Section 5 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Sunday, March 25, 2007
Who are we
Take a look inside our schools,
meet our teachers and learn
from our students
By Rabyn Ratliff The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta City continues to evolve.
“One of the major obstacles that I faced was to
review the educational programs in place in the sys-
Schools tem and to determine which ones were working and
which ones needed to be disregarded,” said Allen.
“I realized that the system had a number of pro-
grams going on and teachers and staff were being
s Valdosta continues to grow into
overwhelmed. I gave administrators more responsi-
it’s Metropolitan status, expanding
bility in making decisions along with their leader-
daily with new industry and busi-
ship teams on what worked best for their schools
nesses to accommodate an increas-
and I directed the Central Office team to promote Students at Sallas-Mahone
ing population, school systems
and support their plans.”
within Lowndes County have also
Considered a ‘team-work’ leader, Allen worked
been growing, as new families settle in the area and
to address issues by “meeting with teachers and staff
those born here stay on to continue family tradi-
from each school,” he said, “holding several public
forums per year, and meeting with anyone who “The Lowndes County School and Valwood families to Moody Air Force base expected in the
Within the public school sector, Lowndes Coun-
wanted to speak to me 30- minutes prior to each School are active partners in our community, and near future, the Lowndes County System is likewise
ty and Valdosta City Schools educate more than
board meeting.” During that time, the system also we pool our resources so that we are able to serve dependent upon community ESPLOST support, to
16,200 students combined. In recent years, amid
worked to improve relationships with Valdosta State more of our community,” said Allen. “In order for meet building and expansion needs. The system has
several state cuts to education funding, it has been
University and Valdosta Technical College. this community to continue to grow and prosper it outlined several projects to be completed over the
the local community’s support of the Education
Today, those efforts have resulted in several ini- is important that we support ‘two great’ school sys- course of five years, among those, the construction
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, (ES-
tiatives and partnerships between the Valdosta Sys- tems. There are no ‘perfect’ school systems, but of several new schools to accommodate the system’s
PLOST) which has assisted both systems in meeting
tem and VSU and Val Tech–partnerships which there are school systems that strive each and every nearly 10,000 students.
building and expansion needs.
help to encourage students of all ages, toward the day to become perfect.” “The items from our SPLOST III campaign cer-
pursuit of Like many others, Allen believes that the jour- tainly loom in the forefront over the next five years,
ty has been won-
higher educa- ney to perfection, is one fueled by a network of sup- and we will build three to four new schools includ-
derful in their con- J.L. Newbern tours VSU tion following port. As the Valdosta City School System continues ing a new high school and a new middle school.
tinued support of
graduation. to develop in upcoming years, he hopes for greater These schools will help to alleviate any overcrowd-
“Valdosta dedication from ing as well as
City Schools, both parents and the anticipat-
dent Sam Allen.
because of its the community. ed growth
“Within the next 5
close proximi- “I would like over the next
years, 90 percent of
ty to Valdosta parents to take a three years,”
our facilities will be
State Univer- more positive inter- said Smith.
sity, would be est in their child's “With the
Several of the
ideal to devel- school, in the form austerity re-
existing school fa-
op a of tutoring and ductions over
cilities were rela-
Math/Science mentoring students. the past four
tively new when
lab school,” There is also a great years our
Allen joined the
said Allen. need to refrain from adoption of
“This school negative and textbooks has
would allow derogatory com- suffered and
three decades years
for our stu- ments about our is off sched-
ago as a seventh
and eighth grade Social Studies teacher with Val-
dents to actu- system because of Walk to School Day ule, and also,
ally attend school sessions at Valdosta State Univer- demographics,” said our move to
dosta Junior High. He later became an Assistant
sity. We are also working with Valdosta Technical Allen. “We need the new GPS
Principal at the school, before serving as principal
College in establishing a Charter Technical Program the community to be informed about happenings in curriculum has created the need to adopt new
of West Gordon Elementary. Moving further up in
that would allow students to receive a certificate the school system and be willing to branch out textbooks, which is one of our major pursuits. This
administration, Allen served as an Assistant Super-
prior to graduating from high school that would al- across school zones. Also, the Valdosta City Schools matter will be addressed over the next three or four
intendent, and in June of 1997, he was appointed
low them to go directly from the classroom to the has a foundation that is tax deductible that can years. We will also see renovations to several exist-
Interim Superintendent. Just six months later, he
workforce.” help support teachers and students with materials ing schools as well as to Martin Stadium. The com-
was appointed to the Superintendent’s position,
Looking to the future of the Valdosta school that can't be purchased with tax dollars. ” pletion of these schools should put us in good shape
where he has served for nearly 10 years.
system, Allen says that number one on the agenda for the next 10 to 15 years.”
During his time with the Valdosta system, Allen
“is to implement Pre-K in all of our elementary Smith believes that strong academics, as well as
has seen many changes, and has worked along with
schools within the next five years, because we know courses in the arts, extracurricular programs and
board of education members, system staff, and the
that students entering kindergarten, without a athletics, have all contributed to the system’s
local community, to provide a quality education and
preparatory class, are already a year behind.” growth over the years, sparking interest from the
learning environment for all students.
Growing from “about 5,900 students,” said
Allen, speaking of when he first joined the system,
On the higher end of the education spectrum,
Valdosta High is looking into the development of Lowndes County community and support.
“I believe that the physical growth is the result
an on-site Charter School, after having received
of the success we are enjoying academically, artisti-
Valdosta’s nine city schools currently serve about
two Charter School Planning Grants from the state, cally and athletically,” said Smith. “Our faculty and
7,200 students today. Allen believes that growth is
for the purpose of researching the right Charter staff do a superb job and this naturally makes peo-
the result both of system and city expansions.
School plan. Valdosta High School is also research- aving reached System-wide Adequate ple gravitate to you because of the success. We live
“The population was lower then mainly because
ing the formation of an International Baccalaureate Yearly Progress for 2005-06, and hav- in an outstanding community with wonderful sup-
the city had not ex-
Program, ing been recognized as the Distin- port from the home and community partners such
panded and be-
“that would guished School System of the Year as the Chamber of Commerce, Moody Air Force
cause students were
give students (large system category), the Lowndes Base, Valdosta State University, Valdosta Technical
leaving the system
applying to County School System is now working to further College, and the business community at large.”
certain uni- raise the bar of academic performance, above state Speaking on the development made in sports,
fifth grade,” said
versities an and national averages. Smith went on to say, “We have also shown steady
Allen. “The popu-
advantage in Operating under the theme, “From good to improvement as indicated by our winning the All
lation now contin-
the admission great, and beyond,” Superintendent Steve Smith Region trophy five years in a row.”
ues to grow because
process,” continues to encourage the Lowndes County faculty “This award is connected to region ranking by
of the annexation
Allen said. and staff, as the system strives to stay ahead of a ris- sport. During this time we have won back to back
efforts of the Val-
While the ing standard. State Championships in football, as well as several
dosta City Council,
city system “Academic performance has improved signifi- region championships in other sports (boys and
and the fact that
holds to its cantly over the last few years and our goal is to im- girls) including top ten finishes in the state. You will
even though we
mission of prove with each year as we move from a good see the introduction of girl’s volleyball in the next
have two schools in
providing ed- school system to a great school system,” Smith said. few years,” said Smith.
ucation to all “Past performance is indicative of this improvement The future vision of the Lowndes County Sys-
ment as determined
students, and I give the credit to our teachers and adminis- tem is one Smith hopes the entire community will
by the Federal Act,
Allen and trators for their concerted efforts to continue im- share.
parents have done
other board provement. Our classroom teachers have made “Our vision in the Lowndes County School Sys-
their research and
members tremendous sacrifices to learn a new Georgia Perfor- tem is a shared vision–a vision shared between the
found that our edu- First Day of School hope to de- mance Standards (GPS) Curriculum, and apply new school, the home and the community,” said Smith.
velop a “full instructional strategies (learning focused) to ensure “I do feel that as communities go, our community is
continues to im-
functioning Transition School,” said Allen. The that the delivery of instruction is adapted to the more supportive than most, and we need continued
transition school would be specifically designed to unique learning styles of each student.” input from the home and the community, along
Looking back to his arrival as superintendent,
accommodate and “educate students who learn in a With the growth of Lowndes County population with the input we receive from our staff within the
Allen recalls his initial goals for the Valdosta Sys-
non-traditional manner.” in recent years, and the influx of Airmen and their system.”
tem, and notes how far the system has come, as it
continued on page 3
Page 2 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Sunday, March 25, 2007
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Sunday, March 25, 2007 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Page 3
Who are we
Valwood School, located at 2206 East Hill Avenue and serv-
ing students in grades kindergarten through 12; and
St. John Catholic School, located at 800 Gornto
Who is teaching our children?
Road and serving students in grades prekinder-
alwood School is one of the many pri- garten through eight.
vate schools existing in Lowndes
By Rabyn Ratliff The Valdosta Daily Times
County, established in 1969 to serve
students grades 1-10. Today, Valwood
is recognized as one of the leading
schools of the region, as it provides students with an Charles “Alex” Alvarez
exceptional high school education and numerous
opportunities for future advancement.
University Q: When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
The first class of Valwood seniors graduated in
June of 1972, after the school had grown from 69 A: I decided to become a Biology Teacher as a 17 year old PSO student at South Georgia College.
stablished in 1906 as the South Georgia Biology 101 with Dr. Rhodes was one of the first college courses I completed as a high school senior. Dr.
students in its first year, to an enrollment of 144. As
State Normal College, and later opening Rhodes revealed my passion for the subject, inspiring me to expand on his lessons and discuss biological
the years progressed, student enrollment continued
its doors to its first students in 1913, Val- issues outside of class. Science was not this intriguing or fun previously. His excitement and meaningful
to rise, and through the next decade maintained an
dosta State University stretches across a application of the subject material created a burning desire to learn more. I had discovered my calling.
average of 250 students. By 1982, the school was
178 acre campus, just 18 miles of the When I turned in my final that semester, Dr. Rhodes asked me what I planned on doing with my life. I
ready to add a Pre-K program, and eight years later,
Florida border and halfway between Atlanta and told him "Teaching biology in the meaningful and
enrollment saw yet another surge. enjoyable manner I experienced this semester."
“In the early 1990’s, there was some new growth
in the enrollment numbers that took the school to
Valdosta State University offers 110 undergradu-
ate degrees, and more than 60 graduate degrees
Eight years later, I have watched many of my stu-
dents become excited about science, as I did that Charles “Alex” Alvarez
an average enrollment of 260,” said Headmaster semester. Each time I am reminded why I became
Cobb Atkinson. “ In 1997, as a second section was
through its five colleges. Even as the university ex-
a teacher. I believe giving students a reason to
School: Valdosta High
pands each year, it continues to gain notoriety for
made available for many of the grades, Valwood ex-
its smaller class sizes, and low student to faculty ra-
learn in a way that reveals their potential encour- Number of years teaching: 5
perienced growth to an enrollment of 314 students ages students to give education a chance and be- years, at VHS
tio. In addition to the main and north campus loca- come lifelong learners.
for the year. With the exception of 2000, the school
has since experienced a steady rate of growth, with
tions, located at 1500 North Patterson Street in Hometown: I grew up in Coffee
Valdosta, VSU also offers graduate and upper-level Q: What is the most interesting part of your
enrollment climbing to a range of 375 – 385 during
undergraduate courses at 30 locations throughout
County, originally a Trojan. I
the past four years.” job?
the region, including Moody Air Base in Valdosta, moved to Valdosta to attend VSU.
This year has proved remarkable for the school,
opening with a record enrollment of 405 students
the Kings Bay Naval Base on the Georgia coast, and A:: I really enjoy seeing students make con- Family: Jennifer Beal- Alvarez,
the Marine Base in Albany. nections between the content and personal expe-
on its first day of classes.
Valdosta State University was founded under the riences, providing that wow factor. Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Teacher at
Over the years, as Valwood has grown, so has West Gordon Elementary and Val-
mission of preparing students to meet global oppor-
the diversity of its students, who attend from all Q: How do you keep lessons interesting for
over Lowndes County, Northern Florida, and sever-
tunities and challenges through excellence in teach-
ing and learning; expanding the boundaries of cur-
al surrounding cities.
rent knowledge, and exploring the practical applica-
“Broadly speaking, two factors have contributed
tions of that knowledge, through excellence in
A: I have realized teaching involves demon-
to our growth,” said Atkinson. “First of all, the strating effective strategies to create meaningful learning opportunities for students. Becoming a success-
scholarship and creative endeavors; and to promote ful teacher or coach is a journey. Parker Palmer (2004) stated, “It’s a journey that never ends.” A teacher
school has taken big steps forward institutionally.
the economic, cultural, and educational progress of must realize strategies that have worked before may not work the following year and do not work for
Our new campus represents a significant moment in
the local community and region, through excellence every child who enters the classroom or playing field. Constant reflection guides me to confront such
the history of the school and has given us state-of-
in service outreach. Valdosta State University seeks uncertainties about teaching. Participation in professional learning activities has driven my excitement
the-art facilities in which to implement our mission.
to accomplish this mission in a dynamic , student- for biology and the learning process itself. Graduate courses allowed me to gain and share ideas with oth-
Also, we’ve added several key programs that have
centered learning environment marked by a respect er teachers from several districts. Biology workshops related to specific content, such as DNA elec-
resulted in an even better experience for our stu- trophoresis, plant pathology, and wildlife conservation provided valuable knowledge and instructional
for diverse abilities, backgrounds, and contributions
dents.” materials, all of which make biology more exciting. I share these stories and materials with students to
by all members of the university community.
One of the greatest drawing factors of Valwood demonstrate that even their teacher enjoys learning about new content and student achievement.
Over the course of the upcoming six years, VSU
remains its strong commitment to academics, and
will continue to celebrate its centennial anniversary,
the high standard of achievement, performance,
while under the leadership of Dr. Ronald Zacarri, Q: How essential is hands-on learning to learning, specifically science?
and self-expectancy instilled within the students it
the college’s seventh president.
serves. A: I have supported hands-on inquiry since the beginning of my teaching career. Implementing
“Valwood has found powerful ways to improve hands-on activities is challenging, but these activities increase individual understanding of abstract con-
cepts. Experiencing student achievement as a result of trying new methods exceeds in value when com-
upon its mission: “to instill in its students an enthu-
siasm for academic excellence, the foundations of pared to the extra effort it takes to implement those methods. Planning lessons and implementation al-
strong character, and a commitment to serve oth- ways involves putting myself in the students' shoes in regards to how learning can be enjoyable and
ers,” said Atkinson.
Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, Valwood
College meaningful. I have toured the community of the school system, visited feeder schools, and talked to stu-
dents and parents individually to appreciate various backgrounds. This allows me to use relevant analo-
gies and access prior knowledge for introducing or covering new content. It is always rewarding to see a
has indeed worked to build upon its mission, devel- student become excited about a lesson due to the fact that they can contribute to the discussion.
oping several advisory programs, and strengthening
its advance placement course offerings, as it pre- aldosta Technical College was founded
in 1963, through the joint efforts of
Q: What other VHS activities and programs do you participate in?
pares competent students who are able to enter the
state and nations most challenging and prestigious the Valdosta City and Lowndes Coun- A: Boys Head Soccer Coach, Scouts (Standards-based Classroom: Onward and Upward to Success)
universities. ty Boards of Education. In 1988, Val Model Classroom teacher, Environmental Awareness club sponsor, Service learning ambassador, Honors/
“We have added advisory programs in the mid- Tech became a unit of the Georgia De- AP Courses committee.
dle and upper schools to give our students even partment of Technical and Adult Education, and
more opportunities to forge meaningful relation- today, offers more than 85 programs. Q: What are your personal hobbies?
ships with caring adults in the school and allow par- The main campus is found at 4089 Val Tech
ents another point of contact on campus,” said Road, covering 123 acres of land in north Lowndes A: Free time is a funny word at certain times of the year, but I enjoy fishing, traveling and watching
County. The Cook County Center, as a satellite soccer. My wife and I also camp and hike the Appalachian Trail when time permits.
“We’ve ramped up our AP program in the upper center of Val Tech, is housed in a new 14,000
square foot building on five acres between Adel and Q: Tell me about your family here
school to create an even more rigorous schedule for
our top-performing juniors and seniors, and the vast Sparks.
More than 85 programs (diploma, degree, and
A: I met my wife through the Valdosta City school system. Now, Jennifer Beal- Alvarez, is a Deaf/
majority of them have chosen to challenge them- Hard of Hearing Teacher at West Gordon Elementary and Valdosta Middle. Jennifer is passionate about
selves by enrolling in these classes. The past few certificate) are currently offered at Valdosta Techni-
hear students’ achievement and improving her teaching each. She completed her specialist degree this
years have seen a steady rise in the percentage of cal College, as well as non-credit continuing educa- past December. She has encourage me to be the best I can be in the classroom and playing field.
juniors and seniors who participate in the AP pro- tion courses.
gram, and recently we have had 75 percent of them As Val Tech prepares for future growth with the Q: What do you enjoy about working in the Valdosta School System?
taking at least one AP class during this time, with ongoing construction of a 90,000 square foot build-
two-thirds of those who do participate taking two or ing on it’s main campus, it continues its mission of A: The Valdosta School System is very interested in maximizing student achievement. Mr. Brett
more AP classes each year.“ providing accessible quality education, while sup- Stanton (VHS Principal) and Mike Samaras (9th grade academy principal ) constantly seek insight and
Aside from academic commitment, Valwood also porting economic growth, and promoting lifelong make suggestions to make our school a great school. The system has supported my interests through staff
learning for residents in its six-county service area. development opportunities and classroom resources. My classroom is full of technology that is utilized to
works to instill moral values into the lives of its stu-
Val Tech’s commitment is to provide technical in- supplement each modality of learning. Providing these resources as supplements also allows opportunities
dents, by promoting service-learning projects and for students to think about a concept in a variety of ways, accessing higher-order thinking skills while
other school activities, which encourage students to struction, enabling students to develop knowledge,
skills, and work ethics resulting in entry-level em- discouraging rote memorization. Scaffolding, or encouraging students to think about and apply prior
give back to the local community and others. knowledge for new concepts, makes science fun, while promoting higher achievement on standardized
“We’ve worked consistently as a school commu- ployment and career advancement. The College ful-
nity to improve our work to teach character,” said fills its mission through credit courses leading to as-
Atkinson. “We have become much more deliberate sociate of applied science degrees, diplomas, and Q: Have you learned any lessons from your students?
in our efforts to teach students to live giving, com- technical certificates of credit in business, computer,
passionate lives through coordinated, carefully health, industrial, natural resources, and personal A: Yes. Never assume anything when working with a student. A teacher should always take a step
crafted, student-centered service projects in all services fields; workforce training for new and exist- back and realize that the material he/ she teaches is not as easy for everyone. A little encouragement
three divisions. One partnership between Valwood ing industries; professional and personal-develop- and a smile goes a long way in motivating your students to take charge of their learning.
and the community formed about a year ago, ment continuing education; and programs and ser-
through which Valwood students are providing tu- vices designed to assist adults in reaching literacy
toring to children at LAMP Our upper school stu-
. and GED goals.
dents go to the shelter each week to assist the chil-
dren who are there at the time.”
While remaining a private learning institution,
Valwood has not separated itself from the local
community, as it works along with the county and
city school systems to promote education among all
Georgia Christian eorgia Military College was created in
1879 by the Georgia General Assem-
bly "to educate young men and women
from the Middle Georgia area in an
environment which fosters the quali-
ties of good citizenship." It was founded in an era
ince 1914, Christian education has been pro- when public education as known today throughout
vided for young people and children at Geor- the South was practically non-existent, and the leg-
gia Christian School, which sits at 4359 Dash- islature intended to take some steps to correct this
er Road in Dasher. Housing students from grades lack of educational opportunity.
prekindergarten through 12, it’s a school where the The word College as applied to the institution
life of Christ shines forth as a guiding light, a school was, perhaps, not quite accurate. The school began
Park University offers the most successful, flexible, convenient, economical
that provides academic excellence in a Christian as what would now be termed a high school. How-
ever, its curriculum, which included subjects far be-
and accelerated programs of study for civilians and military. We also have
environment. Principal Marcia Collins and her staff
love children and enjoy giving them the personal yond the scope of modern high schools, made it online degree courses so that you may earn your degree in the comfort of
attention they need to learn and succeed. They are possible for GMC graduates to enroll with advanced your own home and time.
dedicated to providing academic excellence, good standing into the University of Georgia and other
discipline, respect for authority and an environ- institutions of higher learning. If you work and have little time and can only attend classes nights,
ment that is safe and secure, free of crime and In 1900, the name of the school was changed to evenings or weekends, call us today. We will be glad to look at your
drugs. Georgia Military College, and legislative acts of previous educational experience and give you an unofficial evaluation to
Other private schools in Lowndes County in- 1920 and 1922 severed relationships with the Uni- determine what you need to do to complete your degree.
clude Open Bible Christian School, located at 3992 versity of Georgia and gave the local Board total
North Oak Street Extension and serving students in power over the operations of the school. In 1930, We look forward to serving your educational needs.
grades prekindergarten through 12; Faith Christian the addition of a junior college division to the
Academy, located at 2700 North Forrest Street and school finally justified its name. In 1950, the War
serving students in grades prekindergarten through Department designated the institution a Military Ju-
eight; Lighthouse Christian Ministry, located at nior College. One of only six remaining colleges so 3010 Robinson Road • Moody Air Force Base
4565 Bemiss Road and serving students in grades designated, today it is a two-year, multi-site, co-ed-
prekindergarten through 12; Southland Christian ucational public college. www.park.edu 333197dhv
Page 4 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Sunday, March 25, 2007
Who are we
Who is teaching our children?
Q: Why do you choose to become a teacher?
A: This was not my dream initially. My desire
was to become secretary
of the state. I also
wanted to go into the
Navy, but I had a baby
and those plans were School: J.L. Lomax, third grade
halted. Shortly after,
Mrs. Ruth K. Council Number of years teaching: 25
hired me as a parapro- years, all at J.L. Lomax
fessional and I worked
Hometown: I consider Valdosta
as a parapro for 13
years then went back to my home. We moved here from
school and became a Clinch County when I was 12 years
certified teacher, and
I’m going into my 13th
year as a certified Family: Married to Otis Crossgrow,
teacher. 13 years, and is the mother of
Q: What do you Corey, Lakeena and Shawntell
appreciate about the Crossgrow.
Valdosta School Sys-
A: I really like the fact that I can be versatile.
They give you the curriculum to teach, but they
don’t tell you how to teach. I love the flexibility I
have to use my own creativity in the classroom.
Q: Why have you chosen to remain at J.L. Lo-
max? LHS Band Camp
A: The learning environment here. There is a younger parents now, on the computer. val of States" marching competition which we won
family connection that rests here with the entire teachers often times have to teach the students twice, being selected to participate in two of Dis-
about life. We have to train children and teach chil-
faculty and staff. There is a closeness we have that Q: What is your most memorable experience ney's ABC Christmas parade specials that aired
keeps you at ease and I’m comfortable here and I dren. We’re seeing many younger teachers now too, world-wide in 1999 and 2006. (2006 we were the
during your own musical career?
can be more effective at what I’m doing. If we need without children, so they sometimes don’t know only band featured in the televised portion of the
each other, everybody knows someone is here for everything teaching encompasses. They prepare parade). We have appeared in the 2003 Macy's
them for the CRCT, but not for life. When the A: My most memorable experience in college
them. Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the
CRCT is gone, they still have to live. Teaching is would be having the opportunity to perform with
2005 55th Presidential Inaugural Parade in Wash-
more than just pulling out a book, and it’s far more the late great Count Basie and his orchestra. Also
Q: How do you bring teaching out of the box? ington, DC, The 117th Tournament of Roses Pa-
than academics. You have to teach the kids table recording in several studios in the 1970's was defi-
rade in Pasadena, CA in 2006, The McDonald's
manners at times, responsibility, temperance. nitely a great experience.
Thanksgiving Day parade in Chicago, Ill. in 2006.
A: I try to make information as exciting as pos-
We have also appeared in parades in Houston, TX.
sible. I want into this to be interesting and exciting Q: What are your hobbies? I would guess that we have probably won 40-50
and I want learning to be fun. If I enjoy it, the chil-
marching band competitions over the last 28 years.
dren will enjoy it. Some teachers teach from their
desks, but I’m all over the place. Charles E. Todd, II A: My personal hobbies include traveling, read-
ing and automobiles. Q: Where do students go after leaving the LHS
The Lowndes County Bridgemen are definitely a band program?
Q: What are your hobbies and outside activi- Q: Tell me about the family behind the man
ties? force to reckoned with, but they are likewise a band
of showmanship and respect — a reflection of their A: We often have students who graduate and
director. A: I have been married to Wanda Wright Todd receive scholarships to pursue careers in music. We
A: Outside of school, I do a lot of outreach for 26 years. Wanda is cur- have had students go on to FSU, Troy University,
ministry with my church, visiting the elderly and rently the Civilian Per- University of Florida, UGA, Georgia Tech, FAMU
through the street ministry. I enjoy writing and
Q: When and Why
sonnel Officer at Moody and VSU and perform with their respective bands.
reciting poetry and I love reading, when I can. did you decide to be-
come a teacher?
Charles E. Todd, II AFB. We have two chil- Both of my children are on music scholarships at
dren, Charles Stacy and Bethune Cookman College, which has just received
Q: And now, you’re a published writer? School: Lowndes High, Director of Tiffany Naomi Todd. University status. Several of the jazz performance
A: I decided to be-
come a teacher after
Bands Both of them were mem- majors at VSU are former members of our jazz en-
A: Yes. I just published my first book, Poems Number of years teaching: 28th bers of the Georgia semble. J. Chris Griffin, who owns a studio in New
spending a lot of my York City, is a graduate of Lowndes High School.
That Bring NuLife, meaning, New Understanding Bridgemen, and they are
youth on the road play- year with the Lowndes County He has done work with Madonna, Janet Jackson,
of Life In Christ for Everyone. I was inspired by now both, the fourth
ing behind various artist. Missy Elliot and many other well-known artists.
Maya Angelou’s visit to VSU a few years back. I School System. generation of my family
I started playing profes- John Legend has recently recorded some work in
was already into poetry but she inspired me to go on to attend Bethune Cook-
and continue. Finally in 2006, I decided it was time
sionally at the age of 13, Director of Bands and Fine Arts man College He was his studio as well. He is one of our true success sto-
so I was pretty well
and put everything aside during the summer to
burned out by the time I
Chairperson at Lowndes High drum section leader and ries.
complete my own book. There are about 55 poems played lead trumpet in
finished college. My col- School since 1999. Also teaches at the jazz band, and she Q: How long can we look forward to seeing the
in the book, along with inspirational thoughts taken
lege band director, Mr. Valdosta State University.
from the Bible. The J.L. Lomax family has been played flute, marched band under your leadership?
Samuel Berry, suggested
very supportive of my book and Principal Allen let Hometown: Virginia - grew up and color guard and was
that I try teaching for a
us have a book signing here and I was the featured drum major for the Geor- A: I plan on staying with the system at least
author for the school’s book fair. Parents came to
while. He had taught attended schools in St. Lucie gia Bridgemen. Charles
high school band at one or two more years. I can retire after next
buy the book and the kids seem to be reading it
Westside High School County and Palm Beach County in is a rising senior at school year, but if I feel like I'm still effective, I
more than the parents. I see them walking through Bethune Cookman Col-
the halls with the book and they’re so excited to
and Lowndes High Fla. I moved to Valdosta in 1979 as lege, where he is current-
might consider staying longer. The program here at
School, so he knew the Lowndes is solid because of so many important peo-
know someone who wrote a book. It feels good to an assistant band director at LHS, ly percussion section ple. All of the directors have been a high school
area well. He knew of
be an inspiration and that’s the whole inspiration working with Billy Martin. leader in the marching band director at some point in their careers, and
an opening and recom-
behind the book. and symphonic bands, any one of them is capable of continuing the legacy
mended that I apply. I Family: Wanda Wright Todd, wife and Tiffany is a rising first created by Billy Martin. As of this year, our
came with the intent to
Q: What do you feel your responsibilities are as teach for one year and of 26 years; children, Charles Stacy sophomore, where she staff directors have a total of 163 years of teaching
a teacher? plays piccolo in the experience. You can't help but have a quality prod-
go back on the road, but and Tiffany Naomi Todd. marching and symphonic
I met my future wife, uct with this kind of teaching experience. I am for-
bands as well. My
A: I must teach life lessons everyday. Some- Wanda, and never left the tunate to work with such directors as Robert May-
Grandmother, mother and nard, Richard McLendon, Phil Mika, Alan Drew
times I have to teach them morals, respect for oth- system. One of the best moves I have ever made.
father all graduated from Bethune Cookman Col- and Debbie Bradley. These are all remarkable indi-
ers, and I teach them as I do my own children. I My parents were both school administrators, so I
lege in Daytona Beach, Fla. with degrees in educa- viduals, and all of them bring something special to
want them to be productive citizens in all areas of naturally felt comfortable in the education arena.
tion as well as myself. Both of my children, Charles the table.
their lives and they’ll tell you, “She’s mama here at
and Tiffany, are fourth generation students at
school, and when I leave here I go to my mama at Q: Compare today's high school musicians to Bethune Cookman College where he is majoring in
home.” those you attended school with? Q: Your greatest memory over your years as di-
Music Technology, and she in Mass Communica-
tions/Music Technology. They are both members of
Q: How have you seen the field change over A: Young people today are different than they the marching band at Bethune Cookman.
the years? were when I was coming up. In fact, they are differ- A: My greatest memories of the band have been
ent from what they were 10 years ago. Not to say Q: Why do you like the Lowndes School Sys- watching my own kids grow up in this type environ-
A: I think we need to go back. There’s a differ- that they are better or worse, just different. Young tem?
ment, and having the support of my wife and family
ent outlook on teachers today than there was back people today have never know life without a com- over the years. This job requires a lot of time com-
then. People had respect for teachers and now, puter, without cable television. We spent much mitment, and with them all being involved in the
A: I like the Lowndes School System because program, we have been able to stay close as a fami-
you’re just a teacher and many people who come in- more time outside. They tend to have different in-
of the quality of people in the system, and the clien- ly. Band is about all we talk about when we are at
to it are just there to do a job. Because society has terest. I still have to ask my kids how to do things
tel that we serve. We have some of the best young home. It keeps us connected.
people anywhere to work with, and the parental
support to our program is phenomenal. The board,
superintendent, teachers, parents and administra-
tors all do their very best to provide quality experi- Monica Dyess
ences for our young people. Q: When and why did you decide to become a
Q:What lessons have your students taught you?
A: When I was a freshman in college, I led a
A: From my students, I have learned that most middle school girls’ Bible study. While working
of them will do anything for you if they know that with the girls, I realized that I loved everything
you genuinely care about them and their well-be- about their age group and felt a true call to work
ing. Most want the same things, to be treated fairly with them. Middle school is a tough time for every-
and with respect. If you win them over, there is one, and I knew that teaching was a way to share
nothing they won't do for you. my passion for helping young people.
Q: Share a few of the honors you’ve been a part Q: Tell me about your students.
of through the Bridgemen.
A: Each one of my students is like a book I
A: I've been fortunate to have been with the haven’t read yet. Throughout the year I get a
Georgia Bridgemen throughout most of it's accom- chance to read their stories and, hopefully, add to
plishments. We have won numerous local, state them. Watching students’ grow and learn each day
Valwood students view artwork and national titles including the prestigious "Festi-
Sunday, March 25, 2007 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Page 5
Who are we
keeps me interested. There is always something go- of tap lights, firewood, and tissue paper, and we sat
ing on in a middle school. Nothing is ever dull. around all day, telling stories. At the end of our Po-
etry unit, students participated in a ‘Poetry Café’ Who is teaching our children?
Q: How do you strive to make your classroom where they presented two of their own works in a
differnt? coffee-shop setting. Starbucks donated coffee and a student?
parents volunteered to act as servers. Projects such Q: Tell me about your family here.
A: I decorate my classroom in dark colors, pur- as these take pressure off of students who may have A: As I went to private school, not public
a hard time speaking in front of others, gives stu- A: I live in Valdosta with my husband, Lee school, I feel I have a different view on teachers
ples and blacks, to create a soothing, serene atmos-
dents who struggle with paper and pencil tests a Dyess, of Earthsound Recording, and our two dogs, than those who went to public school. I actually
phere. I do not use the fluorescent lights, but in-
chance to succeed, and offers those who are cre- Trixie and Caspian. I also work with my parents had the same teachers for subsequent years, for the
stead, have several lamps positioned around the
ative to be expressive. The availability of technolo- John and Diane Montague, at Shorty’s Steakhouse. same subjects, so, although I had a wonderful edu-
room. This, I believe, keeps the students calm as
gy has also opened many new doors for innovative My artist sister, Leah Montague, also works at the cation, I did not see a large variety of teaching
well. I also play instrumental music during work
and fresh lesson planning. Last year, HMS acquired family business. styles. I feel that, due to changes in legislation,
times and testing, to help soften the sounds of a
a set of 32 laptops that can be used in any class- state and national standards, and more stress placed
busy classroom. Some students cannot concentrate
room. Those, along with the standard 6 computers
when all they focus on is Q: What do you find rewarding about the on standardized testing, that current teachers have
per classroom, have al- much more to shoulder than ever before. This, un-
the student who keeps Lowndes School System?
lowed me to integrate fortunately, leads to experienced teachers retiring
coughing or tapping his
pen. Next, to establish Monica Dyess technology in many of
A: The Lowndes County School System is a more quickly, discourages new teachers from enter-
my lessons and allows me ing the field, and creates a bleak outlook for those
order, I have my rules wonderful organization to work for. Though we are
placed prominently, my Name: Monica Dyess, 25 to approach teaching midway through their careers.
with a more individual- a large school system, we work as one, with one
two most important be- School: Hahira Middle 8th grade goal in mind; student success. Specifically, the As far as teaching goes, I can attest that new
ing 1. Respect your- working environment at HMS is truly outstanding. technology, and the availability of technology has
selves and others, and 4. Reading and Literature Teacher I am not one teacher working with many students, greatly improved the way teachers teach. No
Allow Mrs. Dyess to Q: What other HMS longer do students have to just sit, listen, and take
teach. During class dis-
Number of years teaching: 2 years activities/programs do
but I am part of a family, working with our children.
Support, encouragement, and consistency from the notes. That style of teaching is now combined with
cussion times, I use a full-time/ also spent first year out you participate in? a more individualized approach, as teachers learn to
administration and parents is what makes the
‘discussion ball’, much Lowndes County School System so great. differentiate, teach in a learning focused manner,
like the conch shell in of college as long-term sub. A: I am a part of the and cater to specific learning styles and modes.
The Lord of the Flies. I Hometown: Valdosta Professional Association
Q: How do have your students taught you? The result is a classroom environment where every
also use partner work of Georgia Educators student has the opportunity to succeed.
whenever possible, and I Family: Husband, Lee Dyess, and (PAGE) Teacher Acade-
switch up the pairings by my. It is a 2 year pro- A: Each day, I get up and teach students, but
two dogs, Trixie and Caspian. each day, I also learn from them. They have taught
Q: Why would you encourage others, specifical-
using a ‘Clock Buddy’ gram for novice teachers
me to smile more, to have more confidence in my- ly young women, to become teachers?
sign up sheet. to better equip them for
becoming teacher leaders. I serve on various com- self and my abilities as a teacher, and to not take
myself too seriously. I also learned a very valuable A: When I was attending college, I worked as
Q: What are your unorthodox approaches to mittees dealing with Reading curriculum and in-
struction. I also work with Christie Paulk, from the lesson from one particular student this year. In a an office assistant. I loved the people I worked
Valdosta Regional Public Library, running a “Teen poem he wrote in my class, he expressed his with, and the job itself was pleasant, but filing pa-
Café” each month. The Teen Café is a book club thoughts about a day when a teacher, who was ag- pers and filling order forms became old quickly. I
A: When it comes to instruction, most of my gravated with his class, said some things in refer- needed a chance to be creative and I thrived on
geared towards middle and high school students
lessons are more project and performance based, ence to their behavior that upset the student, who challenges. Teaching has given me that, and so
that mainly focuses on science fiction/fantasy. We
rather than the mundane reading of a story and an- is generally well-behaved. He made me realize just much more. I am able to fulfill both my passion for
meet at Books-A-Million, who donates gift cards as
swering comprehension questions. I ask my stu- how much a simple statement, made by a teacher, working with young people and teaching others to
dents to tell me what they think, but more impor- can impact students. I have been more careful with love and enjoy literature. True, I don’t get a lunch
tantly, I make them back up what they think with how and what I say when I am upset, not just in the
Q: Outside of school, what do you enjoy? hour, and I do spend much more time working at
why they think that way. Many of our projects classroom, but in other areas of my life. My won- school than I should, and I even spend a lot of the
have dealt with students taking an active role in derful middle school students have also taught me money I make on my students and classroom, but
presenting to the class. For instance, our ‘Scare A: I am a voracious reader. I also love to be much about the meaning of the word ‘patience’. it’s all worth it when a student comes up to me in
Share’ project had students re-tell an oral tradition- creative and crafty, support the local music and arts
the hallway and says, “Thank you for allowing us to
al tale around Halloween. I created a campfire out scene, and watch good movies.
Q: How have teachers changed since you were do this project. I really understand it now!”
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Plenty of parking and
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“Building Relationships and Service Since 1907”
We celebrated our 50th Anniversary.
Farmers and Merchants Bank continued
to grow and prosper with total assets of
May 23, 1907
Doors open for business in Milltown (now May 1977
Lakeland) with $15,000 in capital. Total FMB survived two world wars, the
deposits received that day were $30. depression, recessions and bad crop years
to continue to be a strong financial facility.
A new bank was constructed on Carter
Street in Lakeland.
1993 FMB Bancshares, Inc. was originally organized as a single
United Banking Company, now Farmers and bank holding company. Management and The Board of
Merchants of Nashville, was acquired by FMB Directors made a very positive more towards the future and
Bancshares, Inc. By spreading our wings into the FMB family.
Berrien County we created an efficient team to
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January 2001 Farmers and Merchants Bank of Covington LPO
January 18, 2006
Clinch Banking Company, now Farmers was organized and opened for business. Our
Farmers and Merchants Bank of
and Merchants Bank of Homerville, was Lending team has been serving the Covington
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built in Homerville and became apart of area for years with over 200 years of combined
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Who are we
VSU students add
By Rabyn Ratliff The Valdosta Daily Times
Q: Why did you choose International Studies,
rather than attending college in your home coun- Minerva Blancaneaux
A: (Minerva) I chose international studies be- Country: Belize
cause of the opportunities for doing things. Limited Graduation: Minerva- 3 years,
opportunity back home. Coming here was one of
the better choices.
Amil - 2 years
Plans after graduation: Return
A: (Amil) I didn’t choose to come here initially, home to begin career work
but when I heard about the waiver, it was more eco-
nomical to come here, and the one-on-one rela-
knit community between us in this program.
tionship and small atmosphere was appealing.
A:(Minerva) He’s speaking about a waiver A: (Minerva) one of my advisors said that this
through our government in Belize, to 20 different university is small enough to accommodate the
U.S. universities for exchange. The government will needs of students and advanced enough to offer
give us benefits for school, and this is one of the enough options.
universities the had the program I wanted to do: Emil Grinage with the flag from his native country of Belize.
education, history. I want to teach, and I definitely Q: What are the main differences you’ve no-
will go back home to teach. ticed between American culture and way of life,
rely on school buses, but it’s not very convenient
and your own, back home?
Q: Describe your experience here in at VSU?
because they can only take us one day a week. A: So far, its a cool place for school. Not a lot
of distractions and calm. The infrastructure was
A: (Amil) Back home, you can go everywhere A: (Amil) It’s more expensive to live, more welcoming. When I came, I said, “Is this a church?”
A: (Amil) People are real friendly in the inter- easily by bike or by walking.
money to go on dates. One thing I’ve noticed about the city though, is
national studies program and there is a real close- that there is no great bus transportation.
A: (Minerva) Public transportation. (Here) we A: (Minerva) Yes. Everyone in college is broke.
I’ve also noticed that back at home, people are Q: Have you experienced and cultural differ-
more personable. Here they seem to be more self- ences?
centered. (Here) you’ll say hi to someone today, and
tomorrow, they don’t know you, and that’s some- A: Initially, my experience, little bit of a culture
thing that takes getting used to. At home, there is shock coming here because the dress was shocking.
more interaction between people and families, and At home, if you wear pajamas to class, you get sent
even though Valdosta is small, I haven’t met an back home, if your clothing is too short, you get
American yet that wasn’t busy. Back home, we’re sent back home, I came here and saw all these
busy, but we still have time to breathe, and to enjoy things and said, “Wow, this is America–Free.”
our families and friends.
Q: What things remind you of home?
Q: Why did you choose international studies, A: The events done here in this program, make
us think of home, and they encourage us because
rather than study in your home county?
people want to learn more about you and your cul-
ture. Here in this region though, there is a lot of ig-
A: My passion is marketing, my country is still norance, versus northern America, and people still
developing, so I came here to get a good education have to learn a lot about Africa. People here have
and go back home and improve standards. At asked me if we have lions running around, and it
home, they have French and English and the best amazes me that they think that.
markets are in French, and the English market is
Q: And why do you feel that marketing is a Mireille Nde
beneficial career? Country: Africa, Cameroon
A: I think everybody needs to have marketing Graduation: Two years
skills–understanding and meeting the needs of peo- Plans after graduation: Complete
ple–that’s something everyone should study. masters and doctorate studies in
Minerva Blancaneaux, from Belize, with Latanya the U.S., return to home country
Q: Tell me your thoughts on the college thus
Castillo, also from Belize, prepare a dish of Ceviche far to pursue career
By Rabyn Ratliff The Valdosta Daily Times
Dr. Shirley Hardin A: I completed an undergraduate degree at Al-
bany State College (English Education); a Master
of Arts in English from Florida State University as
well as a PHD in English (concentration in African
Q:Tell me about your life growing up in the seg- American literature) from Florida State University.
A: Integration of the public schools began dur-
ing my senior year in high school, Sept. 1970. My
Q: Do you feel that attending a black institu-
tion empowered you?
Who is teaching our children?
James Wilkinson (both helped me survive the “new-
parents were sharecroppers who had only a ninth A: Albany State University (College then) is a Q: What was the faculty/student demographic ness” of it all and encouraged my personal
like at that time? voice–My students often referred to me as the black
grade education. However, they saw to it that their traditional HBCU. It was awesome and quite won- lady in English.
seven children (six girls and a boy) were given the derful. It prepared me to face the real world like
opportunity to finish high school and then go on to none other. I learned so much about myself, the A: The year I was hired, there were only three
college, if that’s what we wanted to do. My siblings pride my people possessed – an unassailable, monu- African American faculty members employed at Q: What year was it, that you became the first
and I grew up poor, but we did not know it. To this mental dignity. I learned VSC, two in the School of African American woman in an administrative posi-
day, however, I cannot recall being hungry while how to navigate life and Education and one in the tion at VSU?
growing up in my parents’ home. We were happy
and didn’t worry about what he had or did not
its many possibilities. I
graduated in less than
Dr. Shirley Hardin School of Arts and Sci-
ences. There were ap- A: In 1996, I became the academic director of
have. We just knew there was a better life just three years with the Name: Dr. Shirley Hardin proximately 200 African the African American Studies Program, housed
waiting for each of us, especially if we worked hard. Summa Cum Laude aca- American students en- within the College of Arts and Sciences.
School: Valdosta State University, rolled at VSC in 1976.
demic honor (3.97
GPA). Attending a ma-
Full Professor of English These students peti- Q: Did you apply for this position, or were you
Q: Who were the people in your life who in- jority white institution Academic Director of African tioned the University selected?
spired you to be successful? equally prepared me to American Studies, Project Director System of Georgia’s
deal with real life situa- of HEROES Institute Board of Regents to se- A: Although I and a committee worked tireless-
A: My maternal grandmother, Jessie B. Hunter tions and a world that cure more African Amer-
Hometown: Donalsonville, Ga. ican professors. In that
ly to get the academic program approved, I had no
Johnson, who lived to be 102, told me that I could was becoming more mul- dreams of becoming an academic administrator. My
ticulturally diverse. Be- (Seminole County) in 1953, but same year, there were 10
achieve anything that I wanted. I just had to know husband and I were raising three children, teaching
who I was and love myself first. She is the one who ing the only African was educated in the segregated black teachers hired at
full time, and committed to church and community
told me “Us black women something’ special. Us American in my classes schools of Early County, Georgia VSC.
service. There was no time to serve in an adminis-
something’ special.” That phrase is the title of a at FSU automatically trative capacity. I served one year as the program’s
book I am writing that chronicles the lives of four made me the target of Q: How receptive coordinator. Once the official search did not yield
black women of the South: my maternal grand- much scrutiny and curiosity. Unfortunately, many were your colleagues? viable candidates for the position, I was encouraged
mother, my own mother (Susie Johnson Hodge); my of my colleagues expected me to be a spokesperson to apply for the position. My family provided in-
daughter (Keltrice Monique Hardin) and myself for all African American women – an impossibility! A: My colleagues in the VSC English Depart- valuable support. The rest is history.
(Shirley Hodge Hardin). There were cruel people in Nevertheless, I excelled – completing the PHD ment were wonderful. Some were openly curious
my community who equally challenged me and in- with a 4.00 GPA. about me and my cultural background while others Q: How is the program developing?
advertently encouraged my success. These people just marveled at my courage and academic accom-
thought they knew my “place,” and it was not in Q: What year did you start teaching at VSU? plishments. If I were to identify those professors A: African American Studies, like many other
college. Even today, the more I am challenged, the who went out of their way to make me feel at ease,
interdisciplinary programs, lacks the human re-
more I succeed. A: I was hired in 1976 to teach developmental it would include Dr. Willa Valencia (head of the de-
sources needed to pursue the major at this time. Its
English courses the first quarter and since then, I partment), Drs. Patricia and Louise Hanes (office-
expert faculty teach in two disciplines and are
Q: Where did you attend college? have taught upper level and graduate courses in mates at one time); Dr. Marvin Evans (treated me
tenured within their own academic departments.
English. like his grandchild) and Dr. Trent Busch and Dr.
Recent budget crises account for decrease in the
Page 10 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Sunday, March 25, 2007
Who are we
Who is teaching our children?
I want them to see that they are because of de- ing atmosphere?
cisions made and actions taken by others who came
before them. I want them to be able to relate to a A: I am able to do what I love and love what I
lot of these people who were human beings just like am doing.
they are and have learned something about them-
selves, starting to see how they each is a part of his- Q: What lessons have you learned from your
tory, that each is an heir to the judgments and ac-
tions of these past people just as they will add a ply
and bequeath their judgments and actions to pos-
terity. I hope they will learn that you don't have to
A: That each student is a sacred, noble, capa-
be famous to be important and don't have known ble, beautiful, imaginative, creative individual, each
to be historic, and that everything associated with with a unique potential who is the future and who
and created by human beings, without exception — is too valuable to be ignored, dehumanized, deper-
laws, values, people, outlooks, answers, questions, sonalized, or cast aside in a cavalier manner.
institutions, arts, society, language, religion, every- They’ve taught me the truth of what Carl Jung said:
thing — changes. you have to put aside your formal theories and in-
tellectual constructs and axioms and statistics and
charts when you reach out to touch that miracle
called the individual human being. Therefore, I
must always listen to that little voice inside me that
Q: Do you bring what you’d consider an ‘Out of
says, “Teach that one student.” That is why I con-
the Box” approach to teaching?
sciously and constantly imagine that an angel pre-
cedes each person, walking before them proclaim-
A: I do not lecture; I do not give tests; I do not ing: "Make way! Make way for someone created in
VSU graduation ceremony grade performances. I worry less about those things the image of God!" I believe this, feel this, live by
and more about creating a classroom climate which this as each student passes me on campus, enters
holds students spell-bound, sweeps them up in un- my office, comes into the classroom, teach them,
availability of interdisciplinary faculty. Although class clown, a punster, and a prankster of such re-
bounded excitement of learning, in which is blend- counsel them, answer their questions, help them
we are currently offering courses in African and pute that they talked of my antics long after I grad-
ed playfulness and seriousness, in which a feeling of wrestle with their problems. It makes each of them
African American art, music, literature, history, po- uated. Being voted by my high school teachers as
well-being dominates. I approach each student in my personal, professional, and institutional top pri-
litical science, sociology, and anthropology, to name one of the college-bound students least likely to
each class with an attitude governed by my “Rules ority.
a few, more courses are being developed to increase succeed didn't help shore up my weakened sense of
of the Road:”
our visibility and to support a major. self-worth any more than did my lackluster perfor-
mance in college. At UNC, one of the top universi- Q: If you could be anyone from history, who
Rule 1: Give a damn about yourself and each
Q: Would you share some of the program's suc- ties in the country, I had this deep-seated fear that, would it be and why?
other in the class! Care! Support! Encourage!
cesses over the years? being surrounded by smart people, it would be just a
Love! Don't just mouth it, live it!
matter of time before I would be detected. I discov-
Rule 2: We will focus on you and your learning,
A: Me. I am a part of history. Why? I respect
A: The Program has hosted Ten Annual AFAM ered, however, that the door to the classroom was me; I like me; I like where I seem to be headed.
and worry about my teaching later.
locked tighter than the door to the bedroom. Even
Lecture Series that brought to VSU and the diverse Rule 3: No one enters enter the classroom ex-
my professors didn't dare invade the inner sanctum Q: How do you think others see you - first per-
communities African and African American schol- pecting anyone to fail. We expect everyone to learn
of my classroom. ception?
ars, noted authors, poets, politicians, performing and succeed.
The classroom became the one place where I
and visual artists from all over the region, nation Rule 4: This class is a "gathering of sacred ones,”
could compensate, feed my ego, and fill a void. I
and world. A few of these include Afrocentric of diverse, individual, and very special human be- A: I’d prefer to let them speak for themselves.
was important in there; it was the one place I felt
scholar Molefi K. Asante (Temple University); po- ings. But, it depends on whom you’re talking about and
important. I could be a
ets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni; scholar Rule 5: No one in this about the situations. But, if you must, first percep-
leader and students
Ebele Eko (Nigeria); columnist Tony Brown; actor "gathering" is dumb and tion: unorthodox, non-traditional, not-for-real, off-
Ossie Davis and actress Ruby Dee; The Boys Choir
would follow. In the
classroom, I was the sage
Louis Schmier unwanted. Everyone is the-wall, not the usual.
of Tallahassee and popular author Nathan McCall. capable and belongs
The African American Studies Program has also
on stage, at the head of School: Valdosta State University here. Q: And who are you really?
the class. I was needed,
served as an academic research center for VSU stu-
looked up to, seen, Professor of History, 66 in body Rule 6: Everyone is
dents and faculty as well as for the Valdosta com- entitled to the personal,
wanted. I could be smart and 16 in spirit. A: Well, as you know, there is method to my
munities. equal dignity of a human
and look smart, and no madness and madness in my method. I am a lover
one would challenge me;
Number of years teaching: 40 being. We will treat our-
of life; I am a people person. I am a “now” person
Q: How do you use your own experiences to in- I could exhibit self-con- years and still counting (professor selves and each other
who revels in and lives this moment to the fullest.
spire those you teach? with dignity and respect.
fidence and no one the first 25 years and a teacher the But, maybe it is better to ask “Who do I want and
Rule 7: No one's face
would be the wiser. So, struggle to be?”
A: I share my own research with my students in last fifteen) gets erased. No one goes
contrary to the advice of As far as being a teacher is concerned want to
nameless. No one is left
all of my classes. Not just my Black students – but my professors, I decided Hometown: New York, NY. Came in the background. No
be a life-lifter. I want to be a character chiroprac-
all of them—need to hear these stories of struggle that I would concentrate tor and align a student’s belief in him/herself with
and triumphs. These stories of “lived” experiences on my teaching rather
to Valdosta in August 1967 one is allowed to be over-
his/her potential. I want to be a “making the dif-
shadowed by anyone else.
help to deflate stereotypical images and erroneous than on research. Family: Wife, Susan; sons, Rule 8: Everyone
ference” opportunist. I want to be a growth hor-
ideas perpetuated about people of African descent. The imagery of being mone. I want to be a self-discovery catalyst. I
When my students share their diverse stories, they,
Michael, a Vice-president of Sales starts with a clean slate.
the second son came to want to be a TLC agent. I truly believe that my
and Marketing in a California, Sili- No one will judge or be
too, are empowered. Moreover, I am delighted to me every time I heard identity and integrity as a teacher is rooted in being
judged by the ring in her
learn about others’ cultures. Some of my fondest the demeaning state- con Valley, dot-com company, Rob- a life-giver and life-affirmer, in being a lid-lifter and
belly button or the tattoo
memories over the years come from teaching inter- ments about the useless- value-adder. I would describe that mission as one
national students and learning about diverse Chi- ness of history and peo- by, an executive sous chef with the on his arm or the whis-
of being a servant teacher who turns the focus away
pers of other people or a
nese cultures, African cultures, Polish cultures, and ple's dislike for what one Downtown Hilton in Nashville, GPA or the accent of
from myself onto each and every student, who finds
Native American cultures. I have made lifelong student described as a out what each student needs, who serves the needs
friendships with many of these students. "boring memorization of
Tenn; grand-daughters, Natalie, their speech or the color
of each student, who consistently and constantly
of their skin or ...
a bunch of stupid dates, Nina, Jacqueline Rule 9: Nothing in
puts each student first in my feelings and thoughts,
places, and names." It who does whatever it takes--not just my best--to
this class means a thing if
was a discipline that al- meet those needs with hope, faith, belief, love, care,
it doesn't make each one of
ways had to fight for recognition in a society that persistence, and determination.
Louis Schmier demanded practical application. Where I landed
carried with it the image of the second son, not the
us a better person.
Rule 10: WE WILL RESPECT EACH OTHER
If there is one principle I have come to honor, it
is that education is not a world of impersonal
fabled fame, fortune, and prestige that I thought I forces, theories, principles, statistics, test scores, and
Q: What led you to become a professor, and needed to bring me attention, happiness, peace,
To pull off those rules, I have ten guidelines:
subject matter. I'll take a stand and say there is no
what did that journey entail? well- being, and love. learning, no teaching, no subject, no education.
1. Too many classroom rules get in the way of
I wished for things I could not have; I tried to There is only biography. If there is any--any--rele-
good teaching and good learning.
become something I was not; I dreamed and fanta- vant insight I have gained, it is that the individual,
A: I have to admit that I did not go into acade- 2. Optimal teaching is not blissful teaching. It is
that magical and mysterious human being--student
sized of doing things I could not; and I failed to ap-
mia like some intellectual Sir Galahad in quest of adjustable, flexible, and dynamic teaching. The
preciate fully my own untapped inner strengths: my or teacher--in the classroom profoundly matters. I
the Holy Grail of wisdom. I became a history major good teacher has to be a master at impromptu, at
energy, creativity, imagination, individuality, self-re- am slowly seeing that the more we are preoccupied
while attending Adelphi College in Garden City, making split-second decisions, at quick-thinking.
liance, and sensitivity. My barreled definition of with the mechanics, with the technology, with the
New York, only because I messed up my pre-med 3. I can't just go into a class; I've got to get into
success and my shallow appreciation of myself left pedagogy, with assessment, the less we will see the
program and any chances of going to medical it.
me with a sense of humiliation at ending up as a person of the student as well as the person of our-
school. I was a World War II military history buff as 4. Teaching is something you do with students,
teacher at a small out-of-the-way college in a region selves – the more we will be trapped by blind spots.
a teenager, nothing else interested me, and my not something you do to them.
of the country and a state known more for Tobacco I once wrote, in my favorite of all my over 600
sophomore advisor said I had to major in some- 5. It's the heart of the teacher that makes teach-
Road and Gone with the Wind, than its intellectual essays on teaching, a piece I called “To Be A
thing. ing a dear and precious gift.
accomplishments. Teacher,” It was very autobiographical in my atti-
I backed into academia on the rebound, then, 6. What knowledge do you have that is greater
Later, as a published scholar, national reputation tude towards myself, life, and people. A few excerpt
for want of something else to do. I didn't want to go and more powerful and more effective than caring,
notwithstanding, I found myself once again as the from that piece say:
into the military because I had heard something kindness, and love?
second son in an area of history that more than one “If you want to be a teacher, you first have to
about a place called Indochina; I was afraid I didn't 7. A class day is wasted if you haven't smiled
fellow historian denigrated as "an insignificant learn how to play hopscotch, jump rope, hide-and-
have what it took to survive and succeed in the sor- and laughed with each student
country side show to the big tent of this sub-field of seek, learn other children games, learn how to
did world of business; I didn't know what I wanted 8. Students can hold us spellbound if we open
American history." Then, I had my personal watch a snail crawl, blow bubbles, read "Yertle the
to do with my life; and I discovered the ivory tower ourselves to their promise
epiphany in October, 1991, began making the trans- Turtle", and watch "Bullwinkle".
was a safe haven from the stress of life. 9. Consistent teaching does not mean always do-
formation from “professor” to “teacher,” and began If you want to be a teacher, you have to stop and
I went to St. John's University only because it ing it the same way. Many is the time the consisten-
to find my place in the very place I was. Some- watch a rainbow, listen to a distant train, wiggle
was inexpensive and the school was closest to cy means remembering to forget.
times you don’t ask. your toes in the mud and let it ooze through them,
where I worked to earn my tuition. And when I 10. If you want to be free and happy in teaching,
stomp in rain puddles, look up and watch an air-
completed my Master's a year later, I went into the you have to sacrifice routine and boredom.
unknown wilds of what I thought was the "uncivi-
Q: While all of history is important, what are plane, and be humbled by the majesty of a moun-
a few of the major points you feel all people should tain.
lized" South to an idyllic place called the University Q: What other campus programs/activities do If you want to be a teacher, you have to dream
of North Carolina, which I knew nothing about, to know?
you participate in? dreams, play games, talk to the flowers, catch fire
get another advanced degree that meant little to flies, admire a weed, walk barefoot, hold a worm,
me and with which I did not know what I would A: As far as my subject, history, is concerned, I A: Well, as senior professor on campus, whatev- and see what is yet to be.
do. wish they realize that history is not as it is too often
er that means other than being here the longest, If you want to be a teacher, you have to think
I did not go into the classroom on a mission or portrayed: a dull collection of meaningless facts
I’ve been focusing on the classroom. But, I’ve de- silly thoughts, have a water gun fight, have a pillow
with a sense of calling to instill the awe and wonder about dead people, a series of flatten names and
veloped a Holocaust Survivor Speaker Series; as a fight, swirl a tootsie pop in your mouth, burn
of learning in the coming generation. Like most dates whose significance is only in memorization for
cancer survivor, I’m involved in the campus’ Relay sparklers at night, and see in a tree more than a
graduates, I was being groomed as a research schol- a test, a collection of maps and charts and diagrams
For Life program and have challenged the students mass of atoms or so many board feet of lumber or
ar. I was dumped, untrained, into a classroom--first and statistics. I would hope they would begin to un-
in my four classes that if they raise a combined something that's in the way.
at nearby North Carolina State University and then derstand that history it is about real, flesh and
$2,000, I’ll dye my hair any color they can agree on If you want to be a teacher, you have to skip as
at UNC--to teach a freshman survey western civi- blood, complicated and mysterious and unique indi-
(gulp). I’m in the Study Abroad Program teaching you walk, laugh at yourself, smile at others, hang
lization history course that few students, professors, viduals who itched, urinated, scratched, laughed,
in China and thinking about helping to develop a loose, always have an eraser handy, concoct an orig-
or graduate students took seriously. We learned on ate, had intercourse, cried, dreamed, hated and
study abroad program for the History Department inal recipe.
the job, without guidance, by the seat of our pants, loved, and hurt; who--known or unknown--by their
in Scotland. And, I’ve got my finger in a bunch of If you want to be a teacher you have to be in-
more often than not by aping our lecturing profes- mere presence made a difference however suppos-
other things here and there outside the spotlight. spired and inspire.
sors. edly slight or monumental; who had strengths and
If you want to be a teacher, you have to bring
Once inside the classroom, however, I stayed weakness; who were violent and peaceful, who
dreamed and feared, who dared and cowered, who
Q: What are your personal hobbies? joy into everything, watch in awe a sunset or sun-
there because I could hide from both others and rise, ride on a swing, slide down a slide, bump on a
myself. I could be something I always dreamed of risked and played it safe, who achieved and failed,
A: Flower gardening, Fixing up the house which seesaw, and respect even a cockroach as a miracle
being. I never had the dedication or discipline or who fell and stayed down, who fell and got up to
I keep in a perennial state of renovation. of life.
self-confidence to cut an academic swath. I was at strove, who were criminal and law-abiding, who
If you want to be a teacher, you have to ride a
best a mediocre athlete. To gain attention in high were resolute and indecisive, who led and who fol-
bicycle or roller skate or ice skate, and live today.
school, I had resorted to humor and became the lowed, all of whom were unique individuals. Q: What do you like about VSU and its teach-
Sunday, March 25, 2007 w w w.Va l d o s t a D a i l y T i m e s . c o m Page 11
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