Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Julie Hitt’s dream was to bring a miniature Fernbank Museum to Puckett’s Mill Elementary.
On Tuesday morning, the Mill Creek Cluster Foundation made that dream a reality with a $7,500 grant for Hitt to expand her resources to teach students about Georgia’s habitats and creatures. Starting with third-graders, the grant is designed to expand throughout the school as Hitt’s room features animal skulls, skins and two acquariums.
“We’re going to get everybody to help out research and provide information,” Hitt said. “As each grade level can use this lab as a hands-on habitat, and really get excited about it.”
The donation is the largest individual grant in the foundation’s nine-year history as it’s donated nearly $110,000 to benefit about 11,800 students in the Mill Creek cluster, MCCF vice president Julie Cunningham said.
Because the habitats and creatures are popular with students around Puckett’s Mill, Hitt said she looked forward to sharing the grant with them.
“I know that they’ll be excited,” she said. “I have kids dropping in my room all the time, that’s why I’m so excited I can share it, because it really touches the science and social studies curriculum of every grade level.”
Osborne Middle School Principal John Campbell awarded “Partner in Education” as a local pioneer for educational foundations that now stretch across Gwinnett County.
The foundation also awarded Osborne Middle Principal John Campbell with its “Partner in Education” award as Campbell was a local pioneer for education foundations that now stretch across Gwinnett County. In his 38th year in education, Campbell said education is his passion, and these foundations are an extension of that.
“I wanted to make sure the spark for creativity and innovation stays alive in our schools,” Campbell said. “The teachers have lots of good ideas, and many times they don’t have the funds to implement those ideas. The Foundation not only gives the funds, but it gives the courage for teachers to step outside the box and try innovative and different things that keep the spark of learning alive in our schools.”
The president of the MCCF, Steve Agee, said Campbell is an inspiration for future teachers, and had a direct influence on the foundation.
Other award recipients were Dee Debold and Rick Milleman of the Jones Middle Robotics Department, which received $867.90, and Whitney Young of Ivy Creek Elementary to use $282.50 for science dissections.
Organizers of the breakfast said the grants and donations were made possible because of events like the recent MCCF Gala at Chateau Elan, which raised about $28,000.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Lawrenceville Elementary Principal Lisa Johnson points to original windows of the school from when it opened in 1962. This afternoon, current and former students, teachers and administrators will gather to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
The golden anniversary of Lawrenceville Elementary has hearkened back memories of smoking rooms, hair bouffants and crank copy machines. But one thing remains: the school is still the center of the community.
Fifty years after the school opened with 12 classrooms and a first and second grade, about 400 people are expected to attend an anniversary celebration this afternoon with current and former students, staff and administrators. The anniversary celebration will feature appearances by Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, Gwinnett County Board of Education chairwoman Carole Boyce, and several former principals.
The school has had four expansions, most recently in 1993 with a lunchroom and 23 classrooms, but the original windows remain on the kindergarten wing.
“There are members of this community who recognize, love this school, have come through this school, their grandchildren have come through this school,” said teacher Tracy Brooks, who is in her 25th year at Lawrenceville.
In its infancy, the school was called Lawrenceville Primary until 1974 when the sixth grade was added. Originally, there was no lunchroom, so students were bused back to the “school on the hill” for lunch.
“This school and (the) high school had very little competition,” said Jimmie Mae Sosebee, a former teacher from 1966-90. “We had low enrollment and parents got to know each other, and teachers got to know parents and staff.”
Alumni of the school have become principals of schools across Gwinnett, while others have gone off to college and returned to work in the community. One of those is attorney Tony Powell, who was in one of the first classes at the school, and is scheduled to speak at the celebration.
“So many people went to Lawrenceville,” the school’s current principal Lisa Johnson said. “I’ll see them and they’re 50-years-old and they’ll say, ‘That’s where my kindergarten class was.’ They still remember where their classroom was and they remember where their first grade and second grade classroom was.”
This picture of Lawrenceville Elementary was taken when it was known as Lawrenceville Primary School in the late 1960s. This afternoon, current and former students, teachers and administrators will gather to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. Right, J. N. Timms was the first principal of Lawrenceville Elementary when the school opened with first and second grades in 12 classrooms. He served from 1962-80. (Special Photos)
Memories of the school include the Halloween carnival, which was a favorite of Sosebee’s son, and the days when teachers would make copies using jellied hectograph pans.
“Happy was the day we got that hand-crank thing that you couldn’t print but one piece of paper at a time,” Sosebee said.
Over the years, the school has mirrored changes in society, Sosebee said, in that mothers began to work outside the home, so grandmothers picked up students, and the exterior doors were eventually locked for security. Paddling of students was done until the 1980s, and teachers’ job descriptions also became more specialized.
Sosebee said when she started teaching in the 1960s, the school nurse also handled office duties, so at times she held a phone in one hand and a thermometer in the other.
The school’s population has also become more diverse.
“It’s multicultural,” former student Mary Long said. “We didn’t even know that word back then. I think it’s important that we recognize that.”
As the school prepared for the anniversary celebration, teachers had students write assignments of what they thought school was like 50 years ago, and what they think it will be like in the future.
“It’s funny the stories they’re writing,” Johnson said. “They don’t understand what 50 years is, 50 years is a long time.”
The church community, particularly Baptists and Methodists, has consistently supported the school with volunteers, room mothers and a mentor program.
And even as the county has grown from having 15,000 students in 1968, to nearly 170,000 today, the school remains the place where people meet, and the philosophy of the school remains the same, Johnson said.
“The teachers continue to show that they’re great teachers and they love the children, and that has not changed,” Johnson said.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Tim Hur, left, a local real-estate agent and new member on the GCPS Foundation Board of Directors who serves as the Principal for a Day at Duluth High School talks with Principal Anthony Smith in Duluth Tuesday. Schools all around the county will participate with hosting a member of the community as the Principal for a Day sometime this week. This is Hur’s third year as the Principal for a Day in a Gwinnett County school. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Tim Hur’s work day began at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, but for most principals around Gwinnett, that’s about an hour late.
At least that’s the case for Duluth High Principal Anthony Smith, who answered his first phone call of the week at 5 a.m. Monday morning, and shepherded Hur around Duluth on Tuesday as part of the annual Principal for a Day program. Long days and seemingly limitless hours are synonmous with being a principal, and CEO-level leaders around Gwinnett are learning a glimpse of that this week through the partnership between the Gwinnett Chamber and Gwinnett County Public Schools.
The 10th annual Principal for a Day program is how the local school district commemorates American Education Week.
Hur and about 130 other business and community leaders are taking part in the initiative to better understand the principal’s job description, what’s new in local schools, and how to be a better advocate for schools in the community.
“There’s really a lot of work,” said Hur, CEO of International Business Accelerator and Broker and President of Point Honors and Associates. “I don’t think we give enough credit sometimes to what it is to be a principal. There’s always an expectations that public schools serves the students. But principals go beyond their call of duty to make sure the students are taken care of.”
Smith, for example, arrived at work at about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and following the school day, he planned to attend a school council meeting and a pair of basketball games before returning home around 11 p.m.
“We’re not in a position to count hours,” he said. “It takes a certain level of commitment, but in terms of a community aspect, we become part of our school, we become part of our community. (This program) allows our community to have an authentic view of what our school’s all about.”
What’s more, Hur said that he learned Smith does activities after hours or outside the school day that may not be sanctioned by the school district, but are for the greater good of the community.
Tim Hur, center, a local real-estate agent and new member on the GCPS Foundation Board of Directors speaks to members of the Gwinnett Student Leadership team, Abhirup Ramachandiran, left, Ashima Gauba, Maria Matthews and Rebecca Graham at Duluth High School in Duluth Tuesday. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Hur, a real estate agent and new member of the GCPS Foundation Board, met with students and teachers around Duluth High in a series of meetings including a multi-tasking lunch with Duluth’s Student Leadership Team in what Smith called a typical work day.
Leading nearly 200 staff members and 2,653 students is a lesson in planning and anticipation, but also preparing for unknowns or surprises each day.
“When I’m driving the truck into work, I’m not sure what I’m doing today,” Smith said. “It’s a balance of planning and flexibility that makes a good principal. The better we are communicating, the more confidence, credibility and trust our community has about the work we do, because we are proud of the work we do, and have some great things going on here.”
This is the third straight year that Hur has participated in the program, and he said each school demonstrates its own unique challenges and objectives, which dictates how the school should be run.
At Duluth, diversity and the arts stand out. Smith said the school is the most diverse in Gwinnett, and boasts 340 students in its orchestra, which is among the largest in the state.
Hur even said there were lessons he learned to take back to his own office.
“One of the things I’m embracing is seeing how they interact with each other,” he said. “You are as strong as your team. Everyone is close like a family here, but you can see it, you can feel it, it’s a lot more evident here.”
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
The Gwinnett Gladiators recently stopped by Benefield Elementary to present the Benefield Singers with a check for $1175.00. The school earned the money by performing God Bless America during the first intermission of the October 18 home game.
Pictured from left to right are Chris Leverett, Gladiators Account Executive, with Marcus Knight, Assistant Principal, Colleen Kingston, Music Teacher and Emily Cash, Music Teacher. According to Kingston, the funds raised will be used to purchase notation software and upgrade equipment for her classroom listening centers.
“The new software will help us integrate more technology into our classroom and also give the kids a chance to try their hand at composing their own music,” said Kingston.
If your school, athletic organization or other non-profit is interested in finding out more about the Gladiators fundraising program, sponsored by Town Center Music-Suwanee, please contact the Gladiators front office at 770-497-5100.
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Alcova Elementary fourth-graders Piero Iturrizaga, left, and Marco Perez ask questions on Wednesday morning by video conference with John Trostel, director of severe storm research at Georgia Tech. The Alcova students have interacted with several scientists this school year through a partnership with the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
When Kenyon Ellis stepped to the camera and microphone, he had a science question that stumped even the director of severe storm research at Georgia Tech.
“What if protons didn’t exist,” Ellis said.
The fourth-grader posed the question on Wednesday by video conference to John Trostel, who is among a group of scientists in the atmospheric sciences field that have partnered with Alcova Elementary to provide real-world answers and examples to information that fourth-graders like Ellis usually learn from a textbook.
“I think you need to go to graduate school to figure that out,” Trostel told Ellis.
The program, which started this year, was developed by J. Marshall Shepherd, the director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, and Alcova Principal Todd Langley. Shepherd has two children who attend Alcova, including a fourth-grader.
Shepherd said Langley approached him about improving access to science, engineering, math and technology material. Shepherd also brought in professionals from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, and university scientists and researchers.
“The students get to see that scientists can look like them and are real, accessible people,” Shepherd said. “The Alcova students and staff are top notch and are experiencing something special, and I am glad to be a part of it.”
Already this school year, the students have interacted with scientists to discuss the water cycle, weather instruments and climate.
With Trostel, they learned about tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods. And he told the students how he loves to come to work each day. About 180 fourth-graders at Alcova gathered in the school’s cafeteria to interact with Trostel by video conference.
“I actually get to go to work and play most of the time,” Trostel said. “I love doing what I do. I look at weather all the time. If you find something you like in weather, and study hard, study your science, study your math, you can play, you can go to work and do different things every day. I think that’s why science and engineering are fun careers.”
It’s the kind of career Ellis dreams about.
“It’s fun to do this,” he said. “I plan on being a scientist when I grow up. I plan on changing the world any way I can.”
Fourth-grade teacher Kakeshia Maloney said she’s noticed a difference in students since the program began because they have a deeper understanding of the material beyond a textbook.
“I found out they’re more interested in their careers,” Maloney said. “All they know is that a scientist deals with chemistry, but they didn’t know that a meteorologist is also a scientist. Some of the kids are actually considering that as a career path for them.”
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
The greatest opportunity to impact student learning is in the classroom. Thanks to the generous contributions from parents, faculty, alumni, community members, and the business community, the Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence is pleased to award $20,000 in grants to 50 teachers in 12 departments. This is an increase of $5,000 over what was given in 2012.
Committed to its partnership with Norcross High School, the Foundation continually supports academics, arts, and athletics, benefitting the entire student body and fostering a culture of excellence. In times of tight budgets, these grants provide teachers with vital resources to enhance student learning.
Monday, November 11th, 2013
Congratulations to the 2013 Central Gwinnett Cluster Foundation Grant Recipients awarded during the Medieval Knight event at Medieval Times!
Lindsay Fidanza, Erin Hogan, and Kelly Holder – $2,000.00 to purchase Kindle Fires to be used to supplement instruction in reading and math in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade classrooms. All are teachers at Winn Holt Elementary School.
Vanzella Duke – $1,000.00 to purchase equipment and software that will increase students’ ability to create and design Moore Middle School’s VOICE Magazine that is available on-line. The magazine is a forum for Moore students to practice real world applications of reading and writing.
Heather Mitchell – $2,070.00 to provide hands-on, in-house science field trips for third graders at Cedar Hill Elementary School. The High Touch High Tech program will allow students to apply science concepts in a laboratory-type setting.
Betsy Frye and Jennifer Masterson – $1,000.00 to continue Richards Middle School’s seventh grade Science Club. This is a program which was funded last year by the Central Gwinnett Cluster Foundation. Additional monies will allow club members to participate in hands-on activities as well as participate in field trips to Zoo Atlanta’s Night Crawlers Program and the 4-H Center on Jekyll Island.
Katie Martin – $1,397.00 to purchase a SMART Board Interactive Whiteboard for her Special Education class at Lawrenceville Elementary School. She will use the interactive technology as an alternative to traditional teaching strategies. Students will be able to work individually and with others to manipulate objects, text, on other activities on a large Whiteboard with software and internet resources.
Michael Spivey - $1,500.00 to purchase Get-a-Grip!, and instructional unit that challenges middle school students at Richards Middle School to design and construct a prosthetic arm for a fictional Afghan girl who has been injured by a landmine explosion. The students will use interdisciplinary knowledge to solve an engineering problem. This is an 8 lesson unit that will be used in STEM classes.
Jessica Francoeur - $1,000.00 to begin an 8th grade Science Club at Richards Middle School. The funds will be used to purchase lab kits and fund a field trip to a Science Museum.
A Total of $9,967 was awarded to the Central Gwinnett Cluster Foundation 2013 Grant Recipients.
Friday, November 8th, 2013
Superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools, J. Alvin Wilbanks announces Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology’s Hyunjin Son as the Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth Thursday. The school district recognized 130 local school teachers total during the annual Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year banquet. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
The annual Gwinnett County Public Schools Teacher of the Year banquet and celebration of education was held at the Gwinnett Civic Center on Thursday, November 7, 2013. Chosen as one of six finalists, Hyunjin Son, an engineering teacher at the Gwinnett School for Math, Science and Technology, was selected High School Teacher of the Year before it was announced she is the 2014 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year.
An engineering researcher who left the lab to enter the education field, Son’s reaction when she learned she was a finalist was “shock and disbelief.”
Those feelings continued on Thursday as Son stood and hesitated before she walked to the stage.
“I didn’t know I had to give a speech twice,” she said. “So I only prepared one speech. … To be recognized for everybody else is, is just baffling.”
The Elementary School Teacher of the Year award went to Heather Watkins, a first grade teacher at Mulberry Elementary, and the Middle School Teacher of the Year was Lissette McRea of Berkmar Middle. The other finalists were Ashley Allgood of Brookwood High, Stacey Dunlap of Simpson Elementary and Carol Williams of Summerour Middle.
As Gwinnett’s Teacher of the Year, Son now competes for the Georgia title. She will receive an annual award of $1,000 and the other level winners will each receive $750 each year, for as long as they are employed with GCPS. The finalists will receive a one-time award of $500, and each local school winner will receive a one-time award of $200.
The process began with 130 teachers selected at their local schools before a selection committee narrowed the list to 26 semifinalists and six finalists.
Son teaches Foundations of Engineering and Technology to ninth graders. Son has said she hopes to expose engineering to as many students as possible, and that her students could help change society’s views on women in engineering.
She also credited other teachers at GSMST for helping to develop a curriculum that Son said was a reason she was selected.
“I don’t think this is an award I can take on my own,” she said. “But it’s an absolute team effort.”
She came to GSMST in 2010 after she previously taught at Peachtree Ridge High. Because she’s “part of excellence,” Son said she’s grown as a teacher since she began at GSMST.
GSMST Principal Jeff Mathews said Son makes GSMST a better school, and the district is lucky to have her. Mathews said Son’s educational background helps make engineering relevant to her students.
“She is a true role model not only for our future female engineers, but also for all of our young adults,” he said. “Her attention to rigor and relationships with her students is remarkable. The innovation and expertise is evident the minute you walk into her classroom as you see students exercising critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools, J. Alvin Wilbanks brings all six finalists on stage during the Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year banquet at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth Thursday. Teachers include Stacey Dunlap, Heather Watkins, Lissette McRea, Carol Williams, Ashley Allgood and Hyunjin Son. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
In her speech, Son also thanked Mathews.
“Thank you for believing in me even, at times, when I didn’t believe in myself,” she said.
Son is in her ninth year in education, all with GCPS, and she said she found passion in her second career.
Son earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical and biomedical engineering from Tufts University, and a master’s degree in science education from the University of Georgia.
Son became a teacher after she worked in the male-dominated field of engineering research where she didn’t have much in common with her colleagues outside of work.
But she was also part of a bio-medical research team at the University of Chicago that developed a patent for ways to cool down the body following cardiac arrest before a person arrives at a hospital.
Son migrated to the United States as a 7-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, and experienced one of her biggest hurdles when she learned English.
“I was forced to learn to communicate my thoughts and feelings to a teacher who was not supportive of my endeavor,” she said.
Her professional engineering background helps her develop a relationship with her students, to influence them and get them excited about engineering.
“I hoped to utilize these opportunities to serve as a role model for all of my students to demonstrate that women can be intelligent, creative, scientists and even engineers,” she said. “My presence could change how male students viewed and treated women. But more importantly, I wanted my female students to understand that their capabilities and interests should not be influenced or limited by society but by their own ethics and passion.”
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario speaks to students at Norcross High School on Wednesday evening. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)
Megan Burns said Wednesday’s Meet the Author event with Sonia Nazario was a once in a lifetime experience for her students, who have read her book.
Burns teaches English as a second language to ninth and 10th graders at Norcross High School, and her students were able to talk with Nazario privately prior to a public presentation by the Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist.
The event was sponsored by the Gwinnett County Public Library and Emory University.
Nazario is the author of “Enrique’s Journey,” the true story about a boy from Honduras who attempted eight trips to find his mother, who was living in the United States. Despite being beaten and robbed along the way, Enrique was eventually reunited with his parent.
“This is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us, specifically for these (students) because this is somebody who has written about something that is near and dear to their heart, something that many of them have gone through or their parents have gone through or their friends have gone through,” Burns said. “So to get to know that she has done this and she’s met somebody and followed his trail and written all about it and then to actually get to meet her and ask her questions, I think it’s just one of those once in a lifetime experiences for them.”
Nazario said she believes a lot of students who have immigrated to the United States feel their stories are not often told.
Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario poses for a photo with 11-year-old Emily Alcocer, a student at Norcross Elementary School who got a copy of Nazario’s book, “Enrique’s Journey,” signed Wednesday evening. (Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)
“I think a lot of students feel, a lot of immigrant students in particular, and the demographics are shifting so quickly here in Gwinnett and in Georgia, I think a lot of them feel their stories are not often told and therefore don’t matter,” Nazario said. “You could just see that they felt thrilled that someone was being brought here that was telling their story, their story of coming and their story of determination and their story of overcoming enormous obstacles. You could just see them light up.”
Nazario said engaging students to learn means finding a way of getting them to connect.
“If it’s hopefully a book that speaks to them,” she said, “I think that’s great.”
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Friday, November 1st, 2013
SAT results are out for schools across the state of Georgia, and once again Gwinnett County students topped state and national averages.
At 1513, Gwinnett County Public Schools’ total SAT average is 15 points above the national average of 1498. And, it is 61 points above the Georgia average of 1452. (The highest possible composite score is 2400.)
Which school in Gwinnett County scored the highest? That honor goes to the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, which had a composite score of 1917.
According to state Department of Education data, only one other public school in the state posted higher results: The Advanced Academy of Georgia with 2081. The school is a residential program for high-achieving students located at the University of West Georgia.
In addition to stand-out scores, Gwinnett County also boasts an increase of 28 percent in SAT participation over the past three years.
Here’s a look at scores from the top 5 schools in Gwinnett County. (Possible scores range from 200 to 800 on each section.):
1. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology:
2013: Reading — 635, Math — 667, Writing — 615, Total — 1917
2012: Reading — 639, Math — 680, Writing — 622, Total — 1941
2. Brookwood High School:
2013: Reading — 535, Math — 553, Writing — 524, Total — 1612
2012: Reading — 531, Math — 557, Writing — 526, Total — 1614
3. North Gwinnett High School:
2013: Reading — 533, Math — 558, Writing — 521, Total — 1612
2012: Reading — 525, Math — 553, Writing — 517, Total — 1595
4. Parkview High School:
2013: Reading — 525, Math — 544, Writing — 509, Total — 1578
2012: Reading — 530, Math — 542, Writing — 515, Total — 1587
5. Peachtree High School:
2013: Reading — 521, Math — 536, Writing — 515, Total — 1572
2012: Reading — 509, Math — 528, Writing — 510, Total — 1547
See results from the county, state and nation below.
2013: Reading — 505, Math — 518, Writing — 490, Total — 1513
2012: Reading — 503, Math — 522, Writing — 493, Total — 1518
2013: Reading — 490, Math — 487, Writing — 475, Total — 1452
2012: Reading — 488, Math — 489, Writing — 475, Total — 1452
2013: Reading — 496, Math — 514, Writing — 488, Total — 1498
2012: Reading — 496, Math — 514, Writing — 488, Total — 1498