I am a cheerleader with my friends

How did you feel about coming to GNMS?

Excited. I am a cheerleader with my friends. My birthday was at Otani. Everyone came. It was so much fun.

What did you like best about being on the cheering squad?

I was in sixth grade but my friend’s name is Devon. She is kind. So are Andi and Kyleigh.

What grade are they in?

Eighth.

Is it fun to have friends in the eighth grade?

YES!

Do you have a favorite cheer?

My favorite is “All the Way.” All right. Here we go. I’m ready.

All the way. All the way.
Great Neck… Take it…all the way.
Take it. All the way!

Besides cheering, what do you like about school?  Do you enjoy reading?

Yes. I like to read about a Teddy Bear.

Is reading your favorite subject?

No, math. I like adding.

Do you like PE?

I like running. Coach T. is always cool as a teacher.

#WeAreVBSchools

I want to tell you about my birthday

I want to tell you about my birthday in the summer. My birthday is July 21. And when it’s my birthday, we’re going to go to Chuck E. Cheese and TGI Fridays, and then I will have a hot fudge sundae. I like how they put the chocolate on the bottom so you can mix it and then eat it. And when we do that, people can give me my presents and then I can open them. When we go to Chuck E. Cheese, we will play a lot of games. My favorite game at Chuck E. Cheese is the one where…do you know there’s like this fox that has to get this gem? There is a big ball and you can roll it around, and when you roll it around, it moves the character. Then you might get hit with this laser – you have to go really fast – if you get hit with the laser then it will be game over.

Are you pretty good at that game?

Yes. Even my sisters are, too.

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

How about my pets – can I tell you about my pets? So, I have three pets: a dog, a cat and a hamster. My dog’s name is Sadie and she likes to jump on people and wag her tail so hard. Sometimes she goes wild when she sees people. She starts to bark if she sees squirrels or birds. She’ll just jump on the tree and put her paws there, and then just jump and bark at them to get their attention. They still just go up and up so she can’t reach them. And my cat, Dulce, he’s 9 years old and my dog is 5. He is one big cat and he’s really lazy, and sometimes he’s really shy about Sadie. Sometimes he comes downstairs but he usually stays in my sister’s room. He likes to sleep and if you bother him, he’ll be really mad and hiss at you. My sister has a hamster named Franklin and he’s just a baby, like 0 years old or 1. He likes to chew on those bars for your cages. Even now he looks like he has a jungle for his cage.

Of those three pets do you have a favorite?

It’s Sadie.

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I’m moving to Montana

I met a lot of new kids with this year that I’ve known since second grade but I never got to be friends with them. I actually became friends with them this year and they became like my best friends. Mrs. Klee was really good this year. I was really excited that I got to be in her class and meet all the new people.

And you’re to middle school next year. What do you think about that?

I’m not going to middle school here; I’m moving to Montana. But I’m really excited for that.

My dad’s retiring from the military after 20 years and we get to choose where we get to go this time. I’m looking forward to all the mountain climbing and things that we couldn’t do here, like skiing and snowboarding.

When are you leaving?

The moving truck came this week but we’re leaving in August. I still have a lot of swim practice and swim meets to come. I just want to spend time with people before I leave.  It’s going to be a fun summer.

Father’s Day is Sunday. Any special plans?

My dad is super chill. He wants things that help him with life, like an Apple Watch or something that measures the temperature of his grill.

What do you like best about your dad?

My dad doesn’t get angry. He’s really patient and he always gives us other chances.

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The beginning of what really matters

I feel like it’s just the beginning of what really matters in my life, kind of starting the rest of it – getting a profession, a career.

What do you want to do in the future?

I plan on going to med school. I’m going to the University of Alabama to study chemical engineering for pre-med.

What does graduation mean to you?

It means I’ve come too far to fall short.

Anything you want to share with your teachers or classmates?

Thanks for being there with me, and we made it!

This isn’t really “goodbye”

I am more excited than anything because I have been working 12 years to get to this point and while it’s not the end of my education, it is a landmark event in my life. And, it’s something I am going to look back on and say that I was able to become a high school graduate. I’m not saying goodbye to the school system. I’m not saying goodbye to all of my friends because they are going to be in my life. I’m also wanting to be a teacher once I graduate college. So, this isn’t really “goodbye,” it’s more “see you later.”

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I am about to start something new

For me, it’s just a new chapter in my life. It’s an ending, but I am about to start something new. It’s exciting.

What’s the new?

I’m going back to Ohio. I lived there for five years and my grandma is out there. And I’ll be doing a pre-nursing concentration, then going into nursing.

What made you want to go into nursing?

I just like taking care of people. I’ll be dealing with babies. I love babies and children so I will definitely be taking care of them.

Anything you want to say to you teachers or classmates?

For someone who transferred into Tallwood as a sophomore, I just want to say thank you to everyone for making me feel welcome and slowly progressing into getting involved at Tallwood.

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I’ve been here for three years with NATO

I’m from Romania. I’ve been here for three years with NATO and we’re leaving this month. It’s kind of sad. I’ve been doing a lot of things and I’ve been in clubs such as Maker Challenge, Academic Challenge, debate, forensics – a lot of things. I got into NJHS this year. I also got Most Outstanding in English this year for eighth grade, which is kind of surprising because I’m not a native speaker.

This is my second time in America. I was here for fourth grade, though in Rhode Island. Then I went back to Romania for fifth grade and I’ve been back here for all of middle school.

Now what happens?

And now I’m going back – for how long, I don’t know. School ends on Friday and I’m leaving on Saturday.

What have you liked best about your experiences in the United States?

I love the people here because they’re all so nice and friendly, and all the teachers help you. It’s very engaging in the community.

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I’m extremely proud of all of my former students

I have mixed emotions at graduation time.  It is exciting to see my former students taking the next step and graduating. I think about the opportunities that are in front of them. I’m also sad because life is changing and they are moving on.

When I see students in their regalia I realize this is a big step in their lives, and I get emotional. I have to fight back the tears. This was especially true with Hannah because we are close. I’ve known her even before she was my kindergarten student, and now our families are connected. She is my daughter’s sister-in-law. Her brother is a deployed Marine married to my daughter.

I’m extremely proud of all of my former students because I know the hard work it takes to get to this point. To reach this graduation milestone they’ve had to be academically successful and develop life skills. I believe this foundation will prepare them for success in their future.

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I usually like to help a lot of people

I came to Virginia like one week after the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. I was there for both of them. When there was no water and electricity, we didn’t go to school. My mom sent me here to be with my dad so I could be in a school with lights and water so I could learn easier because I’m a sixth-grader and I’m learning harder stuff than my sister. She’s almost in first grade and she is in Puerto Rico with my mom.

I’ve been in Virginia for five months right now. I’ve tried my best to keep my grades up and try and learn everything here at Great Neck.

When I’m not at school I usually go play with my friends outside. Ever since the pool opened we’ve gone a few times. Sometimes I just stay at home and play with my dad.

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

I usually like to help a lot of people. For example, my great grandmother, when she had trouble with the stairs I helped her. She’s not here anymore but we had a good time. We used to play a lot of board games; we played cards and all that. She taught me how to play solitaire.

Do you know how long you’ll be here in Virginia Beach?

After Father’s Day, my mom is going to come and pick me up and we’re going to go visit a friend of ours only a few hours away from here. Then we’ll go back to Puerto Rico.

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I love the children here

I started here in ’09 as an RN. I started with the school division in 1992. I started as a CNA, certified nursing assistant, at Salem High School. Then I went back to school and became a licensed practical nurse, LPN, still at Salem High. Then I went back to school to become a registered nurse, RN, and in 2006 became an RN.

Before then I was a computer technician for 10 years. I worked for Sovran Bank. They turned into C&S/Sovran and then Bank of America, so we lost our jobs. We could go back to school for anything other than computers, so I went for medical. When I first started college, back in 1979, I started in nursing then switched to business management/computer science. My mom got really sick; she was sick the day before I graduated high school. We found out she had colon cancer. She passed when I was 19; she was 43 years old. I had taken some time off from college to take care of her. We did have a nurse but she was only part-time, so I filled in.

Once I lost my job, I said: You know, I’m going back for nursing. And I did. And I love it. I really love it – better than computers. I’ve always been interested in the human body and just learning. I think it’s amazing – the things it can do on it’s own. I just wanted to learn more about that and then help others to understand what’s going on in their body and what they can do to prevent illnesses and so forth.

I love the children here. Some of them – when they gave me the cards I have hanging up for Nurse’s Day – they say that I’m like a mother to them. To me, that’s a compliment in two different ways. They say I’m like a mother when really I’m old enough to be their grandmother, and I enjoy just being here for them and for the parents to take care of them while the parents are working.

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It’s always been a goal of mine

It was a really cool experience to do it because I’ve been working for it my whole life. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved to spell, and I’ve always wanted to go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It’s always been a goal of mine, and I finally achieved it this year. I got 42nd out of 515, which was pretty cool.

Basically, I knew the alphabet before I could walk – that was a big gift for me. And then as I progressed – in first, second and third grade – I won all of my spelling bees in my classrooms. Then I started to think, I can really do this. I’m in eighth grade so it was my last year for it. I’m happy I did it.

What was the best part of the national competition?

Obviously there were kids from all around the world, which was very cool. And it was really cool to see ESPN and all the broadcasts and everything. It was a good experience.

Would you have been able to spell the winning word?

Koinonia. Yeah, probably. That was an easy one.

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Maker Challenge

We’re in the Maker Challenge. I think to present our product to the judges…it might be a little stressful at first but then if you really think about it, they either like it or they hate it.

What is your product?

It’s a watch that you can rent at the beach and the lifeguard has a controller station on the stand. He can alert certain people or everyone with the watch of any dangerous things nearby or of anything that’s happening. So, some of the buttons are: there is a red flag, high tide, low tide, vibration, dangerous animal nearby. Stuff like that.

Why is that important?

 Because there is a lot of dangerous stuff at the beach and people might not know it’s there. So, like an animal, maybe a lifeguard can see it because he is higher up. And people might want to know if it’s high tide or low tide because the water is higher and lower at certain points, so someone may want to know if they can swim in that or not. The swimmer can actually press a button on the watch and alert the lifeguard if they are in trouble.

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I love to be around people

I was in industrial sales for 30 years and then I retired to The Villages, Florida, for three years. I thought: Gosh, I miss Virginia Beach. I’m from Virginia Beach. I went to Thalia Elementary; I went to Kempsville Junior High – no air conditioning – and then to Princess Anne, Class of 1968.

I didn’t know I was going to be a bus driver. I saw signs everywhere: Gotta have bus drivers! Gotta have bus drivers! I’ve been here about 4 months. My niece drove for them for about eight years or so and she loved it. That’s how I became a bus driver and I love it. I’d rather drive this than my car. And the transportation department – training, dispatch and maintenance – they’re amazing.

I’ve been a professional drummer for 53 years. So I think the entertainment part – my personality flows into this so much because I love kids. I have two boys who are grown. One is in Raleigh. The other is in Akron, Ohio. I love to be around people. And my hobby is that I build porch swings, yard swings, deck swings – that kind of thing. I’ve been doing it for 45 years.

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

Do the best you can where you are.

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I get to help all the kids

I was in the Navy for 20 years. I was an aviation electrician’s mate. I worked on the F-14 and the F/A-18 Super Hornet. I took two years off after I retired to spend some time with my son because I had done 7.5 deployments. I missed a lot with him. So I came in and started working here because then I could have my summers with him. He was in fourth grade then and he is a freshman in high school now. I just was able to make up a lot of time that I missed because kindergarten, first and second grades, I was almost never home. I was always somewhere.

What do you like best about your job as a security assistant?

I think the best part about my job is that I get to help all the kids. Instead of just being a classroom with one student, I get to help with everybody. So if I see someone coming in in the morning and it’s an unusually sad face, I’ll make sure I say “hi” to them, give them a hug and tell them to have a good day. Or sometimes, if we have a student that is having a hard day, they can come up and have lunch with me and just talk about what’s going on, and we can see if we can figure out a better way to handle things. I think more so at the elementary level – yes, I’m a security assistant – but I’m also just here for all the kids to help them out too.

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Dancer, gymnast, future lawyer

I’m a dancer; I like gymnastics; and when I’m older I want to be a lawyer.

I like dancing because it lets out all my emotions when I dance. Gymnastics…well, I got inspired by Gabby Douglas when I was 5 years old because I used to always watch movies about her and watch her do gymnastics.

And why do you want to be a lawyer?

Because a lawyer helps people out and I just like helping people out with different situations.

Oh, and I also play the violin. I’ve played it for two years here at school. But this year I’ve just started knowing how to play songs. So, I like to play it because it lets out all my emotions on the strings.

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

Study. I like to study because I want to pass my SOLs and get a degree in college.

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Two trips in one summer

I mostly like reading but my favorite subject is art. I like art because our teacher, Mrs. Wolff, she tells our art teacher, Mrs. Thompson, what we’re learning and she tries to figure out what we’re learning but she does it in art. We get to do all this fun stuff. One time we got to make Egyptian collars because we were learning about Egypt. And then we got to make pottery.

I want to be a teacher when I grow up. I want to teach kindergarten. I think that it’s really fun and my mom is a teacher. Teachers are important because they have to look out for their kids and help their kids when they need help. Helping them is the most important.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

So, I’m going on two trips in one summer. I’m going to the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and from there we’re going to Canada. We’re Steelers fans. This is the first year that we’re going. I’m excited to see two people: JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ben Roethlisberger. And then we’re going to a place in Canada; it’s called Niagara Falls. But what I’m most excited about this summer is my pool. I have it in the backyard.

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I just love school

I just love school because it’s a free opportunity of getting an education and learning. And all you have to do is come to school and learn, and when you get older you can have so many big opportunities in life. You might get to go to college and get an education. It’s just so much fun because you know that you’re here for a purpose and you wake up every morning and you think: I’m going to school because I’m ready to get an education for my future.

Have you thought about jobs you might like to have when you’re older?

I think my dream job would have to be a pediatrician because I love helping kids and helping people because it just makes me feel like I’m actually doing something in my community.

I remember this story that Mr. Sullivan told us about the starfishes. He was picking up starfishes because it doesn’t matter if you help just that one starfish in that community. And I feel like it doesn’t matter how small something is – it can be one and it still makes a big difference in the world.

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I feel connected to this school

I think this is my 20th year. It’s all been at Kellam. I feel connected to this school and this community.

When I first got the job here, I didn’t even know where Kellam was. I graduated from Cox High School and this was another planet to me, being off of Great Neck Road and coming out here. But I will never regret that move. My former counselor at Cox, Kay Scarborough, was the director here. Right before the school year started they had an opening and she called me, and Mr. Biehl trusted her. If I hadn’t gotten the job then I was going to move to Puerto Rico to take a job with Gillette, the razor company, because I had an opportunity to work for them. My life would have been drastically different, I think, if I had not gotten that call from Mr. Biehl.

The job has changed in some ways but working with the students is definitely the part that I love. It’s quite a different job than when I first started in that I think we do a lot more social and emotional counseling and not just academic, which I like but it is an exhausting day after it’s all said and done. Every day is different, but I love it.

I think the best part for me is seeing how students grow from ninth grade to seeing them years later down the line where they’re telling about their lives and how much they’ve grown. I see this lifecycle of students in front of my eyes and it’s just a unique perspective that I know a lot of people don’t get to have. I think that part is pretty cool – especially when maybe they’ve struggled initially and found their way or the light comes on and that’s sort of exciting to see. When I hear back from them too, I think that’s very rewarding and it lets me know that maybe my hard work didn’t go in vain or what I tried to help them with may have paid off in some way. I had such a difficult time deciding what I wanted to do for a career – maybe that’s why this one suits me so well. I think that helps. I have a lot of kids that were in my exact same shoes. They’re just trying to figure it out, and so was I.

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I am a smart kid

I like to play sports. My favorite sport is football. When football season is over, I focus on basketball. I like to play a little bit of soccer and baseball. I’m good at soccer but I don’t play it often. And baseball…I play most of the time when I go outside with my friends.

And I am a smart kid. I passed my math and my reading SOL. And next week, I really want to pass my science and my social studies SOL – that’s why I’m studying hard.

Mrs. Ryan, she is one of the best math and science teachers I’ve ever had in my whole life in school. Like, when I struggle, she helps me out a lot because when I really don’t know stuff, she helps me even more. Even if I say I don’t need help – when I really do – she still tries to help me. Even my reading teacher, Mrs. Shannon, she taught me a lot of stuff in reading so I passed my reading SOL. She’s strict, but she’s a very good teacher though. I like teachers that are strict because they make me want to pay attention more in class and focus and not play all the time. I like teachers like that, that’s why I like Mrs. Shannon. And because of Mrs. Shannon and Mrs. Ryan, I passed my SOLs.

And Mr. Sullivan, he is the best principal I’ve ever had. He’s funny. He plays with us a lot. Like, when I’m walking down the hall to go to PE, he asks me the first 10 prime numbers. But I always have a grumpy face, and then, when I walk past him and he asks me those questions, I have a smile on my face like now.

And Mrs. Thirus, I like her too. She’s a strict person just like Mrs. Shannon and I like that. She’s not really mean though. I like them all.

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Recess and reading

My favorite part of the year has definitely been recess. It gives us a chance to just play with our friends and do whatever we want. I also like reading because I learn a lot. I like to read these books called “Heidi Heckelbeck.” She’s this girl who’s in second grade just like me. And she enters contests, she’s done plays, and she’s really nice to people.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

My vacation to Bethpage. It’s a big place with cabins and there are actually bathrooms so you don’t have to go to one the bathhouses. And there is a huge waterpark with slides. It’s about a one- to two-hour drive to get there.

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Letting our students advocate for themselves

I am wrapping up my sixth year here as a speech/language pathologist. I’ve been to many different schools throughout my time here. It’s a broad range of kiddos but I tend to gravitate toward our more severe and profound population, and they tend to gravitate toward me so it’s a mutual friendship that we develop with one another. I think our connection is the playfulness. You know, kids really like to play. And nowadays we are so heavily reliant on technology that we forget the basic skills of just play. That’s a lot of what I do. It’s a lot of hands-on, sensory stimulation – a lot of play-based therapy. We’re in the moment together, so we’re actually playing together; we’re communicating with one another in the best ways we can communicate for our friends. It’s a lot of being silly and I think kids appreciate the silliness.

What do you like best about your job?

I like giving our students the opportunity to communicate. I think it’s something we take for granted where we are able to express our basic wants and needs. If someone were to give you something and you really, truly don’t want that, we’re able to express, “Oh, no thank you. I do not want this. I would rather have something else.” And for a lot of our kiddos that’s where we get those behaviors, so to reduce those behaviors we have to start with those basic forms of communication – of just saying, “Yes, I do like this;” or, “No, I do not like this. I want something different.” It’s advocating for yourself. Letting our students advocate for themselves. I like that for them.

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

I like to spend time with my family. My kids and my husband, we like to explore Hampton Roads. We’re ones to go to different restaurants; we try not to do something twice unless we absolutely love it. Or we find different trails to hike or nature places just to explore – different parks we can go to, go kayaking or whatever it may be. We don’t mind driving for an hour to go explore something different and experience where we live. That’s what I like to do.

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It keeps you young

We moved to the area about 16 years ago. My husband and I retired from the Army. I was a licensed practical nurse. My husband and I both were. He still does that and I just retired. We moved to Richmond for a couple of years and my mom lived down here so we came down here. She said, “You know, we need school bus drivers.”

I’ve been a bus driver for 14 years. I like the kids. I have pretty awesome parents.

What do you find rewarding about being a bus driver?

I think getting to know the kids and – sometimes, when you get discouraged with the way things are going with children – then you meet some really nice kids with some parents who keep the respect going, so you don’t lose faith. It keeps you young and I enjoy it. I plan to stay on the bus as long as I can – as long as they’ll have me.

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My favorite subject is history

My favorite subject is history because I like learning about the past and what happened with Virginia’s history.

What did you learn?

I learned a lot of new stuff about wars that we had in our past and things that we lost from our past, like Pearl Harbor.

And, what history are you studying right now?

World War II – but mostly about the people who helped.

We also learned about Woodrow Wilson. He was the president during World War I. I just remember he wanted to stop the wars and didn’t want a world war.

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I’m interested in aerospace engineering

I’m definitely looking forward to my four years at the Naval Academy. After those five years [of service], if I want to continue with a career in the Navy, I can do that. But also, if I get out I’ll have a lot of different opportunities that I can pursue having that great education and having that leadership background.

I’m interested in aerospace engineering. I’m into calculus and physics. All that stuff is fun and fascinating to me. They’re making so many huge leaps. The company SpaceX is doing incredible things. Elon Musk just sent a rocket with a car attached to it into space. Think about what they’re doing now. So, by the time I’m able to actually get into the field, there are so many more things we’ll be able to accomplish. I want to see what’s up there. I want to explore more.

So you do want to go into space?

Well, no. I want to see pictures of what’s up there. A lot of people are like, I want to be an astronaut. For me, I want to be the guy that’s doing the calculations and different trajectories…on the ground.

As a graduating senior do you have any reflections on your time in school? 

I would just say, Go, Green Run ROTC. It’s a really good program. It’s been an honor to be a part of it.

“I’ve learned so much, so much: the importance of dedication, loyalty, even patriotism, too, working as a team. For me, I’ve always been someone who didn’t like group assignments. I always wanted to do stuff on my own. Being a part of this, it showed that in order to have real and true success, you can’t do it all on your own. With ROTC, there are different departments. There’s the admin department, the supply department, operations, weapons… So, no one person can do it all. It takes everybody to work together in order to achieve the common goal. I’m really going to miss it. That’s probably what I’m going to miss the most about high school.”

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Mission trips with my church

I really like going on mission trips with my church’s youth group. I went on one this past summer. We went to Appomattox, Virginia. We helped roof a house for people who were impacted by the tornado that went through. My relationship with God really grew and it was just nice because it was so hot up on that roof and just everyone worked together really well. We knew that we were going to help the lady and that really made a difference.

Was this the first project that you’ve ever done?

I went to North Carolina the year before last and helped with a children’s home. We helped do yardwork for them because they have to get inspected and we were trying to make it look nice for them.

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I am writing poems

I am writing poems for my class. I’ve made a couple. My first one was about soup; my second one was about a stuffed animal; the third one was about a zoo; the fourth one was about color; and now I’m working on a Haiku poem about a Chinese dragon.

How did you learn about Haiku poetry?

Mrs. Pease told us a story about a Chinese dragon. Then we had to write a poem. My brother used to be in Mrs. Pease’s class, too, and I had his book in my desk and I looked there because Mrs. Pease said I could, and I saw the Haiku.

What do you like about writing poems?

It’s fun and it just tells some knowledge.

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My main sport is softball

I play a couple of sports. My main sport is softball and I’m interested in going to Florida State University on a softball scholarship. That’s my main priority in life. I want to part of their softball team because they did win nationals last year and they’re just an altogether amazing team. I look up to all of them as leaders.

My softball coach, she’s a really good leader too. She played for the P.A. team. She’s really good at helping us out and teaching us what to do because she plays everything. She plays softball still. I can play everything but pitcher because even if my life depended on it, I’d probably end up killing me and the catcher.

Have you thought about a job you’d like to have?

I want to be an FBI agent. So after I finish college, I want to do that or be a zoologist.

I wanted to be a lawyer and then it was like court martial and then judge and it just floated to FBI agent.  I’ve always wanted to solve crimes. My favorite movies and TV shows are ones with detectives and murder because I love the suspense, and I just love watching them figure out how the crime goes. And sometimes I think, maybe I can help them out with that. I really want to do that.

There is also sports medicine. It’s physical therapy for kids and that would be fun too because you get to work with kids who play sports.

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I like math

My favorite classes outside of the classroom are PE and lunch, and inside the classroom it’s math. In PE I get to play football and basketball with my friends and in lunch I get to eat a lot. I like math because I get to use different kinds of strategies to help me solve different kinds of problems.

I also like playing outside. I usually go to my friend’s house and we usually play with other friends that go to this school. We play tag and stuff, and we ride around on scooters and bikes most of the time.

When I grow up I either want to be a barber or a basketball player. A barber because I can cut my own hair. I’m growing an Afro.

Next year you’ll be a fifth-grader and the leader of the school. What would be your advice to first-graders?

I would just say to focus if there are any distractions and to listen carefully because the teacher could be talking about a different strategy to another kid and you could hear what they are saying and you could come up with another strategy.

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What’s best for the kids

This is my 20th year here in Virginia Beach. I started out at Corporate Landing Elementary as an interpreter. I was there for 13 years. Then I was at Ocean Lakes High School for one year and then I came here to Corporate Landing Middle.

When I was in high school, there was a deaf kid in my class. It was my geometry class and I was just fascinated with his interpreter and just watching that. I started talking to his interpreter and picking his brain about it and just took a liking to it. So I took my first unofficial class – it was an afterschool class at a hearing and speech center in Youngstown, Ohio – and after I graduated high school I decided to get my degree in it.

Then, when I graduated college, I had no intention of moving. My brother was being stationed in Norfolk. He was a Navy SEAL and was finishing BUD/S and he got stationed here. He called me up and said, “Hey, Paul, do you want to move here? I’m going to buy a house. Do you want to come live with me?” I was like, “No, why would I want to leave my mom and all my friends.” That was huge and scary. The next day was my last day of college – I was graduating, and so I walk into the room and there was a posting for Virginia Beach Public Schools, and I went, “Ohhh.” Then I felt in my gut that that was what I supposed to do. It was the best decision ever. It changed my world.

What do you like about your work?

In Virginia Beach, with the group of interpreters we work with, there is a tremendous amount of support. I hear of different stories in different divisions and everybody is really good at what they do, but Virginia Beach is extremely unique because of the amount of support that we have. The thing I love is that. When I first came here, I was really new. I had just graduated college. I didn’t have the skill that the group of people I worked with had. One of the things our boss says is: We grow our own. We’ll hire people and then work with them to develop their skill and make them better. The sense of camaraderie and support is overwhelming in this division. If don’t know how to do something, I go to my colleagues and we have a discussion about it. It really is, I think, one of my most favorite things of why Virginia Beach is so amazing to me: the sense of community, the sense of support and we just have each other’s backs. And in this division, as I hope in most divisions, our team is so centered on what’s best for the kids. Our boss, Becky, that’s her mantra: Are we making it about us or are we making it about the kids? It’s really important to keep it about the kids and what’s best for them.

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

I have other jobs. I work another job with video relay interpreting through a company, and I just got another job which I’m really excited about. I’m working at a brewery. I’m working at Oozlefinch Craft Brewery on Fort Monroe.  I just started that two weeks ago, this past weekend was my fourth shift – just pouring and talking. I know the owners really well. The owner’s wife was an interpreter in Newport News and Russel was a former police officer and he opened this brewery. My husband and I have been with them since the thought of it happened – since the inception to fruition. So we’ve been able to walk this journey with them so to be able to finally get the opportunity to work there – just part-time, seasonal – it’s given me something different to do. I also have two dogs that we spend a lot of time with and just hang out. Nothing really big. Just enjoy life.

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I can be their cheerleader

As the School Improvement Specialist, one of my responsibilities is test coordinator for the building. It’s a heavy duty responsibility. Testing is not so much fun, so I feel that my responsibility is building relationships with the students and the teachers to help reduce the stress and make it a more enjoyable environment.

A lot of my time is spent with the seniors who might need additional support in meeting graduation requirements. I spend a great deal of time with them. It’s a very rewarding process. We work through what they need: maybe some remediation, maybe some one-on-one support talking them up – increasing their confidence. I want them to know that they have a support piece here. I can be their cheerleader.

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