Be an example for other people

Brandon Middle 8th grader

I think being involved and playing sports is a great way to stay in school and it helps you academically as well. I do soccer, wrestling, track, Academic Challenge, Project Care, SCA, Operation Smile, FCA and band, too. It helps me to connect with more people at the school and create more friends and relationships with the coaches and other people.

I’ve learned that middle school gets tougher. Like in sixth grade, you can kick back a little bit about grades and stuff. Once you get to seventh and eighth grade you’re going to have to study more often. And you have to work around your schedule to have the time to study and for athletics and balance all of that out. I think it’s preparing me for high school.

Have you thought about what you want to do as an adult?

I’m kind of thinking about everything. I don’t know for sure. I like talking to people. I could be a motivational speaker.

What would your message be?

Get up and do something. Make a difference. Be an example for other people. As an eighth grader, we’re supposed to be the example for sixth and seventh graders and the students who are coming in. That’s my whole life. I’m an older brother, the oldest, so I have to be an example for my siblings.

How do you set a good example?

Just to stay involved. Stay out of trouble. Keep your grades up. Listen to your parents.

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I love working with food

NLES cafeteria manager

This is my 14th year. I started as a cafeteria assistant. I was a manager of a small sub shop. I just knew eventually I wanted to be a cafeteria manager. I actually have a two-year degree in teaching. When I was younger I went in a little bit different direction. It’s a really neat job. I love working with the kids. I also love working with food. It just makes me smile when I can see people when they are eating and they are enjoying what they are eating. It’s a real passion of mine, especially if the kids are not well off. We have so many different choices now. We actually have a salad bar. I was one of the first schools to have one. The kids went crazy over it. Now we have parents and teachers who come in on a regular basis. It’s really great.

Gardening is also a real passion of mine. If I could have a greenhouse, I would. When I was a little girl, probably about four, I was on the cover of ‘Organic Gardening’ — my brother and I. I have to find it. My grandfather had such a passion for gardening. They were advocates of reading that magazine. I guess he wrote in. I honestly don’t know the story behind it, but my brother and I ended up on the cover. I still remember it. I love flowers. I love gardening.

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I love music and children

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I’d say what drives me to want to be a teacher is that I love children and I want to help them. But I also love my music, so I thought it would be awesome to give back to them with music. That’s my story. It’s all about music and children. I love that not only does music benefit you intelligence wise, it is another way to express yourself. Students that we reach out to, music is their way of speaking. I’m glad I can give them that chance to feel welcomed. It’s a whole new environment for them.

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My students are from all over the world

centerville-2

My students motivate me because my students are from all over the world. As an English as a Second Language teacher, I just love to hear about their lives before they came here and how their lives are different now that they are here. Just comparing and contrasting the things in our lives that make us different but also point out those things that are the same despite our languages, despite our home countries or where our families are from. Ultimately, we all want the same things out of life and that motivates me every day. To come to work and be prepared to give them the best that I have, that’s what motivates me.

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Luckiest person in the world

corporate-landing-ms-linda-clarke

I am a mother of twins, a grandmother of twins, a wife of 42 years and a teacher of almost 40 years. In fact, I don’t think teaching is any longer my career; it’s who I am. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world. I have the best job. I have survived two cancers so every day is a second chance for me. I have amazing children. I have amazing grandchildren. I have a husband who has supported me all the way through everything. I have students who still run across malls to say ‘hi’ and keep in touch over all the years. You never know when students come in every year what you’re getting. It’s like every one of them is a different little package and it’s my job to open that package. Basically, what you really need to do is give somebody a chance to let them know you and you know them and then the magic is there. That’s all you have to do.

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Teaching first grade

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The coolest thing about teaching first-grade is all of the cool kids I have had throughout the years. It’s surpassed my expectations, and it’s been very different than what I thought when I first started. I definitely felt called to be a teacher. I have different experiences every day. It’s the students that touch my heart the most. It’s more than I could have ever imagined. And seeing the little guys come back and visit me, talk to me and give me hugs  ̶  I love it!

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Your work is your signature

pat-konopnicki-2

I started with Virginia Beach City Public Schools in 1992 as the director of vocational education. One of the most inspiring comments I had from a student was an apprentice I hired to run some ducting and air conditioning system into a house I built. He was a graduate and I remember saying to him, “This is some of the finest work I’ve ever seen. I’m just amazed.” He said, “Well, my teacher taught me that my work is my signature. That’s what I’m presenting to you today.” Still to this day, it works magnificently!

You want people who have that same type of forethought that their work is their signature. Whether it’s a teacher, a principal, a director, a superintendent or an electrician, a carpenter, an auto mechanic, a nurse, a doctor, it doesn’t matter. If we can instill that in people, we’re going to be a better country; we’re going to be a better city.

We’ve been able to break down barriers. You tell me that a high school student can’t do this. That’s what floats our boat, when we can get something a high school student can do and can get a credential; can work with a robot; can build unimaginable things that we had no idea that a high school mind could do. You just turn them loose on 3D printers and different things, and now we’re cascading that line of thought down. We didn’t think elementary kids could blossom on a 3D printer. Well, guess what? They are. So those are some lessons we’ve learned over time that feed the minds and brains of these kids who want to succeed. Male, female, ethnicity ̶ doesn’t matter. We say: Let’s create the future. That’s what we’re trying to do.

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