed healthier food options, they have also seen more variety in the menus. This year, Batchelor has implemented a five-week menu rotation.

“The cafeteria staff has told me that they have noticed a positive change in the students,” Batchelor said. “They don’t seem to be as bored with their food, and they’re excited to try new things like mandarin chicken.”

Batchelor has continued the school system’s relationship with the N.C. Farm to School Program. The N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services developed the Farm to School Program to give schools across the state the opportunity to receive fresh produce grown by local farmers.

Haywood County Schools has received strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, red and green cabbage, broccoli, sweet potatoes, blueberries and more that are grown on nearby farms because of the N.C. Farm to School Program.

“We are proud to be able to serve local produce like apples from KT’s Orchard in Canton,” Batchelor said. “Thanks to the Farm to School program we were also able to serve locally-sourced cauliflower; a vegetable many of our students had never tried before.”

Batchelor’s job is not all about developing kid-friendly menus. While making sure food tastes good, she also has to meet cost and nutritional guidelines.

“I have to make sure our menus have the correct amount of meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables, while also taking into consideration calories, saturated fats, and sodium levels,” Batchelor explained. “When ordering food, I have to remember the logistics of each school’s cafeteria to determine if the staff has the equipment and space needed to prepare certain recipes.”

Batchelor says her previous work experience as the health management programs coordinator for Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, N.C. has helped prepare her for her job with Haywood County Schools. She is also a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian with a master’s degree in health science.

If you would like more information about Haywood County Schools nutrition department, visit

The Haywood County Schools Foundation offers several ways that the public can contribute to programs that provide food for Haywood County Schools children in need. For more information, contact Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400.

Haywood County Schools celebrates Book-O-Ween

Superheroes, princesses, and book characters got off school buses and out of car line as elementary schools across Haywood County celebrated Book-O-Ween throughout the month of October.

Held right before Halloween, Book-O-Ween is a tradition held at most of Haywood County Schools’ elementary schools as a way to incorporate literacy and learning into Halloween.

To the delight of students, many of the faculty and staff at each school also dressed up.

This was the sixth year that Bethel Elementary School has held Book-O-Ween.

“Book-O-Ween is a fun way to share our love of reading with students,” Bethel Elementary School Principal Kim Shipman said. “And who doesn’t like dressing up?”

At each school, students rotated through classrooms to listen to a variety of books. By the end of the day, students had heard anywhere from five to 10 different books, including favorites like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, and Cat in the Hat.

“Book-O-Ween provides an opportunity for teachers and students to dress up, have fun, and read new books, as well as some classics,” Hazelwood Elementary Title I Instructor Becky Pope said. “Our goal is to help students find joy in books as they explore new titles and authors.”

Along with school staff members, PTO and parent volunteers helped make the Book-O-Ween events at each school memorable for students.

Sam and Shirley Smith Instruction Program Endowment

Jonathan and René Smith have recently created a new endowment with the Haywood County Schools Foundation. The Sam and Shirley Smith Instruction Program Endowment, which was funded with an initial gift of $30,000, will provide ongoing support for the instructional needs of Haywood County Schools’ teachers.

The endowment is in honor of Sam Smith and in memory of his wife Shirley who passed away in January 2013.

Jonathan, a healthcare administrator at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), came up with the idea of honoring his parents with an educational endowment when his wife’s family did something similar for her parents.

“I thought it was just a really nice gesture, and a way for my parents’ legacy to live on for years to come” Jonathan said. “I wanted the endowment to be 100 percent my dad’s choice as far as recipient and purpose.”

Initially Jonathan suggested setting up the endowment at a university, but Sam was quick to choose the Haywood County Schools Foundation as the beneficiary. He specifically wanted the money to be used for staff development and instructional support.

Being a product of Haywood County Schools himself, Jonathan fully supported his father’s choice of the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

“I have a great respect for my father and what he did for the public school system,” Jonathan said. “This is a way for teachers to get the resources they need to give the best instruction to students possible.”

Sam has a long history with Haywood County Schools.

In 1983, Sam, then the school system’s associate superintendent, approached the Haywood County Board of Education with a proposal to create an educational foundation. Sam’s vision was to create an organization that would provide instructional resources for teachers that state funding was not covering.

“I had no funding to start the Foundation, but I did get overwhelming support,” Sam recalls. “The Board of Education and central office administration were very receptive. Tom Posey, a principal at the time, got on board immediately and helped me get the Foundation going.”

Thirty-four years later, the Haywood County Schools Foundation is the longest running public school educational foundation in North Carolina. It has grown to more than $2.5 million in assets and funds grants for teachers and staff, awards scholarships, and supports students in need.

“I know this endowment will provide long-term support for the instructional needs of our teachers, as well as system-level funding to provide quality programs to children,” Sam said. “I am just very grateful that Jonathan and René established this in our name.”

The Haywood County Schools Foundation currently manages more than 70 endowment and scholarship funds that have been established by businesses and individuals in the community. Endowed scholarships and grants are generated through the investment of permanently-held principals, so that only the income from the principal is used for awards.

For more information about setting up an endowment fund or scholarship through the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or visit


Connecting with Canada

Several of Mary Mason’s third graders have never been to the beach, let alone another country.

The ability to connect with students thousands of miles away was a key factor in Mason signing her class up for Global Read Aloud 2017.

This is the second year Mason has participated in Global Read Aloud, a project where teachers around the world read the same book aloud to their students and then use technology to share the reading experience with other classrooms.

The free six-week program began October 2. Each week, Mason reads several chapters of “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown to her students. Afterwards, her third graders discuss their thoughts and feelings on the book with a classroom in Ontario, Canada.

During their video call, students discussed their thoughts on the book’s main character Roz, a robot who has woken up on a remote island inhabited by unwelcoming wild animals.

“I really liked hearing their opinions,” Keira, a student in Mason’s class, said. “Even though they were in a different country, we thought some of the same things about the book.”

Classes in kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade are participating in Global Read Aloud at Jonathan Valley Elementary. While the upper grades read “The Wild Robot,” the lower grades are reading a series of picture books by Mem Fox.

Mason signed up for another year of Global Read Aloud with the main goal of exposing her rural students to a world beyond Haywood County.

“The experience is a way for them to feel like they are exploring the world, while learning about a different culture,” Mason explained. “I think today my students realized that although there were some cultural and language differences, they had more in common than what they anticipated.”

Mason believes that her students are not the only ones learning from the project.

“I tell everyone that Global Read Aloud is one of the single best things I have done as a teacher,” Mason said with a smile. “It was not only great for my students, it was great for my own professional development.”

Mason encourages other teachers in the county to get involved in the project next year and not be afraid of the technology.

Last year, Mason’s class enjoyed their partner classroom so much that they frequently communicated through the rest of the school year about different books outside of Global Read Aloud.

“Global Read Aloud is a great opportunity to use literature and easy-to-use technology to forge connections across cultures,” Mason said. “The project promotes empathy and understanding among students and helps them think more critically.”

This year, more than 600,000 students from all across the world are participating in Global Read Aloud. Since the Global Read Aloud’s inception in 2010, more than two million students from more than 60 different countries have participated.

One for the books

Members of the Church of Brethren National Older Adult Conference held at Lake Junaluska Assembly collected more than 1,200 books for Junaluska Elementary School as part of a local service project. This is the second time the conference has donated to the school.

In 2015, Junaluska Elementary School Principal Sherri Arrington received a phone call from Debbie Eisenbise, organizer of the Church of Brethren National Older Adult Conference.

“She told me that the conference had chosen Junaluska Elementary School as its local mission project while they were in town,” Arrington said. “I thought, ‘wow that’s great.’ I had no idea that by the end of the week they would show up with 800 brand new books for our students to take home with them.”

After accepting the book donation, Arrington offered to give school tours to any interested conference members. Debbie and Jim Kinsey took Arrington up on her offer and visited the school before they went home to western Michigan.

After getting a tour of the elementary school and talking with Arrington and the teachers, the Kinseys offered to donate even more books to the school.

Over the past two years, the Kinseys have personally donated more than 3,000 books to Junaluska Elementary to build classroom libraries in each third, fourth, and fifth grade class, as well as the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom.

“I’m a retired educator, so I know how important and beneficial it is for our youngest children to develop a love of reading,” Libby said. “Classroom libraries are so valuable because students get exposed to hundreds of books inside their own classroom.”

Libby purchased the bulk of the books for Junaluska Elementary while volunteering at the Scholastic Warehouse book sale that is held twice a year near her home.

“The last book sale I worked, I earned the equivalent of $1,000 in books,” Libby explained. “The adults in our family also donate to charitable causes at the holidays instead of giving presents. Jim and I chose Junaluska Elementary school as our charity.”

The Church of Brethren National Older Adult Conference meets at Lake Junaluska Assembly every other year. Once again, the conference chose to collect new books for Junaluska Elementary School students. Between donations from the conference and the Kinseys, Junaluska Elementary School has received more than 4,000 new books in two years.

This year, conference members came to the school to read stories to each class. Libby also played guitar and sang songs to students in the gymnasium.

“I liked listening to the songs about friends in the gym,” Eric, a Junaluska Elementary School student, said. “I like to read books, and I’m excited to read all the new books in my class.”

This year’s keynote speaker at the conference and author of one of the books donated to Junaluska Elementary was also one of the volunteer readers. Peggy Reiff Miller read her book “The Seagoing Cowboy” to students in 5th and 2nd grade.

“This outpouring of kindness to our students and staff is simply remarkable. We are reminded that each day is an opportunity to have a positive influence on someone we meet,” Arrington said. “One never knows when meeting someone for the first time how they will impact your life and the lives of those around you in some incredible way.”

Growing Ag

When it comes to agriculture education, students at Central Haywood High School (CHHS) are learning about more than just the basics of growing crops and raising livestock.

Under the leadership of Agriculture Education Teacher Barry Feldman, CHHS has revamped its ag education curriculum, gained new tools, and completed multiple outdoor projects around the school.

“I’m hoping that my ag class sparks new student interests and opens the door for students to discover future careers,” Feldman explained. “We are so grateful for the community’s support of our program and our students.”

This past school year, students in Feldman’s class improved and maintained a nearby riparian wetlands area – land that is adjacent to a body of water that supports vegetation dependent on large amounts of water in the soil.

Feldman and his students discussed the importance of riparian zones to local ecology, environmental management, and civil engineering decisions.

Feldman also received a grant to purchase mobile weather stations to monitor changing conditions, and created several specialized raised bed gardens.

Feldman is looking forward to adding more garden tools and a new tractor with implements for his class in the 2017-18 school year.

“All of these improvements to our school and program will allow more students to participate in hands-on learning,” Feldman said. “The incredible outpouring of community support is going to positively affect our students for years to come.”

Special thanks to the following businesses and community members for their support of the CHHS agriculture program: Young’s Tractor and Equipment, Haywood EMC, Evergreen Packaging, Duke Energy, Carolina Farm Credit, Soil and Water Conservation District, Haywood County Farm Bureau, Kiwanis Club of Waynesville, North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Calvary Road Baptist Church (John Swanger & Mark Golden), Dellwood Baptist Church (Bobby Rogers), Graybeard’s Marine and Tractor (Greg Shelton), Clyde Alignment (Steve Schultz), Old Grouch’s Military Surplus (Tim Glance), Smoky Mountain Cremations (Amanda Della Savia & Ronnie Surreth), Asheville Mulch Yard (Daniel Pope), Sherrill’s Pioneer Restaurant (Dean, Lisa, Zeb, and Melody), Clyde Florist (Rhonda Smathers), David’s Home Entertainment (David Sutton), Junaluska Feed Center (David Farmer), Mac Sutton, Alan Shelton, and Jimmy Rodgers.

Raising awareness and money for autism

Louis and Debbie Perrone, owners of Frankie’s Italian Trattoria in Maggie Valley, have dedicated the past three years of their lives to raising money and awareness for autism.

During the month of April, Frankie’s, along with dozens of other local restaurants and businesses, raised nearly $60,000 for Richie’s Alliance, a non-profit the Perrones established in honor of their son, Richie, who has autism.

Of the $60,000 raised, Richie’s Alliance donated $12,000 to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, with the remainder going to the Olson Huff Center at Mission Children’s Hospital.

The donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation will be used to support children requiring assistance in the Exceptional Children’s (EC) department and to create scholarships for two graduating seniors.

“Richie has assistance in the classroom, and we wanted to ensure that any child who needs help gets it,” Debbie explained. “Richie could not have been as successful in school without his aide.”

Richie, who just finished up fifth grade at Jonathan Valley Elementary School, will enter sixth grade at Waynesville Middle School in August.

“The staff at Jonathan Valley have been amazing to Richie, and I’m kind of sad that he will be leaving a place that he loves so much,” Debbie said. “We’ve seen such great support for him in school, and I know that all my children are receiving a good education in Haywood County.”

The scholarships from Richie’s Alliance will each be worth $1,000 and will be open to any Haywood County Schools senior who has special needs. Haywood County Schools Foundation’s scholarship application will be available in January 2018 at each high school’s guidance center.

“I want the scholarships to be for those students who otherwise feel like college might be out of their reach,” Debbie explained. “I hope that these scholarships will be an incentive for them and encourage them to follow their dreams.”

The fundraising events for Richie’s Alliance are held in April each year in conjunction with National Autism Awareness Month and Richie’s own birthday.

In 2015, Frankie’s and a few other restaurants raised about $5,000 for the Olson Huff Center with a Dine out for Autism event.

“After that first year, I knew that this could be something really big,” Louis explained. “We created Richie’s Alliance the next year in hopes to grow the event and raise more money for autism services.”

The Perrones succeeded and raised $23,000 in 2016 and more than doubled that this year.

Dozens of local restaurants from Maggie Valley to Dillsboro donated 10 percent of their revenue on April 12, 2017 for Dine out for Autism. That same day, 64 golfers hit the greens at Maggie Valley Country Club for the Casino Royale Autism Awareness Golf Tournament presented by Ken Wilson Ford. The final event, Taste presented by Biltmore Estate, featured dozens of restaurants, breweries, and wineries. Just the live and silent auctions alone at the Taste event raised nearly $30,000.

Louis said his family is setting their sights even higher for 2018.

“Our board is working to make our events bigger and better for next year,” Louis said. “It’s amazing to see the support our local community has shown Richie’s Alliance, autism, and our family.”

“I want people to know that autism is not scary,” Debbie said with a smile. “Richie teaches me so much every day, and I love seeing things from his perspective.”

Next year’s Richie’s Alliance fundraisers will be held the week of April 9, 2018. For more information, visit

For more information about the scholarships available through the Haywood County Schools Foundation or to make a donation, contact Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-452-2400 ext 2117.

May 2017 Excellence in Education winners

This month, teachers Erica Smiley, Karen Hopkins, and Sharon Cagle were recognized with Excellence in Education awards.

The Excellence in Education program recognizes teachers from Haywood County Schools who exemplify a commitment to innovative teaching practices and show dedication to student success. The program is sponsored by Jack Bishop of Edward Jones and the Haywood County Schools Foundation (HCSF).

“This program is a just a small way that we are able to recognize teachers of Haywood County Schools,” Bishop said. “The instruction these teachers provide every day is laying the groundwork for our students to become successful.”

Over the past 13 years, Smiley has taught Haywood County’s middle and high school students. She currently teaches American history at Tuscola High School, where she has worked the past three years.

Smiley describes her approach to teaching as one of laughter and joy.

“I know history is not everyone’s favorite subject, but I really want my students to at least appreciate what history has done and how it affects their lives,” Smiley explained. “In order to keep them focused, I try to throw in humor and fun stories to get the point across.”

Besides cracking jokes, Smiley is known for the care and love she shows each of her students. At the end of each semester, she handwrites notes to every student in her class.

“I love teaching, and it is so rewarding to see students understand history and even come to love it,” Smiley said. “I want all my kids to know they are special and valued, no matter what their grade is or how popular they perceive themselves.”

Across the county at Bethel Elementary School, fourth grade students are learning new lessons in reading, math, writing, science, and social studies in Hopkins’ class.

“My heart is blessed each day as I help children realize their value and potential,” Hopkins said with a smile. “My students know that I have high expectations, and they rise to meet those expectations every day.”

Although Hopkins has been teaching for a long time, she says that each day is different, and she loves watching her students learn and grow together academically and socially.

“My classroom is a place where students are encouraged to collaborate with each other across every subject area,” Hopkins said. “They know that we learn best by teaching and sharing with others.”

Down the road at Junaluska Elementary School in Coach Cagle’s gymnasium, students practice motor skills and overall movement.

Cagle, who has been teaching PE for 19 years, says her teaching style is best described as real.

“I am very straight forward and honest with my students, and I treat them the same way I would treat my own kids,” Cagle explained. “I have high standards for them and expect their best; but most of all, I care deeply for them and I love them very, very much.”

While competing in games or sports, Cagle emphasizes the importance of winning gracefully and losing with character. When students prepare to enter middle school, Cagle said she hopes that they have learned how to work together to achieve a common goal and discovered ways to push themselves as individuals inside and outside of the gym.

“Ms. Smiley, Ms. Hopkins, and Coach Cagle are three examples of the great teachers that are working for Haywood County Schools,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “We are so happy to publicly recognize their efforts with the Excellence in Education program.”

Each month, up to three teachers from the 15 Haywood County Schools are recognized with an Excellence in Education award. Award winners are presented with a certificate and a $100 check sponsored by Bishop.

BMS students print and build prosthetic hand

Bethel Middle School students are using their school’s 3D printer to build prosthetic hands for children in need.

Last fall, BMS Media Coordinator Kendra Plemmons received a Duke Energy STEM grant through the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

She used the grant to purchase a 3D scanner to use in coordination with the school’s 3D printer.

As Plemmons researched ways to incorporate the 3D printer and scanner into her curriculum, she found the Prosthetics Kids Hand Challenge. Over the past two years, more than 800 classes from 41 different countries have worked with the organization, which was started by a middle school teacher and his students in Irmo, S.C., to build prosthetic hands for children in need.

“The Prosthetic Kids Hands Challenge allows our students the chance to collaborate, design, and print something while also changing the life of a child,” Plemmons explained. “For something to be printed, that means they have spent a great deal of time and patience designing, correcting, and printing their product.”

The STEM-based project blends science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and prepares students to be the next generation of innovators.

“STEM is so important because I not only want my students to be successful in school, but I also want to help prepare them to become productive members of society,” Plemmons said. “In order for our students to be globally competitive, we must engage them in class and encourage learning and exploration.”

Plemmons said the 3D printer and scanner have given students the opportunity to learn about new technology, from the design software, to the scanner, to the actual 3D printing process, that allows them to interact in real time while using their imagination.

“In 3D design and printing, nothing is ever perfect the first time,” Plemmons said. “The process allows students to ease their fear of failure and think critically to problem solve and gain confidence in their ability to do so.”

While in class, Plemmons functions as a facilitator while guiding students through the problem-solving process of creating the prosthetic hand. Students engage in questioning, problem solving, and collaboration while they address the design and construction of the hand.

The prosthetic hand is meant for a child who has basic wrist function but is missing fingers, Plemmons said. The wrist function allows the person to move a hinge that allows the hand to grasp. The hand is padded and attached to the forearm by Velcro straps.

Each piece of the prosthetic hand takes anywhere from four minutes to several hours to construct, and there are many pieces.

“It’s really cool that we are getting to print some kid a hand who has never even been able to pick up a cup before,” Lucas, a seventh grader said. “I like getting to design and build the different projects in class.”

The 3D printer works like a high-tech hot-glue gun Plemmons explained. Rolls of filament that come in different colors snake into the print head, where it is heated to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The melted material comes out of a nozzle and is swirled onto the print bed. Fans then blow on the design, which make it immediately harden. Software tells the printer what coordinates to use in the design while the object grows layer by layer.

Once all pieces of the hand are printed, students will assemble the hand using everything from Velcro to fishing line. Plemmons will then ship the completed 3-D prosthetic hand to Enable the Future, where it will be inspected to ensure it functions properly, and then displayed alongside other hands created from around the world.

Once the challenge has ended, the prosthetic hands will be sent to children in need at no cost to their families.

Once the Hand Challenge has ended, Plemmons plans to incorporate the 3D printer and scanner in the media center’s Makerspace. The Makerspace is an area set up in the library that provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent. As a Makerspace fixture, the school’s 250 students will have the opportunity to design, create, and build prototypes using the 3D scanner and printer.

“I’m so thankful for the grant I received because it’s going to touch every student in our school,” Plemmons said. “My goal is to make the media center the central hub of our school and the place where students enjoy spending time reading, working, and being creative.”

Book makes classroom connection

Students at Canton Middle School are learning that great minds do not always think alike.

After reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree over spring break, seventh grade teacher Kaleigh McAlister knew that the book would provide much needed inspiration and self-confidence for her students to finish the school year.

“The book has so many elements of what we teach in language arts, but the book’s overall message for students is why I really wanted to share it with my class,” McAlister explained. “I think the book does a good job of showing them that they are more than the pieces of themselves.”

The book’s main character Ally, is finally learning to read after struggling with Dyslexia her whole life. Her past teachers labeled her as a trouble maker who would rather disrupt class and crack jokes than do her assignments. When she gets a new teacher, he shows Ally that nothing is impossible and that her life has endless possibilities.

“I want my students to know that their dreams are within reach, and that I believe in them just like the teacher in the book,” McAlister said with a smile. “The book is really about having a mindset of personal growth.”

When McAlister returned from spring break, she found out that she had just missed the April 7 deadline to request school funds. Principal Todd Barbee encouraged her to reach out to the Haywood County Schools Foundation for assistance.

Within hours of sending an email to Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere, McAlister was writing a grant for $205 to purchase the books.

“The Haywood County Schools Foundation has allowed me to share a book that I love with my students, foster an environment for open discussion within my classroom about the various conflicts that students face, and openly discuss different learning abilities and disabilities that impact my students’ daily lives,” McAlister said. “The lessons around the book have helped me connect with my students on a deeper level than before, study our content through a new and exciting piece of literature, and prepare them for the rest of their school careers.”

Each day when students enter McAlister’s class, she gives them a topic to focus on and then asks them to pull text evidence from the book. So far, McAlister has used the book to discuss symbolism, internal and external conflict, character development, sensory details, imagery, figurative language, as well as the author’s purpose.

It is not often that teenagers admittedly relate to the characters in the books they are assigned to read.

“I like the book because it is relatable, and I feel like I can connect Ally’s story to real life,” Kendall, a seventh grader, said. “Ms. McAlister is always upbeat and positive, which inspires us all to do more.”

McAlister is hopeful that the lessons from Fish in a Tree about annotating text, answering higher-level thinking questions, and other language arts subjects will help her students as they prepare for end-of-grade tests (EOGs).

“Teachers like Ms. McAlister are what make Haywood County Schools a top performer in the state,” Valliere said. “The Foundation is proud to be able to support grants that benefit our students’ education.”

The Haywood County Schools Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding educational opportunities for the students and faculty of Haywood County Schools.

Each fall, the Haywood County Schools Foundation offers teacher and faculty grants from First Citizens Bank, Evergreen Packaging, Duke Energy, HomeTrust Bank and QuickDraw. Last November, the Haywood County Schools Foundation awarded more than 170 grants to teachers and faculty totaling more than $35,000 for the 2016-17 school year. Grants will open for the 2017-18 school year late summer/fall.

For more information about sponsoring classroom grants, contact Haywood County Schools Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or email