I’ve been in school since I was 6 years old

I’ve been in school since I was 6 years old! I graduated from Princess Anne High School and did my student teaching at College Park Elementary. I started out at Kempsville Elementary and Creeds when I first got a job in 1977. It was part-time at Creeds for two days and three days at Kempsville. I have been at Christopher Farms for 20 years.

It is a job I truly have loved or I wouldn’t have stayed with it for so long. I get emotional just thinking about it. I never thought I would do this for 40 years. I did 30, and I kept thinking, ‘Well, I can do this one more year.’ Then, ‘I can do this another year.’ Now 10 years have passed and it is one of the best jobs in the world.”

Most of these children aren’t going to grow up to be artists but I want them to see how art is important in the everyday lives. We talk about that from the moment they get up and they brush their teeth, an artist had some role in designing that toothbrush. We talk about the cars that get them to school and our building. I want them to appreciate the idea of art.

What have you learned in 40 years of teaching?

Each child is different. Each child brings something new every day. You can never really plan a good day. I always say a good day just happens. You can have the best plans but sometimes a fire drill happens in the middle of a clay lesson or kids have their shoes off to draw them and something will happen. Every day is different. Every day is exciting. That’s what has kept me with it. It’s not ho-hum. Every day is a new experience and challenge every day.

What’s next?

My sister is retiring from Bayside High School, so we’re going to take sister trips. We both need knee replacements so we might do that together and then do sister trips. I’m an adjunct for Virginia Wesleyan, so still working with college students and future teachers. I have a daughter who is the music teacher at Landstown Middle and she’s getting married Oct. 7, so the summer and the beginning of the school year will be busy. After that, it will be hard. What we do here, the retirees come back on that first day of school and help show kids where classes are and stand in the hall. Then they go to breakfast. I plan to do that on the first day with the rest of retirees and then go to breakfast.

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I like animals and playing soccer

I like to do Taekwondo but sometimes we miss some days because I have soccer. I like soccer because I have friends there and my dad was my coach. He would always have some fun things planned. Like one time for soccer practice, if we scored on him, he said he’d buy us some ice cream and Rice Krispies Treats. It was everybody against him. My friend Landon, he just kicked the ball in and then we made it. My friend Trey, he was allergic to milk so we just got popsicles.

I want to do something with animals or be a soccer player when I grow up. I can’t decide what I want to do. I can’t decide because I like animals and I like playing soccer. I want to see if I can actually see wild animals that I don’t get to see, like the peregrine falcon. It’s one of my favorite animals but I’ve never gotten to see one because I’m still a kid.

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I like school

This summer I know I’m going to beach a lot. That’s my mom’s favorite thing to do. We usually go to my grandparents’ house in Windham, New Hampshire. Up there, they’ve got sort of like a cottage. For one or two weekends we’ll got to the lake house and the water there is always pretty warm. They’ve got a swing set but that’s more of my sister’s thing because it’s really, really little. There are a lot of caterpillars there, too. You can walk up the stairs and you’ve already seen like 20. There are a lot of caterpillars. They’ve got this little farm stand by their house. It’s two minutes away, so you can just drive down the street. We usually get fresh produce and ice cream there. They have a little area so you can see goats and cows and sheep. They also have a lake called Winnipesaukee right there. That’s where the lake house is.

Is there anything else you’re looking forward to this summer?

Not really because I like school. I like it because you can talk to your friends and the assignments are always fun and your teachers are nice. Being away from school just isn’t my thing. The last day of school, I’ve always burst into tears. That’s how fun I think school is.

Graduation came a lot faster than I thought

Graduation came a lot faster than I thought. Everything you do your senior year is a “last.” Last Homecoming football game. Last home game. Last basketball home game. Last playoff game. Everything you do and think of is done. It’s over. And then all of a sudden, with all of these lasts, the big finale comes – today. It’s almost like I wish there wasn’t a “final.” I felt excited all year. I thought, “Nah, I won’t be like that.” But, leaving school on Thursday after our assembly, I’ve put in so many hours since freshmen year. We’re the first class to go through all of the new Kellam because we moved in freshmen year.

If you were speaking to your classmates, what would you say?

I would tell them that they will be successful in many different ways. Success doesn’t mean academically or financially. Success is through one’s perspective. I would tell them that they will be successful.

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Graduation shows

Graduation shows that hard work pays off. I’ve been going to Princess Anne for four years now and to graduate shows – like I said – that hard work really does pay off. Princess Anne has the highest graduation rate so I’m just really thankful to be part of the school. My principals they helped me. My classmates, they helped me. My teachers, they also have helped me through the past four years. I’m just very thankful for that, and I’m very excited to graduate today.

This is the end of an era

This is the end of an era, that’s what it feels like. They always say high school goes by so fast and they’re not lying when they say that. I feel like I was just walking in my freshman year the other day. Now here I am getting ready to go to college and it feels so surreal. And, I’m actually in the world now. They have been preparing me for this but I’m still so nervous. It’s so exciting and I’m just really ready.

We are courageous

I just want seniors to know how lucky we are to be graduating at this moment. Why not go out and do your best? No matter what label you had here at Renaissance, it’s not going to take away from your potential or character. I feel like if you can be the best you that you can be, people will love you for that.

I’m not going to say that I‘m this ideal student, but I’m one who cares and I feel like that’s a start. If you at least care about your path, then that leaves room for people to come and help you.

Who has helped you? Whom would you thank?

Well, obviously, Ms. Thomas. She’s wonderful. It’s hard to find somebody who’s that kind and caring nowadays. My case manager as well, Dr. Baker. She’s been there many times that I needed an ear to listen. One of our school psychologists, Dr. Bennett, definitely – 100 percent. I mean, pretty much all of my teachers for putting up with my stuff. There are just a lot of people in this school who are really on your side. The advice I’ve gotten and the things they’ve said to me, they’re almost like seeds being planted and, when the time was right, they grew.

From what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through, I really feel like 20 percent of your life is made up of what happens to you and the other 80 percent is how you choose to react to that 20 percent. People get so worked up over the things they can’t change instead of using that as their reason to push forward. That’s what it was for me. I was like, “This isn’t fair. My life isn’t fair. Why me? Why me?” Then it was like, “Maybe I need to learn this.” I think if you just stay optimistic, you’ll see the better side of things.

I feel like there is a lot of room for self-improvement. I know what I need to improve. Now it’s just about doing it. I just want people to realize that we are lions. We are courageous.

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Staying with grandma

This summer I’m going to be staying with my grandma for two weeks without my mom and dad – without my sister, too. She lives in New Jersey. She’s going to come pick me up. We’re going to leave the next day after she sleeps over one night. She said we’re going to go to the boardwalk. I like to play games with my grandma. We play UNO. I like to play checkers, too. Sometimes we get ice cream and we get to spend time with each other. I get to spend time with my grandpa, too.

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This is all new to me

We had to solve a challenge in school and my group made a hall pass so kids don’t go out into the hall and goof around. They have a time limit, and the teachers know where they are and stuff. We used the Raspberry Pi and an LED board, and it displays messages telling them things like they have two minutes left.

What have you learned by participating in the STEM Trifecta?

I’ve learned everything! This is all new to me. This is the first time I’ve ever been into anything with coding or anything like that. It’s been really fun. I think the best part is probably choosing your team. You want people that you like but you have to make sure you get people who are hardworking. The people that I work with, they’re hardworking and they’re fun to hang out with, so it’s just all-out fun because we get work done and have a lot of fun.

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I want to help people who don’t have a cure

I like math because it’s challenging and math is needed for everything actually, so I like it a lot. You need it for going shopping. You need it to see the prices. You need it for any job; like if you want to be a bioelectric, you need to know math so you can do your research. I want to be a bioelectric researcher. Both my parents are. I like that my mom is researching and finds medicines to see if she can help the mice with it to find out if it’s a good medicine.

Why is that important to you?

It’s important to me because a lot of people have gotten diseases that we don’t know what the cures are. So, I want to help people who don’t have a cure.

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Summer Plans

This summer I am going to an island! After we go to Florida, I’m going on a cruise to go on an island. And after my bedtime, my dad is letting me go to the kitchen to eat whatever I want on the cruise. I’m going to have lots of fun in Florida and I bet I don’t get seasick on the cruise. I’ve never been to Florida before but I’m looking forward to going there.

Are you driving to Florida?

I think we’re going on a plane. I’ve never been on a plane before. I don’t want to get airsick either.

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Looking for Miss Peete

I teach fourth grade. I’ve been in first through fourth in my career. Ultimately, I just like teaching. It really doesn’t matter who it is; I fall in love with them. It’s all about relationships. I want these kids to know there’s something beyond these four walls. That you are responsible. I keep this picture of myself in third grade – my class picture. It’s a permanent part of my day. I say, “If it wasn’t for this little girl here, I wouldn’t be where I am. She took the time to ask questions and raise her hand and just get involved and stay away from the foolishness and make good decisions.” I’m constantly referring to that little girl in the picture with my students and they make that connection. I say, “If it wasn’t for Little Sherry, Big Sherry wouldn’t be here. Big Sherry wouldn’t be this happy. I say, “You all are going to be the little people in your pictures one day.” And it’s funny because, the class picture we took, more than half my class ordered the class picture because they want to tell their stories one day. I tell them: “I understand how you feel sitting at that desk. Little Sherri felt the same way. Little Sherry didn’t want to do homework. I wanted to get outside and play. But what if little Sherry didn’t do her work?” To me, my job is to just give these kids their future, to remind them that it’s yours. You are responsible for it.

So, who did Little Sherry have in her life, like these students have in you?

Miss Peete! They know about Miss Peete. “Tell us about Miss Peete. Give us a Miss Peete story.” Everything is about Miss Peete. I said that when I grow up, I want to be a third-grade teacher just like Miss Peete. And I did. I became a third-grade teacher just like Miss Peete. So I’ve been looking for her. She’s a retired principal from Northside Middle in Norfolk, or junior high I guess it was back then. I can’t find her. I wanted her to come here and see these kids. EVERYBODY wants to meet Miss Peete.

Just go with the flow

I’m a plumber. I’ve been working here about 36 years. I started off in grounds and then I transferred over to plumbing. I’m passionate about my job. I think back to when I first started and being young and a little wild. A lot of guys look to me now because I’m always low-key calm. I teach them to take it in stride; don’t get too crazy with everything. Just go with the flow. Take your time. There’s a time when you have to rush but you don’t have to always be in high gear all the time.

I’ve been with my wife since junior high. I married my childhood, well, my junior high school sweetheart. We have three kids. I have two grandkids—love them to death. They are the light of my life. They are good kids.

I graduated from First Colonial in 1980. Track used to be my sport in high school. As a matter of fact, I’m in the hall of fame at First Colonial. Carlton Hill and Ken Barto were my coaches. I was a sprinter and ran on a state championship 4×2 relay team. Our relay team was ranked like No. 3 in the nation at that time. That was one of my hidden talents. I was like Forest Gump. I had to run. When I was younger, I ran everywhere. I couldn’t walk without running. I plan on running a half marathon or an 8K one day. I’m going to start off low but I plan on doing it.

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I love writing

My favorite part of school are the morning rotations. You get to pick which one you want to do first and I mostly do writing first because I love writing on my laptop. I really like to write about my dad.

We have fun sitting and I really love the yoga balls that we have. They’re bouncy and sometimes they accidentally roll around. When we’re not using them we put them on a bucket so they won’t roll around. Sometimes the yoga balls are so close to the table that they roll underneath the table and are hard to get out.

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My friends are real nice

At school, my favorite thing here are the centers and the way we get to play, and my friends are real nice. I like them because they play with me a lot. Outside, we usually play tag and they try to catch me. Sometimes when I’m at home, I invite my friends over. I have two basketball hoops and we play basketball games.

What’s special about my friends is that they have the same things I have. Like, I like to play Pokémon; they like to play Pokémon. I have Pokémon cards. They have Pokémon cards. I play with my friends a lot. And my friend Harry, he loves fire trucks!

What do you love?

I love monster trucks and dirt bikes and stuff. Oh, and my friend Noah, he loves Pokémon. Two of my friends, here, their names are Mason and Evan. My friends Evan and Mason, they’re going to get me a fidget spinner, and when they get me a fidget spinner, I’m going to show them all the tricks I can do. And Noah, he is a real nice guy. He plays with me all the time.

What are you looking forward to in first grade?

I’m looking forward to seeing my friends. I’m hoping they are in the same class as me. So, I really want to see them there. And I can’t wait to see Mr. D.!

Our garden club

This started with a grant to grow a vegetable garden on the other side of the building. Then we moved it into the courtyard, where it is now, just to give the kids a lot of exposure to gardening since most of them live in apartments where they can’t garden. Our garden club gives them a chance to come out and be in nature and explore what’s out here. They see the life processes of our herbs and our fruits and vegetables as well. It’s exciting to see them, especially with the strawberry garden, remark “Oh look, it’s not ripe yet!” When they look at our produce garden they see things that become what we eat every day. We have our butterfly garden and we see the process from caterpillars all the way through to becoming butterflies.

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