Hard Hat Required: Construction Career Days

img_0174Backhoes and boom trucks took center stage at Western North Carolina’s Construction Career Days on October 12 and 13 at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.

The career fair brought out more than 1,100 students from 17 surrounding counties. Area schools that participated included Tuscola, Pisgah, and Central Haywood high schools.

“The Construction Career Expo is a great opportunity for our students to see what is available to them,” Central Haywood High School Principal Rodney Mashburn said. “They have access to local employers, and they’re able to ask questions about the types of jobs that are available.”

Students were given 1.5 hours to talk with more than 30 local and state businesses and organizations in the main building. They learned about everything from how to wire a basic switch to how to become a mason.

Their remaining 1.5 hours was spent operating cranes, backhoes, and other equipment in a hands-on environment.

“I really liked getting to operate the different construction equipment, but my favorite was the tire changing challenge with the NASCAR Technical Institute,” Jay Bradley, a Pisgah senior, said. “I’ve already been accepted to the automotive diesel technology program at Ohio Technical College, so this was like a preview of what’s to come.”

Among the businesses and organizations at the Construction Career Expo was Starr Electric Company, one of the largest and oldest commercial and industrial electrical contracting companies in the Southeast.

“Students have shown a keen interest in the trade,” Jermaine Roach, Starr Electric corporate recruiter, said. “We’re searching for people who want to come work with us right out of high school and also for those interested in attending a four-year university for something related to electrical engineering.”

Roach even made a standing job offer to a high school student on the first day of the career fair based on the student’s interest and demeanor.

The lead sponsor of the Construction Career Expo was Education Services Unlimited, a Mt. Holly education consulting business owned by Tim Eldridge.

Eldridge has been involved with Construction Career Days since it began in 2000. The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) created the event, but was unable to continue the career fair after 2012 due to changing focus on education outreach.

Eldridge said he was happy to step in as the event coordinator this year and bring Construction Career Days back to Western North Carolina after a four-year hiatus.

“It’s great to see our students using their hands to open their eyes to career opportunities that they didn’t even know about,” Eldridge said. “I’m happy to help the students in Western North Carolina because they are so driven, and they deserve the same opportunities that other students have in the state.”

Eldridge said he hopes to organize another Construction Career Days in the spring of 2018.

Construction Career Days is one of several career-driven events that Haywood County Schools participates in to expose students to a variety of career fields.

Tuscola Students Test Richland Creek

img_7331Tuscola High School students have been wading the waters and studying the health of Richland Creek over the past several weeks.

The outings to Richland Creek bring curriculum to life in Susanne Miller’s earth/environmental science classes.  Students learned to determine stream velocity, discharge, slope of the channel, depth, and width.

As students traversed the creek, they searched for macroinvertebrates, including water penny beetles and caddisflies.

The water chemistry was also tested during the students’ several trips to Richland Creek. Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, presence of E. coli, nitrates, and phosphates were all observed. Students also took note of the suspended and bedload sediment.

During Miller’s second trip to the creek, her students teamed up with Cindy Shipman’s Exceptional Children (EC) class to discuss the creek’s ecosystem.

“Surface water studies is an integral part of our curriculum,” Miller explained. “By having my students teach Ms. Shipman’s students, my students reinforced what they learned on their first trip. Both classes worked well together, and I look forward to having them on future trips.”

Based on the tests and physical conditions observed by the students, they determined that Richland Creek is healthy.

The creek studies were funded in large part by Pigeon River fund grants written in conjunction with geoscientists from Western Carolina University.

Olympian Visits Bethel Elementary

olympics-192-copy-2A local Olympic silver medalist visited Bethel Elementary School to inspire students and share her love learning.

Lauren Tamayo, an Asheville resident, won a silver medal in cycling at the 2012 London Olympics. She has been a professional cyclist for 15 years.

More than 120 students who participated in Bethel Elementary’s summer reading program and summer camp were surprised by Tamayo last month at a party to celebrate their achievements.

Every summer, Bethel Elementary opens its library on Tuesdays for students to check out books and spend time reading with their families. Students who came to the library more than five times over summer break were invited to the reading celebration.

Tamayo talked with students about her Olympic experience and even passed around her silver medal.

“Our students were so excited to meet an Olympic athlete,” Diana Gray, Bethel Elementary media coordinator, said. “Students asked meaningful questions and left the celebration feeling like they could accomplish their goals.”

Tamayo told students that in her senior yearbook, she was quoted as saying that her dream was to compete in the Olympics. She emphasized that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

WMS Resource Officer Recognized

img_3657-1School resource officers (SRO) do more than just enforce the law and maintain order at school. They educate students, form positive relationships with them, and inspire them to do the right thing.

Officer Dave Clancy was recently recognized by Waynesville Middle School (WMS) and the Waynesville Police Department for his positive and influential impact on WMS students.

Clancy has been the SRO at WMS for the past three years. It is not uncommon to visit the school on any given day and see him walking the halls and stopping to chat with students.

School resource officers check truancies, enforce state laws and school rules and are the first line of defense in the event of a dangerous situation.

“Law enforcement is very common in schools as a way to prevent crime from happening and to address situations that take place here,” Waynesville Middle School Principal Trevor Putnam said. “Officer Clancy’s dedication, skill, and hard work has helped establish links between community and school events to promote a safer school environment.”

Clancy views himself as more than just a police officer, and he strives to have a lasting impact on students’ lives.

“He regularly attends athletic and other special events, both to supervise, and to get to know our student population better,” Jennifer Mehaffey, WMS sixth grade teacher, said. “Although he is authoritative, Officer Clancy has a wonderful rapport with students. The students respect him because they know he always keeps their best interests in mind.”

Mehaffey and her fellow teachers were so appreciative of Clancy’s work with students and the help he provides WMS faculty, that she wrote a letter to the Waynesville Police Department about his contributions to the school.

“The safety of our students and staff is his number one priority,” Mehaffey said. “Our school, our students, and our community’s future are better because of the positive impact he makes.”

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed and WMS Principal Trevor Putnam recognized Clancy and presented him with an award on September 27 at the Waynesville Police Department.

Haywood County Schools Grad Returns to Teach

img_0159As Jessalyn Rathbone sat at a table helping her students draw numbers, she recalled that even at their age, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. Although this is her first year of teaching, Rathbone is convinced that she has found her life’s passion.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I even went to kindergarten,” said Rathbone, who is now an Exceptional Children’s teacher at Clyde Elementary School.

Although Rathbone has always had a passion for education, it was not until her younger cousin was diagnosed with a disability that Rathbone knew she wanted to teach special education.

“As I was continuously around people with special needs in school and in my family, my heart grew more than I ever could have imagined,” Rathbone said. “I knew that God had created me to teach special education.”

Each day as her students enter class, Rathbone greets them with a warm smile. She said her goal is to not only help her students learn, but to help them find joy in their lives.

As a recent college graduate from Western Carolina, Rathbone has brought a fresh perspective and enthusiasm for teaching to Clyde Elementary School.

“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members in society because their efforts shape kids’ lives daily,” Clyde Principal Clint Connor said. “Ms. Rathbone is one of the most caring and dedicated beginning teachers in this business. We have recruited a gem here at Clyde Elementary.​”

As a beginning teacher, Rathbone said she has relied heavily on the support from her co-workers at Clyde Elementary.

“I love the sense of community that I feel at Clyde, and I’m thankful to work with such a strong and amazing team,” Rathbone said. “My students are also wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch them grow academically, physically, and emotionally over this school year.”

Rathbone’s class is comprised of 11 students in fourth and fifth grade with varying degrees of special needs.

“My hope is that all my students become valued members of their communities,” Rathbone said with a smile. “I want to show them if they set a goal, they can achieve it; just like I did when I became a teacher.”

Rathbone is a product of Haywood County Schools. She attended Meadowbrook Elementary School, Canton Middle School, and graduated from Pisgah High School in 2012.

Due to her strong academic performance, Rathbone was the recipient of the Altrusa Scholarship from the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

“The financial assistance I received from the Haywood County Schools Foundation helped relieve my family of some of the financial burden from college,” Rathbone said. “I’m so happy to be able to return to Haywood County and serve as a teacher in one of the best ranked school systems in the state.”


Kiwanis Club Distributes Dictionaries

015-1024x768In an effort to promote literacy and learning, the Waynesville Kiwanis Club delivered a dictionary to every third grade student in Haywood County Schools last month.

Throughout the month of September, teams of Kiwanis members visited nine schools to distribute free dictionaries to 569 students. Students were encouraged to use their dictionaries in the classroom and at home.

“The dictionaries are a gift to students that we hope they will use for years to come,” Bob Miles, Kiwanis Club dictionary chair, said. “Educators have told us that they view third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn.”

Since the dictionary program’s inception eight years ago, the Kiwanis Club of Waynesville has distributed 5,780 dictionaries to Haywood County Schools students.

After receiving their dictionaries, Junaluska Elementary School students listened as Kiwanis Club member John Franco explained the basics of using dictionaries.

He stressed to students that dictionaries are not just a list of words with meanings. They are tools that give students greater control over their own learning.

“In modern classrooms, students still enjoy holding a book in their hands where they can turn the pages and feel the cover and pages,” Junaluska Elementary School Principal Sherri Arrington explained. “Technology can assist students in spelling mistakes, but dictionaries provide the pronunciation of words, parts of speech, and great example sentences.”

Arrington said the dictionaries will also be helpful to the school’s bilingual students.

“We are so thankful to the Kiwanis Club for their donation,” Haywood County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anne Garrett said. “Community involvement is what makes our students and schools successful.”

The dictionary program is just one of the projects organized by the Waynesville Kiwanis Club that benefits the children of Haywood County. The annual Kiwanis Spring Fling Family Fun Day, backpacks for schools, the Christmas Parade, and the 5th Grade Spelling Bee all assist local children. In addition, the Kiwanis Club provides grants, mostly to schools, that total in excess of $35,000 annually.

The Kiwanis Club invites anyone who is interested in volunteering their time to better the community to their weekly meetings held every Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at Laurel Ridge Country Club.

Pre-K Provides Valuable Skills to Youngest Learners

img_0129Elijah walked with his thinking buddy, Colton, as their Pre-K class practiced walking in a line on Hazelwood Elementary School’s track in preparation for their first field trip to Barber Orchard scheduled for next week.

“I love all the days at school,” Elijah said with a smile. “I like to play hopscotch with my friends. We have to take turns.”

The Haywood County Pre-K program is a state-funded program that offers free, high-quality education designed to prepare incoming kindergarteners for future learning.

The Pre-K program is made possible through Haywood County Schools’ partnership with The Region A Partnership for Children and the Department of Child Development and Early Education.

“An average day of Pre-K consists of students playing in different centers, which are changed in the classroom frequently so that kids are always exploring and taking part in different activities,” Ron Moss, Haywood County Schools elementary education director, said. “Using exploration and discovery as a way of learning enables children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills.”

The Pre-K program is designed on the premise that to be academically successful, children need to be prepared in all five of the developmental domains: approaches to play and learning, emotional and social development, health and physical development, language development and communication, and cognitive development. These developmental domains are critical to children’s overall well-being and success in reading and math as they enter school.

Results from the 2013-2014 NC Pre-K Evaluation Study indicate children enrolled in NC Pre-K programs made significant gains from Pre-K through kindergarten across all domains of learning. Children showed gains in language and literacy skills (receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, letter-word identification, phonological awareness), math skills (math problem-solving, counting), general knowledge (basic self-knowledge), and behavior skills (social skills).

Haywood County Schools’ Pre-K program began in 1990 with classes at Central Elementary and Hazelwood Elementary. By 2014, four schools offered Pre-K.

As demand increased, North Canton Elementary and Clyde Elementary added Pre-K classes last year. Due to budget restraints, Haywood County Schools was unable to properly equip the new classrooms with needed supplies.

When Dr. Doris Hammett, a retired Haywood County pediatrician, heard about the Pre-K budget shortfall, she took to Facebook. After posting a plea for donations to the program, friends of Dr. Hammett raised $2,305. That money was used to purchase books for the new classrooms.

This school year, Clyde, Hazelwood, Jonathan Valley, Meadowbrook, and North Canton elementary schools all have Pre-K classes.

For more information about making a tax-deductible donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400. Donations can be made to specific schools, causes, or programs such as Pre-K. Contributions may take the form of a cash gift, appreciated securities or real estate, life insurance, charitable remainder, non-profit organization assets, memorials, estate gifts or wills and bequests, or other real or personal property.

More Than Cows, Plows, and Sows

img_0087More than 100 Haywood County middle and high school students walked up and down the gravel road at the Mountain Area Research Station as they learned about agriculture-related careers on Thursday, September 8.

Haywood County Schools hosts Ag Career Day each year to provide students valuable networking opportunities with organizations from all areas of the agriculture industry. An array of career paths was on display – from a district ranger with the N.C. Forest Service to a district soil and water conservationist with the county.

“I think many of our students were surprised at all the different job fields that are a part of agriculture,” Tuscola High School Horticulture Teacher Beth Ross said. “I can tell that they are excited about the opportunities that are available to them after high school.”

Today’s agriculture job market includes anything from an agricultural commodities trader working at the Kansas City Board of Trade to an agricultural engineer designing new farm machinery.

According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Perdue University, an average of nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture related job openings are expected annually in the United States through 2020, with only about 35,000 students in food, ag, or renewable resources graduating each year to fill them.

“Most people look at agriculture as a very narrow job market, and that’s simply not true,” Tony McGaha, Haywood County livestock extension agent, said. “Agriculture today is so much bigger than just production. I think the ag job market will continue to grow.”

Dr. David McCracken, Country Lane Animal Hospital co-owner and veterinarian, gave students insight into his job duties as a large animal vet. Students learned that Dr. McCracken’s work days are anything but typical. He generally arrives at the animal hospital at 9 a.m., but his day may end in a farmer’s pasture treating a horse with colic at 9 p.m.

“This particular career day is so important for the young people in Haywood County,” Dr. McCracken explained. “These students get to see a small portion of the endless opportunities that are available to them right out of high school or after getting their college degree.”

To further foster students’ interest in the veterinarian field, County Lane Animal Hospital offers an internship program to rising high school seniors. Students interested in applying for the internship can contact County Lane Animal Hospital at 828-627-9100

“After talking with everyone here, I’m most interested in veterinary medicine,” Annie, a Tuscola freshman, said. “I’ve got four cats, two dogs, and one bird at home. I love animals, and I think I would enjoy being a small animal vet.”

60 Years of Giving

hammett-doris-my-doctor-is-a-girl-001For more than 60 years, Dr. Doris Hammett has been actively working to improve education for children in Haywood County.

Dr. Hammett, a now retired pediatrician, first became involved with Haywood County Schools when her oldest daughter began first grade at Hazelwood Elementary School in 1958. At the time, Haywood County students entered school in first grade because public kindergarten was not available.

“When Karen started school, I realized that many of the 900 children weren’t prepared to really learn,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I felt that we could change this.”

Meanwhile, many physicians in Haywood County had noticed that their adolescent patients who were having problems in school had developed these issues when they were four to six years old.

In an effort to assist children who faced difficulties in school, Dr. Hammett, with the support of the Haywood Medical Society, began a preschool screening program in 1965 at Clyde Elementary School. By 1968, all of Haywood County’s elementary schools offered preschool screenings.

The preschool screenings helped identify children who suffered from emotional problems, deprivation, lack of socialization, or physical handicaps including speech, hearing, motor coordination, and visual perceptual defect.

Due to school budget restraints, all preschool screening funding came from private donors, and the program had to be developed from available resources in the county. All the medical and professional personnel were qualified volunteers or school staff, including Dr. Hammett, Haywood County Schools Psychologist Dr. Stanley Nale, a public health nurse, a social worker, first grade teachers, principals, and the county’s elementary school supervisor.

Since her pivotal role in starting kindergarten screenings in the county, Dr. Hammet has focused the giving of her time and money to the Science Seminar for capable and interested high school students, Pre-K programs, and Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) training for teachers. This year, her donation will be used for staff development for all Haywood County Schools’ certified teachers.

Dr. Hammett says that her volunteer time and monetary donations are one way she is paying it forward.

“My education made me who I am and enabled me to be successful in life,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I want all children to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

Dr. Hammett believes to see greater change in the education system, the community must get involved and parents must be actively engaged with their children. She encourages everyone to make education a priority and give to the school system.

“Everyone can give something – whether it’s a monetary donation or volunteering in a classroom for a few hours,” she said. “The stock market is going down, so invest in children. You’ll get a better return on investment.”

For more information about making a tax-deductible donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400. Contributions may take the form of a cash gift, appreciated securities or real estate, life insurance, charitable remainder, non-profit organization assets, memorials, estate gifts or wills and bequests, or other real or personal property. To volunteer with Haywood County Schools, please contact the school nearest you for upcoming opportunities.

Random Acts of Kindness

random-act-of-kindness-768x576In preparation for the start of the school year, Junaluska Elementary School teachers went to Staples to purchase supplies for their classrooms on August 19. When a shopper talked with fourth-grade teachers Hayley Prince, Amy Kilgore, and Shannon Reece and saw them filling shopping carts with school supplies, she made her way to the register and quietly paid for the order.

“When we took our carts to the front to pay, the Staples employee told us it had been taken care of by the woman we talked with in the store earlier,” Prince said. “We live in such a wonderful and generous community. Thank you so much to that special donor.”

Teachers often purchase classroom supplies out of their own pockets. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to a specific school or classroom grant, contact Jenny Wood at the Haywood County Schools Foundation at 828-456-2400.