Decorating with Duct Tape

I’m in the Spanish Immersion Program. The teachers don’t really teach you Spanish, but they speak in it so that you pick it up. I knew a little Spanish before I started the program because my brother went through it before me and taught me some.

Did you enjoy your summer break?

We went to Colorado the week before school started. My family has an R.V., we don’t like camping in a tent. I also did a camp in August called Decorating with Duct Tape! and made a pair of slides, it was a lot of fun.  The soles were made with a piece of cardboard and the rest was just Duck Tape. We got to pick each day what we wanted to make.

I did soccer and swim team, too.

I’m a Seminoles fan

I have two boys.  My oldest is into baseball and soccer, so I do a lot of driving to baseball and soccer. I’m a soccer mom! Our family also enjoys watching sports on T.V., so we watch football on Saturdays and Sundays.  I went to Florida State University so I’m a Seminoles fan.

My husband is in the Navy. We been moving between Florida and Virginia Beach.  We started out in Florida, got orders to Virginia Beach, then went back to Panama City for three years, now we are back here.

Virginia Beach is a great place to teach because of the supports put in place and resources that they have. In my experience elsewhere, you are on your own for certain things and have to go out and find, but here all you have to do is ask, and you have a lot more of what you need provided for you.

That’s really my day

I’m new to Christopher Farms Elementary this year. There is a lot of school spirit here. It feels like a family.  Being new to a school and trying to figure out how things are handled and the different way they do things – everyone’s been so helpful.  It’s been amazing.

What do you do outside of work?

I love to play tennis. If I’m not playing tennis, I’m hanging out with my new baby or my two dogs.  That’s really my day.

I started playing tennis since I was seven. I played all through high school and was recruited for college, but didn’t play.  Then I picked it back up when I moved down here – I’m originally from Michigan.  After college I got a job and moved down here.  The weather here is much better than Michigan.

Baseball and diamonds

I went to Camp Silver Beach this summer. You stay there for a week and you zip line, archery, riflery and a bunch of other stuff.  I really liked riflery, I shot a dog tag. A BB bounced back and hit me in the leg. It hit off of the wood. It hurt, well, it just stings.

I went to Myrtle Beach this summer for a baseball tournament. We got first place.  We all got a trophy.  It has a baseball and diamonds on in. Diamonds, like, from a jewelry store. We crushed one team 27 to nothing.  I started in that game.

I tutor adults in ESL

I enjoy my free time. I’m a part of a running club. Last year I ran two half marathons that I trained with the team.

I also enjoy painting – acrylic, and drawing – pastels.  One of my paintings was displayed at the MOCA.

I also tutor adults in English. I have a few friends who have relatives who are coming to the States and they need help figuring out the transition coming into a different country, but also the language. I have a master’s in ESL (English as a Second Language) from Regent University, and so now I tutor adults in ESL.

Also, my husband and I like going hiking, jet skiing, going on road trips – when we can find sitters for our dogs!

Fishing is my favorite

I’m really excited to be in second grade this year.  It’s going to be way better than first grade because you get to do things first graders aren’t allowed to. We are treated like bigger kids.

What about second grade excites you the most?

I don’t know yet, I just started.

What do you do when you aren’t at school?

This weekend I’m going fishing with my dad.  We went fishing Thursday afternoon and caught a catfish and a bluegill. I don’t go fishing in the ocean, just ponds and lakes by my house.

My mom doesn’t go fishing with us because my dad only has one fishing pole. Well, he has a fishing pole, but the reel is broken.  So, he’s going to buy another one, then my mom can start coming.

Fishing is my favorite thing, but I also like going to the beach.  We went a lot this summer.

Who doesn’t want glowing bees

When you give kids technology for the first time – the reaction – their faces light up.  When they open their Chromebook for the first time it’s magic.

And it’s just fun! Who doesn’t want glowing bees? You can code them, and they’re Bluetooth. They are fun, but at the same time we can say, ‘How do we bring this into the curriculum.’

What do you do outside of the classroom?

I have a chocolate lab named Beau who takes over my life. I spend time with him. I am an active Yogi. I go to yoga as much as I can. It helps me keep my zen.  And I teach mindfulness and meditation here every morning.

It makes for a good work-life balance, it’s an ebb and flow.

My next step is to teach teachers

I followed in my dad’s footsteps and went through the apprenticeship program at the shipyard. I worked there for 13 years. I came home one day and told my wife, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to teach.” So I had three part-time jobs, and was going to college. One of my daughters was attending ODU, the other was going to Texas A&M, and I went to Norfolk State all at the same time. My son was still in high school.

I graduated and started teaching at Thoroughgood Elementary and taught the same grade in the same classroom for 21 years.

After experiencing the impact of transformational learning, I started to realize maybe my next step is to teach teachers.

What do you do outside of work?

My son and I do blacksmithing. We just took 23 of the Instructional Leadership Team to my farm in and had them blacksmith. They made dinner bells.

Twisting metal, banging metal, it is a bonding experience.

We took a class in the 757 Makerspace and we forged a clever. After that, we got the bug. We bought one anvil, then two anvils, then three anvils. Once we get into something, we really get into it.

We live on a farm so we have always been craftsman and work with our hands.

Interested in health sciences

I’ve started to be interested in health sciences. Anatomy is just kind of cool to me. Bones are interesting to me.

Why?

For me, I think it’s kind of cool how bones make up a structure. Like, your teeth are your strongest bones and I don’t think of it that way. I would think that your knee or something you use more, like your feet, but it’s your teeth.

I guess I became interested in this because I broke my arm and I had to get surgery and they had to fix my bones. They said it was really confusing because I have tiny bones because I am small so they had trouble with that.

I want to be a bone doctor – an orthopedist.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?

I just made the cheer team, so now I’m going to be doing that. And I was swimming over the summer; I’m on a swim team.

What are you most looking forward to about your eighth-grade year?

Probably the teachers because I like having new teachers every year. It’s nice to see all their different styles of teaching, like visual. With lectures, I’m not very good with that. They don’t really lecture here. It’s good.

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Opportunities to collaborate

I previously taught seventh grade math for nine years here at Great Neck. The first year that the ITS/TST role was born I started talking with my ITS here about what is the process and what do they do. I started talking to one ITS in particular – this was before everyone had Google accounts – he somehow got me a Google account and I started using Google Classroom and G Suite tools with my students and I was just obsessed. I loved it.

What’s your favorite part about being an Instructional Technology Specialist?

My favorite part of being an ITS is being everywhere. I’m in so many different people’s classrooms. I get to talk and collaborate with so many different grade levels, subject areas, and people outside the division. I have the chance to be on the Anchor School Committee. I’m on the Summer Digital Learning Summit Steering Committee. There are so many opportunities to collaborate with people.

What do you do outside of work?

I recently got engaged in December and I have done nothing up to a month ago, so I am crazy planning for a wedding happening next summer. I also just completed my master’s degree in May of this year.

Academic support coordinator

I came to Virginia Beach about 3.5 years ago as the academic support coordinator. I previously worked in Norfolk as the literacy coordinator for K-12. I worked in Norfolk for over 20 years.

What do you like best about your work?

I like everything about my job because it gives me the opportunity to…I get to meet elementary people, middle school, high school with the reading inventory, which is one of the things I oversee – all of our students take it, grades 3-9. Academic support is intervention and acceleration programs. With the acceleration part of it I get to work with AP and our NMSI grants and those types of things. I’ve been introduced to federal grants. I also assist with Title II and Title IV. I like it because I feel like, although everything that I do is not connected, I get the opportunity to learn so much. I’m grateful for that.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?

When I’m not at work I’m definitely running around with my two kids. The typical soccer mom and baseball mom and track mom and all those types of things.

Do you have a favorite school memory?

I’m a product of Virginia Beach Schools. I graduated from Kempsville. I went to Woodstock Elementary, Kemps Landing, Kempsville Middle, Kempsville High School. And my favorite teacher, Dick Ponti, works here. I think he was my favorite teacher because I hated math and I was horrible at math, but I felt like he liked us. Sometimes you go in a classroom and you’re not sure if a teacher likes you, and we all know now that students work better when they know their teacher cares about them. So, I think he knew that early on. And even when we struggled, we knew that he cared and he wanted us to successful.

And did that make math easier?

It didn’t make math easier but it made me more successful because I knew he wasn’t going to let me fail.

Is there anything else you’d want people to know about you?

I think people always say, “Well, how did you end up doing that?” I just think, I always say, “Yes.” I think that’s good because it opens you up to so many different experiences. I’ll be able to take the work that I do with grants or the work that I do with AP or interventions, and I think that all of that will just make me a better educator.

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I’ll tell you a story

I think the purpose of the ITS program is to build capacity. It’s about me helping them get their task done and make their ideas work.

I’ll tell you a story.

Last year when our school went 1:1 we decided to teach each and every student how use Google sites to make a digital portfolio. One day I go and meet with this class of sixth graders and they are sitting in pairs. Each pair is working on something, a topic, to teach their peers in their class. Their teacher calls me their consultant and I go by each group and see what they are planning. I’m their cheerleader and I’ll tell them, “that’s really exciting, you’ll have to share that with me.”

A young man and a young lady had come up with the idea to make a website using Google site because they remember using it when making their digital portfolio. So, six weeks later, I’m sitting at my desk planning and I get an email. They had shared their Google site with me and wanted to know what I thought, and it’s awesome. They remembered I said I was interested in seeing their site. I notice a little something they could change, they could change their YouTube video about Newton’s Laws they inserted so it plays automatically. I fixed one. Their class was meeting then so I ran upstairs to them and said, “Did you see what I did?” And I showed them how I fixed it.

They took what we taught them with their digital portfolio and made it their own. They took it another place and then they shared it with me because I showed interest. They invited me to be a collaborator, and that’s an honor – to be invited.

It was amazing one of them built the site up and the other created animations of Newton’s Law. I had chills up my arms.

What do you do outside of work?

My husband and I like to play heavy card board games. Strategy games with a lot of rules and depth to what you are doing. We have a floor to ceiling bookshelf full of board games. We have a lot that we can play and we play with other people. We like the competition of them, we like the nomadic nature of them and the artwork. We joined the Tidewater Area Gaming Society that meets at the Meyera Oberndorf Library, TAGS, it’s an organization for people who like board games. It’s stimulating intellectually and also has the social aspect of it. We love it.

My dream job

I am a graduate of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I went to Point O’View Elementary School and then Kempsville Junior High and Kempsville High School. What I love about Virginia Beach and being in the division is that I’ve had the opportunity to work with former teachers. One, Debbie Price, was my sixth-grade English teacher and we were assistant principals together at Landstown Middle School, which was really cool.

After high school I went to Old Dominion and decided I really had a knack for working with teenagers because in high school I was in marching band. I did color guard and I worked as an instructor in college. I realized there I liked working with teenagers so I might as well get my teaching certificate while I’m working on my English degree, and that’s how I got into education.

I started in Norfolk City Schools for two years and then I went to Ocean Lakes High School. I went to Landstown High School when it opened and I was there for 8.5 years until I became an administrator at Landstown Middle School for five years. Then came to central office in my dream job, which is secondary English coordinator.

Why is it the dream job?

I get to do all the things I love about being an administrator and a teacher together. I get to work with administrators. I get to work with teachers. I get to help teachers. I also get to be a resource, a consultant and give them new ideas, delivering the professional development and I get work with students, too. I like go into classrooms and help them with the writing piece and do writing conferences and even tutor to help get some of our students ready for the SOL test. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. I get to work with the students, teachers and administrators, which I love all three of them.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

We have a daughter that we adopted at 3 months old and she is the light of our lives. We take her everywhere. Since we had to travel first thing when we got her, she’s traveled with us everywhere. We like to camp and fish and boat and anything outside, so the child enjoys swimming and it is a strength of hers. Most recently she’s been horseback riding, so that’s been a cool event for the entire family to participate in.

She starts at Kingston Elementary School this year. Now I get to see the fruits of the efforts of the school division I work in. I’m excited to see her go through this journey and how I’m going to transition to the role of a parent.

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Last year marching with the band

I’m going to be a senior. It’s going to be my last year marching with the band so that will be fun. I’m also in the Math and Science Academy and so I have my research project, which is coming along so I’m excited to compete with that. Plus, I have just some of my favorite teachers this year, so I’m excited about that.

Do you want to tell me a little more about your research project?

I worked with Dr. Cooper, he’s a professor at ODU; I worked in his lab. It was a project on chemistry involving using silver nanoparticles to create special surfaces that basically make an instrument function better.

What do you play in the band?

I march tuba and I also play alto saxophone in concert band. I really love our band director, Mr. Parker. He’s just really good teaching us how to use our years and really think about how we’re doing music. And plus, it’s just so much fun being around 50 of your closest friends and working on a project.

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I want to be a physical therapist

My favorite subject is probably math because I just like math a lot and that’s my best subject. And I liked English because I liked my sixth-grade teacher a lot, but it wasn’t my best subject. It was still really fun because my teacher made it fun, and it was her first year there so that made it fun, too.

What are you looking forward to about the new school year?

I’m looking forward to what teachers I’m going to have and I’m looking forward to making new friends. I’m probably going to try out for track again and I’m excited about that.

What do you like to do when you’re not at school?

I like to hang out with my friends and swim in my nana’s pool. I like to go on my trampoline and tumble and do gymnastics, and I play with my brother and our new kittens. I play with the kittens a lot. Their names are Bruno and Rudee. They’re very sweet. We have a 15-year-old cat and she does not like them too much, but they’re going to have to learn to get along.

Have you thought about what kind of job you might like to have when you’re older?

Yes, when I get older I want to be a physical therapist. Then, on the side, I want to either volunteer at the SPCA or I want to be a part-time gymnastics coach. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I just like helping people and I’ve always wanted to be one of those kind of coaches that helps injured people.

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Respect for our division

I taught 14 years and they were all at Plaza Middle. It’s funny, whenever I go to Plaza now, Sheraton Woodies, he’s the head custodian there, he tells me: “Welcome home.” It’s the sweetest thing. Plaza is very much home.

I’ve worked in all the schools pretty much now. One of the things that I feel is so important is, when we go out to professional development anywhere – if it’s a state conference or a national conference – I feel like people gravitate towards people in Virginia Beach because we’ve already been doing so much. We go to conferences and it’s almost validation for the work we do, and I think that says a lot for the kind of professional development we get in our division from the experts here. I was taught by some of the best. I feel like we have such strong leadership in secondary schools. I have just a lot of respect for our division and I’m happy that I’m here.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I read – that’s mostly what I do, or just meet up with friends. Just being a teacher and in the central office, I’ve met so many people and I’ve created strong networks of friends. I think that has been a blessing as well. The people that I work with are so amazing. They’re inspiring. Being with them and having discussions. I love being with my friends and having good conversation.

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I like to color

I like to skate and I like to color. I like to skate because…I don’t know, it’s just a thing that I like. It’s almost hard because sometimes if you go really, really fast, you’ll fall. I just like it as a hobby.

And what about coloring?

Coloring is an everyday thing that I do if I’m bored or something. It’s my life because when I grow up I want to be a person who draws portraits. Me and my friend were planning to make a company, a drawing company. So if people need portraits or something to cover up their walls, they can call us and we’ll give them a portrait for $3.00.

How did you come up with $3.00 for the price?

Because $3.00 is for the small size, and $6.00 is for the medium, and $10.00 is for the large.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

Another interest of mine is playing outside. Me and my friend make up ideas that are really, really funny.

Like what?

One time, me and my friend were randomly talking about Busch Gardens because I had just been and then we pretended like the upstairs was a ride on Busch Gardens. And sometimes we pretend like we’re at the aquarium and the aquarium has rides. Like sometimes, we do rides that are just calm rides with fish and pretend we’re in the lazy river, and sometimes we have fast rides and pretend sharks are jumping up.

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Digital designer

Eventually in life, one of the career paths I would like to choose is digital designer. Being able to design things for, well, basically anything – like, things that can help people in specific environments, things that can help people in their everyday lives and being able to provide the technology that’s necessary to some people.

What has inspired you to consider that career path?

To be honest, I’ve been interested in art and one of the things that I like generally is biology and how things in nature work. So one day – I don’t even know how it popped into my mind – but I just thought certain things in nature could be applied to specific cases in human lives. I thought that would be a great thing to apply and have be your skill.

What is an example in nature you’ve seen?

Specifically, birds. I’m not a birdwatcher, but it’s interesting to see how many designs in our world – trains, for instance – are based on bird design and how they fly. And especially consider airplanes, the entire basis of airplanes is on that birds can fly, we should probably do that, too.

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I love working with my team

I’ve been with the division for eight years now and this is my 10th year in education. I started off teaching in Virginia Beach at Providence Elementary. I taught fifth grade there and then I was an instructional technology specialist at Pembroke Meadows and Shelton Park, and then I came to Teaching and Learning.

What do you like about working in education or your current role specifically?

I think that my current role has really helped things come full circle for me in education. I actually started off as a political science major in college because I wanted to really be able to make a difference. I quickly realized that politics was not the avenue for me with that and so that’s why I pursued education.

In my current role I’m able to work with teachers and students and really think about how learning for them can be relevant and authentic and make a positive impact on the world.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

We like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. My husband and I have two kids. We spend a lot of time at the beach, at Pleasure House Point, doing recreational sports – Virginia Beach has so much to offer as far as the outdoors. We like to be outside.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I love working with my team. We have, I think, a really good team in elementary. There are hard days but being able to work with the team I work with really lifts you up and motivates you to do be able to do more.

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I like doing hair

I’m going to be in third grade. I’m excited about learning multiplication. I’m excited to see who my new teacher is going to be.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of school?

When I get home from school on the weekdays I go outside and play with my friends, or me and my friend will have a sleepover. She will come over to my house or I will go to her house.

Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a hairstylist when I grow up. I like doing hair and I think I’m good at doing hair.

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I’m very excited for senior year

I’m very excited for senior year. I used to be a really shy student and now I’m going to be Senior Class President and I’m on the SCA Executive Board and I’m part of new student orientation. I’m really excited because SCA does a lot of stuff at this school and I’m hoping to use my class presidency and my position on SCA to help benefit both organizations.

How so?

So, SCA puts on an event called Fall Fest, and this year I’m asking to have the seniors do a senior haunted hallway. That will give money to my class but will also put a new twist on Fall Fest.

Have you thought about careers that interest you?

I want to join the Peace Corps. I want to go to college for zoology and something else, I’m not sure yet, and I want to work in the Peace Corps and work in orphanages. And then I want to work on animal reservations.

Is there anything else you want to share?

I would like to talk about my four favorite teachers. I call them the “Core Four” because I believe they run the school low key because they put on a lot of things. Two of them are SCA advisers, Mrs. Anderson and Ms. Conaway, and then Ms. Hurst, an English teacher who helps put on leadership workshop, and Mrs. Pohl, who also does leadership workshop, and the four of them are the best. They’re really great to students and they do a lot for the school.

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I like to be fabulous

What are some of your favorite things to do?

I like to play Fortnite.  I like the color blue because it’s the sky. And I like to be fabulous!

How are you fabulous?

I put makeup on and I curl up my hair. And my Nonna she teaches me every way that she is fabulous because she IS fabulous.

I see you are wearing a Patriots jersey. Are the Patriots fabulous?

Yes!

Why is that your favorite team?

Because Tom Brady and Gronkowski’s on it.

And have you thought about a job you might like to have when you’re older?

I actually wanted to be like – and I think I’m pronouncing this right – a meteorologist. I want to predict and study the weather.

Do you have a favorite type of weather?

I like water spouts. They’re fun.

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Family farm

I started off at Seatack as a grade 5 teacher in 2004. I was there seven or eight years. I transitioned over to Strawbridge, transitioned to the ITS role, and then I made the leap to Teaching and Learning as the content integration specialist now the elementary science coordinator.

What do you like best about your role?

I think it’s an amazing opportunity to see so many different leadership styles across the division. I think it really speaks to the need for a personalized approach to your community that you serve. It’s great to interact with all the teachers and really up my game with how I provide support because it’s so different. Every day is a different day.

What do you like about science?

I think science is great because it’s all about wonder and about investigating. So if you have some reluctant learners, one thing that most kids come to school with is curiosity. If you can tap into that, you really can open doors for them and I find you can do that through science.

And when you’re not encouraging curiosity and wonder here at work, how do you like to spend your time?

We just started a new adventure as a family a couple of years ago. We started a family farm. And so our life is full of wonder – wondering what we’re doing from day to day. I just love family time because it’s so special because it’s not as frequent as I would like, so I really hold my kids and my husband close and spend any available time with them. We live on the intracoastal, so if it’s fishing or paddleboarding or anything we can do outside. That’s one thing I’ve really noticed is a difference with my kids – as soon as we made that move, it’s back to the time where you make up games when you’re playing outside. I don’t have to worry about them being plugged in too much or too connected because, really, it’s the whole world out in front of them that they are exploring.

What animals do you have on your farm?

Oh my goodness – it grows by the day. Lots of chickens. Lot of ducks. Five pigs. We just recently added a goat named Gilly. Animal Control contacted us and said, “We have this sweet little goat who is living in house, can you come get him?”

They reached out to you?

They knew we were crazy enough to take on a goat, I guess. Then we learned that goats are herd animals, so we had to get another goat. Then the goat we got is pregnant. So, it’s quite the circus but it’s tons of fun. And it’s something new every day for our family. We’re learning as we go. We’re completely novice at this, but I think it brings us together even closer.

Is there anything else you would want people to know about you?

Probably just that this is a really exciting time in education. I know our work is really hard work but it’s a unique opportunity for us to have this responsibility to kind of redesign education. I think everyone who is involved right now is extremely valuable and it’s going to pay forward more than just our immediate impact, it’s going to pay forward so far into the future. So I think that’s why I’m so passionate about my work.

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I’ve always loved art

I’ve always loved art and I really love to draw and paint. We used to take art in elementary school and it was always really fun because you got to go once a week, and I always wanted to go more than once a week. So next year I’m going to be taking art as one of my electives and I’m really excited about it because I love doing art – it’s a way to express myself. I also do that through music, but when I don’t play music, I draw in my free time. I have so many journals and books and I have so many drawings throughout, so I’m really excited to see what happens.

I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up. There are so many things that I like, but I know I really like art and music, and I like making people happy with art. We used to do these smile bags for Operation Smile in art. We each took an animal and we drew it and then we gave them to kids. We filled them with things they would need for themselves so that was really fun.

Do you play an instrument?

I play the violin. I have since third grade. I’m taking orchestra again next year. And I do love to write. I love English. It’s so much fun to write and write stories and let the teacher read it and see what comments she gives me.

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Senior project

I’m really excited to complete my senior project for the Math and Science Academy. I’m doing a project on bacterial genetics, particularly how bacteria communicate with one another through exogenous DNA. Basically, bacteria have really small rings of DNA that they can transfer between one another. If you are taking an antibiotic then one bacteria might evolve through a random mutation to be resistant to that antibiotic. The bacteria actually have structures called pili on their cell wall that actually bond with another pili from another bacterium, and then the plasma transfers in between the cytoplasm of the bacteria. Then that bacteria has a resistance to that antibiotic in like a chain reaction. That is pretty bad for us because that means bacteria can be resistant to a whole bunch of drugs that we have developed. And so I’m doing research on how bacteria do their different types of transformation, which is this kind of communication that they do. I am researching ways that we can reduce the transformation frequencies so bacteria don’t transform as much if they’re in an oxygenated environment.

Virginia Wesleyan University is where I did a lot of my work this summer. Ms. Turner and Ms. Shoemaker are my chemistry teachers, and I’m a really big nerd so I hang out with them a lot.

What are you thinking about for college studies or a career?

I’m not entirely sure what I want to do in college, I’m thinking more chemistry, biochemistry. I want to do more research. I want to stay at college and do my own research.

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PE and singing

What I like best about school is PE. At PE I get to have fun with my friends and play with them and talk with them. So it’s really cool to have fun with them at PE and learn stuff.

Did you have a favorite activity in PE?

My favorite activity was… I don’t really have a favorite activity. I like them all.

When you’re not at school, what are some of your favorite things to do?

I like to sing. I go to restaurants and I sing, and now I have 100-and-something followers. This person I met at a restaurant – it’s called AJ Gators – we always go there and sing because there are always people there. So we went there, and I didn’t know that they posted a video on YouTube and my mom told me in the morning. I didn’t even know.

Tell me more about why you like singing.

I like to sing because my papa passed away and I love to sing. It reminds me of him.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you?

Well, I have two dogs. One is named Chief and one is named Cocoa. We adopted Cocoa. I was like 2. We don’t know what her actual name is. We just called her Cocoa because we thought it was a really nice name because she is white like marshmallows and she has brown eyes. And my dog Chief, I love him so much. When I was a baby and I used to cry, he would always curl up next to me and it made me so happy.

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Math is applicable to everyday life

This is my 16th year. I started off at Corporate Landing as a second-grade teacher. I taught there for nine years. Then I became a math specialist. I was a math specialist at Christopher Farms and Landstown, and then I came to Teaching and Learning with Dr. Cashwell.

What do you like about math?

I think what I like most about math is that it’s applicable to everyday life and people don’t really think about it as much. We have a big push for literacy, which is super important, but numeracy is just as important. And especially as we build our students toward STEM-related fields, we have to have the foundation in mathematics. So all of the conceptual understanding and the problem solving that needs to happen in math has been there all along and we use it every day, but we don’t necessarily realize that we’re using it. So I think that piece of pushing something that’s, I guess, maybe in some ways underappreciated, gives me passion.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Outside of work right now I’m sort of consumed with my kids and their sports, but I love sports so I like to also work out and run and do all those kinds of things for myself. I have a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old and they play basketball, which is my favorite. I played in college and played pretty much recreationally until a couple years ago. And then the younger one plays soccer and the older one plays softball, so I stay pretty busy with them. And then I try to squeeze in a workout whenever I can. I like to do pretty much anything: lifting weights, running, riding my bike, kayaking, anything outdoorsy.

Where did you play basketball in college?

I actually grew up in upstate New York, so I came down here and played at Lynchburg College. Loved it. I redshirted my freshmen year because I tore my ACL and then played three years and had a great time. I wasn’t really a natural athlete. I really had to work at basketball but I loved it. I had great coaches and people who were in my life who really influenced me. I kept playing, I still had a passion. My undergraduate degree is actually sports management because I wanted to be a college basketball coach. And then I realized: there is no money in this, no life.

I came out here, I played in the Pro-Am a couple of summers. Then I coached. I was a coach at Cape Henry for a little while, the JV team, until I had my oldest daughter and then I stopped coaching. And now I just coach their rec teams because I love it so much. I’ve been coaching my youngest since she was 6 and she’s 12 now, and she’s quite the basketball player. She made the Plaza team as a sixth-grader; I’m very proud of her.

Is there anything else you’d want people to know about you?

I am busy but I do like to relax. I like the beach. Who doesn’t? You live here for that reason, right?

I love to sing

We opened Christopher Farms. It didn’t open for the students until September but it opened for us August 1, 1997. We had 30 days to get it ready.

And?

And we did.

What do you like best about your work?

Well, you love a great principal that works with you and encourages you, allows you to hum and sing. I do it subconsciously, but when you hear the kids say, “Miss Mercy, we were listening to you in class. You’re singing in the bathroom.” That’s a happy custodian.

And what truly makes me happy is when the students look up to you, respect who you are and realize our jobs are important, too. You know, when they come back after graduation and say, “Miss Mercy, I still remember you.” It pleases my heart. There’s nothing like going from fifth grade all the way to 12th and still holding a special part of you in there, so that’s very moving. And having the administrators’ support, and they sing with you sometimes – and sometimes they dance. It just encourages you to have a great day.

To me, it’s not one person who makes a difference, it’s all of us working together. So having a staff of custodians who do what you ask, and you work just as hard as you expect them to work – it makes a difference. We all come together because everybody working together will always accomplish much.

Are you singing outside of school too?

Yes, I’m singing at church. Many times they say, “Mercy, we understand why you have a day job.” But I love to sing. I think when we feel good, we clean better, you do better. It becomes easy and then, before you know it, if they don’t hear you singing, they think something’s wrong: “Miss Mercy, why aren’t you singing?”

I’m going to tell you a secret. The fifth-graders wrote a note. They know how I am about the restrooms. They shouldn’t write on the walls, but I can’t bring myself to erase it, even though I know by September it has to be erased. And I couldn’t get mad at them. I left it up there this entire summer. You know when you’re having a tough day, you go in there and you read it.

What does it say?

That I made them feel special and that’s the toughest part of leaving this school.

It’s all about the children and how you make them feel.

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