I like to read

I like to read and I like to do math. I just always find the right books that fit my personality. I really like the series Magic Tree House because it’s full of adventure.

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

I’m in Girl Scouts. I like doing the crafts and making new friends. For Halloween we got to make some masks and I even made a little bracelet out of pipe cleaners. I used green, orange and purple. I go every Wednesday. And, I have two dogs. One is 7 and one is 8. They like to snuggle and we like to read together. I like to read the Berenstain Bears books to them.

Have you read to them the Magic Tree House books?

No, I mostly read those myself. Sometimes I pulled out a stuffed animal and read to that.

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I’m still learning

I came to Virginia Beach 33 years ago, and I was a middle school and high school choral conductor and got offered an elementary position. I didn’t think I was going to like it and I fell in love with it by October. So, here I am. I love what I do. What I especially love is that I’m still learning things even at this point in my career. It keeps it exciting and fresh. When I’m learning new things, then I can share those new things with my students. I’m just really grateful to have had a long lasting career in something that I enjoy doing and am still passionate about it.

What do you like about teaching music?

Well, first of all, I get to know every child in the whole school and I get to watch them grow from year to year if they stay with us here. It’s really amazing not just to watch them make a connection in a lesson but watch them make a connection across grade levels: “Oh, I remember in second grade and now it’s turning into this in third grade and fourth grade.” I really enjoy watching the kids grow up.

I like making everyone feel included

I’m really passionate about inclusivity. I like making everyone feel included. I guess it’s just my personality. I have friends from every end of the spectrum. I like including everyone and I like making people smile and making people laugh. I love talking to new people. I love listening – just making everyone feel like they’re cared about.

I’m a really analytical person. I like observing rooms and classrooms. More reserved people or people I see by themselves, I’ll walk with them to their class and have a conversation with them, or I sit somewhere different in the cafeteria every day.

Where do you think that passion comes from?

I think, honestly, it comes from my mother. I didn’t grow up with a father really, so my mother played both roles. So, I feel like she did everything for me so I just like helping everyone. I want to give back.

Have you thought about what you want to do when you get older?

I want to be a motivational speaker. I’m in the Health Sciences Academy so I was thinking maybe I could pair with a company and talk about a program or a product. Or, if I wanted to go the route of my own personal story, I could talk about how I grew up and how I moved around a lot. I’m not like the wealthiest guy but, I mean, you can still be successful; you can still beat the cycle and overcome adversity.

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I like playing in the work stations

I like playing in the work stations.

What kind of stations do you have?

We have so much! We have dramatic play and Legos. We have the yellow station. That’s the library station. We have green. That’s technology, where you play on the tablets. And there’s like a teal station, but I can’t remember that one. There is a pink station and that’s the art station. There’s also the Play-Doh station. That’s brown. There’s also…I think that might be it.

Oh, wait! The red. The red station is building.

That’s a lot of stations. Do you have a favorite?

My favorite is all of them!

Oh! I forgot one – magenta. That’s the draw station.

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I have a heart for other people

I wish people would care about the world more. When I say that I mean the environment, especially food waste. I was thinking about launching a compost program here at school in the spring. I’m not really too sure about how that’s going to work out. But, especially where my family comes from, waste is not a good thing. My family is from Eastern Africa, so it hurts me seeing that. So I thought, what if we have a little compost station outside of our school? That’s what I’m trying to start for my leadership class.

Have you thought about what you want to do when you are older?

I’ve kind of been all over the place since I was younger. When I was in eighth grade, I wanted to be a pediatrician. So, I signed up for the Health Sciences Academy and thought: OK, I’m going to be a pediatrician. The more I get into it, I don’t know if I want to be a pediatrician anymore. I still love kids, but I don’t know if I want to see all the kids get sick and be in the hospital all the time. Then, in the middle of high school, I was kind of veering off the medical thing but I’ve already learned a lot about this and it’s kind of a part of me now. So now I’m looking into learning about public health. I’m kind of interested in becoming an epidemiologist. I’ve been visiting schools and learning about their different public health programs. I’m actually pretty interested in helping prevent diseases around the world and studying global health.

I really do have a heart for other people. I know that no matter what I do, I want to do something that will help other people. A woman I talked with told me that when you’re first working in public health you’re not going to make a lot of money. I wasn’t too concerned about that because I know I would be making a difference.

I mentioned where my family is from in Ethiopia and when I visited there and see what the health standards are there compared to here. It just really touched my heart. They don’t even have wheelchairs. I wished I could do something myself and not just sit there and be one of those people in the back just watching. I actually want to do something and make a difference.

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Cheering for #3

It’s been really sweet – everybody and their support. On Friday the school dressed in blue to show support for the Dodgers.

We went to Houston to watch Games 3, 4 and 5. Well, we got stuck in the Norfolk airport the entire day, so we missed Friday’s game. I was so upset but then we knew we’d be there Saturday and Sunday. It was nice on Saturday to see them win and to celebrate with some of the team afterward. It was so late and they were so tired – but excited. The Sunday game was so sad. It was awful. Just to go back to the hotel and see all those players who put everything into winning. They were so exhausted and beat up. They were just so disappointed. So it was fun to see Chris get that hit last night after seeing him look so sad on Sunday. Hopefully they can do it again tonight.

I was really nervous at the beginning of the game yesterday and then I thought to myself, you never know what’s going to happen in baseball and this is an amazing team. I just want to sit down and watch him play with this amazing team and just enjoy him being a part of this. That’s just the way I’m trying to look at it. It’s just a great team with great leaders. Chris is learning from great leaders. We’re so proud of him. He’s so humble and just takes it all in stride.

How are you feeling about tonight’s game?

I’m excited. It’s the last game. It’s a long season. He’s going to be home soon, so I’m excited. The ultimate goal was tonight. In their heads, they’re going to get it. They really are not talking about losing; they’re just talking about winning. This team is so competitive and so good – both teams are. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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I like to write in my journal

At school, I like when I get to write in my journal. We write about feelings and how characters act. I’ve learned about the different characters that are in books and how to write a sentence about them.

Do you have a favorite character so far?

Yes. My favorite character is that little three polar bear book. They remind me of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

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

I like to stay home with my dad and just play with my toys and watch movies. And I like to dress up and cuddle with my little stuffed animals. My favorite animals I cuddle with are Pikachu and my unicorn and my My Little Ponies.

And I’m in gymnastics because my mom already signed me up. I’ve learned to do cartwheels and I’ve learned to do forward and backward flips. And I’ve learned to do the bat hang. It’s where you put your hands on the bar and you put your feet on the bar and you kind of hang like this.

Will you be a bat for Halloween?

My costume is a princess. It’s Pocahontas.

I play power chair soccer

I play power chair soccer. It’s really fun. I have a new strike force chair. I want to be on Team USA and be a sportscaster. I love football because my dad always watches it and I got into to it, too. I just like the action – throwing, juking. I like basketball, too. I like the breaking ankles. I don’t mean someone gets hurt. It means juking someone, making someone going the opposite way you go.

I would tell people to treat people with disabilities the way you want to be treated. They can’t always do stuff like you. They have a struggle about some stuff that they really, really want to do but they can’t do it because their joints or their bodies can’t work as well, so always be thoughtful about how you’re going to say stuff to them. Don’t say something mean because it can make them feel really bad about it and make them feel like they’re not as cool as the other people. Be nice about it.

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I’m a Level 4 competitive gymnast

“I’m a Level 4 competitive gymnast and my first meet is this Sunday. My dad, he’s in the Coast Guard, and he’ll be coming back this Saturday. There are different levels. There are classes, where they don’t necessarily compete but they do gymnastics. Then you go into the competitive team, which they have pre-team, then you go into Level 3, Level 4, Level 5 and you can go up to Level 10.”

Do you want to go up to Level 10?

“Yes.”

Why do you like about gymnastics?

“I like gymnastics because it really teaches you a lot of lessons, not just about your gymnastics. It teaches you about life lessons and how you can relate it to your own life. You have to roll with the punches. You can’t let anybody make you feel sad. If you know you are doing something you want to do, you should just do it and not care what the other people think. That’s what I’ve learned so far.”

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Leadership is a service

“I love leadership. It’s something that I hold near and dear to my heart. I think leadership is a service and it should be out of your heart to help others, help your school and community, and leave things better than you found it. There are things I want to see changed in the world and I want to bring others in, too. One of my big things is having people believe in themselves, and I try to see the good in everybody because everybody does have something good in them. So, I feel like through leadership I can do that and, in turn – it’s kind of like a cycle, I guess. Through service you can serve others and they can, in turn, learn how to serve and then serve others so everyone can that ideal.

“I do competitive dance outside of school. I love dance a lot; it’s another deep passion of mine. I started when I was 6 I think, and about four years ago I changed to a new studio, which is where I still am today. That’s a big part of my life because they’re like my family, and I get to really involve myself in dance. SCA and dance are my two loves in life; those are the things I’m probably going to miss the most. My dance teacher is kind of like my mentor, other than Mrs. Williamson, my SCA adviser. They are role models to me. They mean a lot to me.”

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I have the best of both worlds

This is my second year working as the site permanent substitute at Ocean Lakes Elementary. It’s a pleasure to work with students from all grade levels and from so many diverse backgrounds. I feel fortunate to make connections with all the students, whether it be in the classroom, the library, music, art, the cafeteria or simply with a friendly hello in the hallway. I am a U.S. Navy veteran, a military spouse and an ODU Career Switcher. I love my job because I have the best of both worlds. I get to spend every day working with students and I have the flexibility to be a mom. Every day is a different adventure and I look forward to that. Along with all of our amazing teachers, I enjoy watching the students grow as they work hard to reach their educational and social goals. I am looking forward to celebrating another successful school year and all that it may bring.

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The states I have been to

The states I have been to are Carolina, the north one; Indiana; West Virginia; Virginia, not just where we live; and Maryland. The Safari Park in Virginia is the coolest place I’ve been to. The crazy llamas were attacking us and trying to steal all the food from our buckets! They even bit my daddy’s bucket and it made food fly all over the place. It was a total mess!

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go and why?

India because my best friend from preschool is from there and I want to ride a camel with him.

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My passions center around kids

Outside of school I paddleboard. I love to paddleboard and I love the beach. But really my passions do all center around kids – whether it be the ones here or I have four children of my own, two who are still in high school. So, everything in my life does revolve around the high school world and either homework, schoolwork, college planning – that kind of thing.

I was the AP English 12 teacher here for years, so moving into the gifted resource teacher role was a little frightening because I didn’t really grasp how much I got to be with kids and in the classroom. I’ve been able to do that more than I even thought I would be able to, and that’s just what I love – to be with kids when they are working, when they’re struggling, when they’re getting things. Through the GRT position I have gotten to experience things way outside of my comfort zone, which is English, but the math and the sciences and the social studies, that’s been really exciting for me because it’s taught me so many things that I either didn’t know or forgot that I knew from way back in school. That’s been really fun – to be in all those different classrooms.

What would you do if you weren’t a teacher?

I can’t imagine anything else. Honestly, I cannot. I’ve done it for 20 years and people say: How long are you going to keep doing it? Until I can’t get up and come to work anymore. I just cannot imagine. I’ve said before, if I won the lottery I would still teach school. I might take a few more days off throughout the year, but I would still teach school because it’s just what I was made to do.

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I can’t choose

I like art because I like making stuff like crafts and painting.

What else to you like about school?

I can’t choose. I like so much. Music! Library! Writing! I like writing about stuff like myself, my school, my brother, my mom, my daddy. I like writing about how I might have a dog — a little one and then it will grow up to be a big one. I like to play outside on the playground. I like reading because I want to learn to be a teacher or a vet, so I want to read books about vets and animals. I want to take care of animals.

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It’s important to be positive

My name is Keron. It’s pronounced ‘Care-On,’ like, carry on, which is kind of what I do. Miss Bess really thought that I looked a lot like Kid President. She put pictures on Twitter and it kind of took off.

 She described you as somebody who motivates people and is always positive. Is that correct?

Yes, I’d say that’s about right. So, basically my story is: I lived a pretty happy, regular life up until second grade when my mom died. Then I was really down, so I did a bunch of things to help me get back up. At first it was sweet foods, but then I realized how bad that was. So then I went to my friend’s house and I tried this game called Minecraft and I really enjoyed it. I started watching some videos on it and sometimes I would hear some bad words and I would say ‘ugh’ and move on. Eventually I found this YouTuber called Stampy Longnose and the first video I watched had something to do with treasure hunting, or something like that, and Minecraft. It was really good. I started watching more and more. I watched so much that, before I knew it, the day was done. I can’t go a day without watching one of his videos now.

 It sounds like you like the fact that the videos are very positive.

 Well, being nice – nothing bad happens when you’re good. It’s good for both people. If you’re really negative, well, it might seem good to you but to others it’s like, ‘Bleh, I don’t want to be around this person.’ So, that’s why I think it’s important to be positive and just spread it because then we have a positive society.

 Why having a positive society important?

We will have less problems in the world. Like, bullying is really huge and I think that if we erase it, it will just be a good world. With all the things that kids can get into, it could be easy to go to the wrong side. For all the kids out there, don’t go the easy route. With the easy route, it can seem easy but then it’s like a waterfall. It’s easy to just go down the waterfall but, when you fall, it’s just dangerous. But if you try to swim the other way, then you’re safe and you don’t get caught up in bad things. I always try to do the harder route than the easier route. That seems to be important.

Personally, one day I want to move to Switzerland because it seems like a good life there. Then, I want to grow my own food because of all the GMOs and chemicals. Like I said, the easy way of growing food. I want to get my own food so I don’t have to deal with all the chemicals. Switzerland is really good because it’s really clean there too. It uses clean ways of getting energy. And also, it’s a really stable economy and it’s neutral, so those are the main things I like about it.

 Have you been there before?

No, but I’ve just researching a lot on where I want to go, and Switzerland seems to be the place. I want a lot of land to have animals there. I also want a – well, if I get the money – I also want a ranch-style mansion, if that makes sense. I really like rural areas. That’s something that I really like. There is something really satisfying to me about animals and just crops growing. That’s something that I told my teacher about, rows of just wheat. You can grow wheat in Minecraft too, and that’s really satisfying when it’s completely grown there. I think it will be really satisfying to just see rows upon rows of wheat there too. It’s something that I really want to do. I mean, I’ll need a lot of money for it but, in the end, I’ll find a way.

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Creating lifelong readers

I’m one of nine children and we all went through VBCPS. I went to Bayside Elementary, Old Donation Center, Kemps Landing and then Princess Anne High School. I still have siblings at Princess Anne High School in ninth and 11th grade. I’m in the middle, the fourth oldest, and that’s kind of what got me into teaching. I’ve worked with kids my whole life – older, younger, teaching and leading kids, doing a lot of different things. I really enjoyed doing that and I figured, when I went to college, why not continue doing that? So, I kind of got into teaching. The more I learned about it and the more I did it, the more I really liked it and enjoyed doing what I do in the classroom.

Why did you decide to teach elementary school?

Just the energy level. Their joy for being here. Every day, regardless of my mood, they’re smiling. It just brightens my morning to see them every morning when they walk in. And just what they’re doing in first grade — reading — this is an important part. This is where struggling readers begin, at this age level. So if I do everything I can do to help them become better readers and enjoy reading and become lifelong readers – it is a passion of mine. I really want them to find that joy of reading now, and I think that there are different things I can do to try and instill that in them — just do everything I can to give them the opportunity to enjoy reading and writing.

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I want to help protect the environment

In my freshman and sophomore years I was not involved with Landstown at all. I just went to school; I did my work; and then I went home and came back the next day. But then this year I was prompted to join SCA. I did not know there were so many amazing people who are here to help the student body. It felt like I was part of a second family. It branched off into other community service projects. I’ve made maybe like 40 new friends just because I’ve been more involved with the school, and I just really enjoy helping out teachers and doing our part to make Landstown better than it already is, which is great.

I would like to become an environmental engineer in the future. I’m very much an advocate for environmental sustainability and I really want to help challenge climate change and just make the world – help save the world, I guess, through protecting the environment. Being here at Landstown has helped me decide to become an environmental engineer. I took a class called Think Tank. It’s kind of like independent study. You get to choose your own topic that you want to study and I chose environmental science. I wanted to see if I was interested in it because I already had a feeling that I wanted to help protect the environment. It just helped me know what I want to do in the future, and then this year I joined Eco Club to further the experience in protecting the environment.

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I love being a music teacher

I’ve been a teacher with VBCPS for 20 years. I started out as a third-grade teacher for six years and then became an elementary music teacher. I’ve been at Kempsville for 18 of my teaching years and consider it my home away from home. I love being a music teacher because I get to work with every child in our school and witness their development over the years. I believe music is not only a valuable subject itself but it also helps children understand other areas such as reading, math, science and social studies. I especially love how music brings out the best in children: their sensitive, creative, expressive, human side. The greatest feeling is watching children come to life when they sing, dance or play music. Music transcends language and ability, and unites children together. It’s a true joy and privilege to be a part of children’s musical awakening.

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I love the kids

I graduated from Kempsville High and wanted to come back to Virginia Beach. I worked in Williamsburg for a year and decided to come back home. This is my fourth year here. I live here. I sponsor SCA. I’m the assistant student activities coordinator. I coach JV cheerleading. I live here.

Why do you do all that you do?

We have a really amazing, diverse student body and, in the past year especially, a lot of school spirit. I love the kids. They’re fantastic. They make it worth it. They’re like my own kids. I love my job or I wouldn’t do it.

What would you say to other teachers about getting involved or advising a club? 

I think it’s the best part of my job. You get to know kids in a different way than you do in the classroom and build those relationships.

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I hope to major in biomedical engineering

As an eighth-grader I remember I was a shy, little kid and I remember seeing all these awesome seniors and high schoolers. I thought, ‘I want to be that.’ I remember I got a green dolphin pin. I still have it on my wall. Eighth-grade me couldn’t have imagined standing here talking to you. It’s amazing how Ocean Lakes has helped me.

In the future I hope to major in biomedical engineering. That’s one of my life goals. As part of my senior project I mentored with one of my, I guess you could say, distant cousins and she told me about the biomedical engineering work she does in her lab in New York City. After that experience in the lab and seeing what she did as a researcher and all that, I said, ‘This is what I need to do. This is what I want to do.’ It really peaked my interest and it’s really what I want to do.

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