Wiggling my tooth

When I was walking to put away my paper that I colored, I was wiggling my tooth and it falled out, and I went to the nurse and she was so excited.

What do you like best about school?

I like station 12 and station 13 because you get to color there and read to a person your paper and what you said.

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

Swim in my pool in the summer. And, we’re going on vacation in the summer. It is, like, this big boat and there is a swimming pool and a hot tub and a slide, and there is this little thing that pops out but it doesn’t pop out in the ocean.

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Technology is really just a tool

I love the ever-changing aspect of technology. Some people hate change. I love it.

It’s fun to be a part of the new things that we get to share with the students. Even though we’re not in the classrooms we are impacting them with new technology that we vet and test.

Technology – it’s such an impact. Having a device for every student is such an impact. Having Promethean boards in our classrooms is such an impact. But really, we’re just a small piece in the students’ learning environment. Technology is really just a tool.

The best thing about the device expansion program is that the teachers don’t have to worry about if the technology is available. It’s available, and they can do what they need to do.

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Thank you for always making everybody smile

I was in the cafeteria working and assisting the kids and a student brought a kindness note to me. I thought, “This is sharp,” and told him how much I appreciated it. The note said, “Thank you for always making everybody smile and always cleaning everything.”

It was just touching because it was a student who recognized what I do. He told me that he like how I smiled. He told me that he’d never seen anything like it – cleaning up and just smiling.

Were you surprised when you received the kindness note?

No, I wasn’t, because a lot of kids will stop me going down the hall when they are going to different classes – and I try not to interrupt when they are with teachers, but they will say, “Hi, Mr. Ike. How are you doing?” You just can’t buy that.

When I was at Landstown Elementary, the students wrote some nice letters when I was leaving. I had never seen anything like it. So I kept them in a binder and I look at that today and think this is great and unbelievable that I can make kids smile. If you can touch their heart and make them feel appreciated, it’s a great feeling.

If you were to say students anything about kindness what would it be?

I would say, just wake up with a smile on your face and just come in and go for 100 percent of a good day. If you keep a smiling face, good will come from that.

I might be a doctor, in the Navy or a zookeeper

I like math and reading. I like math because I need help in math and it’s really better when I learn about it more. And, I like reading because I don’t really read fast like other kids; I read slow so I can take my time.

When I’m not at school I like to go outside and play football with my friends. Sometimes I just play baseball and sometimes my friends want me to do gymnastics, like a cartwheel.

Have you thought about what you might like to be when you grow up?

I might be a doctor or in the Navy or be a zookeeper. A doctor because I like helping people. It’s a nice thing to do because just imagine if you were an older lady and you were in the hospital. They would help you. I want to be in the Navy to help our country from the other bad guys. And, if you are a zookeeper, you get to see all the animals that you’ve never seen before in your life, like a rhino, elephants…I could probably see some reptiles, like a lizard.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I kind of like salad…and potatoes and apples. Every fruit that you can think of, I like.

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I really like reading

I really like language arts. I really like reading and I feel like I get more into reading than I do other subjects. I just feel like, for me, it’s easier for me to comprehend when I’m reading a book than when I’m looking at math problem or something.

My favorite author is Kate DiCamillo. We have some of her books in the library, and I think my favorite book of hers is “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” It makes you think, and I like feeling what the character feels. I feel like it has a lot of emotion in it.

I was on a Battle of the Books team with four other people and we did really well. We worked really well together, and I feel like we all kind of enjoyed reading the books that we had to read for it. Our librarian did a really good job of helping us get ready for competitions.

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

I don’t really have anything particular I want to do. With our guidance counselor, we went over the middle and high school stuff, and I was really interested in the legal program at one of the high schools. My friends all said, “You’d be a great lawyer.” Because, I mean, I can argue if I have to. But, really, I haven’t thought about it all that much. I’m more focused on this year and going to middle school and all of that.

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I want to become a humanitarian dentist

I like to learn new things. I like doing social studies. I like learning about other countries. I also like learning about science. I like exercising and running and doing stuff like that because I’m very energetic.

I want to become a humanitarian dentist, but that’s not all. I also want to help the poor and fly around the world. I also want to make my own company. It is going to be a nice place and we’re not going to charge people very much to get what they need to have. Besides, what they need is what matters more. I’m going to take on the most serious problems.

The reason I want to be a dentist is that I want to help other people and I just thought it allows me to be me. It makes me feel happy and it also makes me feel free. I want to help other people and I just want to do it in a way that allows me to feel and be myself.

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I want to be a gardener

I like reading books, and my mom is teaching me how to read some chapter books. I like to play the Wii at my house and play Atari.

Do you have a favorite Atari game?

I like that space game.

Space Invaders?

Yes!

Have you thought about what kind of job you want to have when you get older?

I want to be a gardener. I like planting plants, digging and putting seeds down in the ground. They grow when there’s water and sun.

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I like upside down rides

I’ll probably be an Uber driver because I could take people places and explore other places, and I get money.

My favorite place is probably Florida because it’s nice and warm there, and I’ve been to it. The hotel was very nice. When you are gone, there are hotel cleaners that clean your room, and you get a safe and a refrigerator. We went to Disney World. My favorite part was probably the teacups because I got to spin in it and my mom was so scared. Also we went on a ride that just goes around in a circle and upside down. I like upside down rides; my mom doesn’t. She went on one before and she didn’t like it. She screamed and I was laughing so hard.

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I get to see the best of the kids

I worked in TV/radio in my first life and something was just missing. When I was thinking about becoming a career switcher I had the opportunity to work at Central Academy when it had the ropes course program. So I wasn’t a counselor; I wasn’t a teacher; I just had the background with rock climbing and playing. What I found was that I was passionate about giving students the opportunity to practice and learn the things that are outside of the classroom, that our best teachers incorporate but don’t always have time to make the focus. I thought about going into teaching but there was nothing that I was as passionate about as the life lessons and the life skills.

I love – when things are slow on the paper and email front – that that’s really what we’re here for, to give them opportunities to just figure out who they are and practice those skills that are going to make or break how successful they are in relationships and in the workplace and in adjusting and coping to all that’s to come.

Every day is different. I love that every day is different. And I get to see the best of the kids. Even though I have them at their worst sometimes, like when they’re really upset or really sad or depressed or even suicidal at times, I get to highlight their strengths and I get the time to just focus on what they are doing well and doing right. So much of what we do is one-to-one to get to know my kids. When we are in the large-group settings it’s usually just information-driven. When they’re right there and they’re with me I get a chance to get to know them and figure out how to best support them. It’s just really cool. I get to see the best of what’s to come.

I love that I’m back at Kellam. I’m an alumna. We’re really tied to our community. I grew up in Sandbridge. We’re big beach people – really outdoors people. We ventured out to Pungo on purpose. We wanted space to run and to ride ATVs and things like that. I just have the best kids and my husband’s phenomenal. We just have fun together.

We see students at the grocery store, at the beach and at Ocean Breeze, but I feel like it’s even more of a connection because my kids will come here. Everything we do is for the kids and to make the school great. Dr. Smith and I both say that: his kids will come here; my kids will come here; and what kind of school do we want for them?

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We are a moving advertisement

I’ve been employed with Virginia Beach City Public Schools for seven years but I’ve been driving buses for 10 years. I’m what they call an unassigned sub driver, so I’m all over the place. I drive for special education and academies, too. I’m on my bus at 4:45 a.m., do the pre-trip, and ready to go by 5:00 a.m., so when anyone in dispatch says, “Hey, I need you to go cover a run,” I’m on it. I like seeing the kids’ smiling faces that I see when I get to the bus stop that there actually is a bus to pick them up.

I’m also a behind-the-wheel instructor for the training department here in transportation. It looks like driving a bus may be challenging to the general public, but once you get inside the bus and start the training they say, “Oh, this is easier than driving my car.” I like teaching them everything they need to know from pre-trip, inside the bus, underneath the bus, and then actually going out to do their DMV test. When they call me and say, “Hey! I passed!” It makes me feel great.

Driving a school bus is fun. It has its challenges but, at the end of the day, it’s rewarding knowing that you have kids on your bus who look up to you and respect you and that a familiar face is there every day and is somebody they can trust.

I’m told you shine your bus?

Yes, I shine my bus. I wax it. The floors are clean, rims and all. I always keep a clean bus. When people see me going down the road they say, “There’s Derreck.” It’s not required. It’s just the pride in that we are a moving advertisement.

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

Spending time with the family, especially since my wife is expecting now. It’s my second child. My son will be 8 at the end of March. His sister is due July 28.

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Social studies in my favorite subject

Social studies in my favorite subject. I’ve always really liked history. I think I get it from my dad and my grandpa because when they were in school history was their favorite subject, too.

My dad and I talk about it a lot, and I like reading a lot of books about history. I’ve just kind of gotten attached to it. My favorite time period is probably World War II because I really like war history. I thought World War II was a really interesting topic.

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

I want to be an Air Force pilot and the President. I have a lot of military family. My uncle, who I’m named after, he was a tank driver in the army. My other uncle, who lives out in California, he was in the Navy on battleships and aircraft carriers. And my grandpa, he was in the Vietnam War and he flew helicopters. The reason I want to be a pilot is that going up into the air seems so fascinating to me.

And you want to be President of the United States, too?

I really like taking leadership. I thought the President might be one of the best roles to do for leadership. And I want to be the President because I want to live my life for my sister Ava, who sadly passed away in 2009, and all of my other family members who have passed away.

What will be in your campaign speech?

You want honesty? You’ll get honesty!

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Horseback riding

When I lived in North Carolina I did gymnastics, and something I like doing here is horseback riding. My mom only lets me do it in the summer because she doesn’t want me to get cold. My sister usually gets the big horse, even though I want it. Our teacher said that because she’s bigger, she gets the bigger horse and I get the smaller horse.

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

I was thinking about being a veterinarian, but I don’t like seeing animals hurt or blood.

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Don’t underestimate 5-year-olds

I honestly didn’t ever think I’d be a teacher. This is my second year teaching. I was in the military and when my kids started kindergarten – or when they got to the point where I could volunteer with them, I thought, ‘Oh, I actually like doing this and working with kids.’ I fell in love with working with the kids. You get those aha moments that really make it worth doing it.

I love kindergarten. You get to see the growth. You get to see the kids that come in not writing, not reading, and then by the end of the year, they’re writing sentences and reading books. That’s the biggest reward. You really can see that measurable growth in kindergarten. I started a kindergarten coding club last year. This year I’m doing the STEM robotics with the older students. I try to use different things in the classroom with my kids. We use a lot of Seesaw. In February, we used our Clever badges for the first time, got into PebbleGo, and they researched their own African American historical figure. Then we screen captured it, pushed it into Seesaw and they did a voiceover with a fact about a historical figure. They loved it. They think it’s the coolest thing in the world. And then I had some who figured out how to app smash by themselves. I’ll see it and say, ‘Oh, when did you figure that out?’ They’re amazing.

What did you do in the military?

I was a hospital corpsman – aviation med tech. I just kind of helped take care of the pilots. I was out for about five years before I started volunteering. I have four kids and I had to wait until my youngest started kindergarten. It was not too long after that before I started going to an online school. My husband was still active duty and we were still moving every couple years so that was the best fit for our mobile lifestyle. So, I get these kids that transition and they change schools. I’ve been there with my kids so I know how they feel.

My youngest is in high school right now. We’re almost done. She’s a senior they’re starting college so we’re going to be here for a while. This is the longest we’ve been anywhere. We’ve been here five years.

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

Don’t underestimate 5-year-olds. They can do a lot more than you think they can.

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I’m an air conditioner mechanic

I’m an air conditioner mechanic. I went to Lynnhaven Elementary, Plaza Middle and Kellam. I was always handy. I went to trade school and started playing around with tools and stuff like that. Then I started getting interested in controls. I thought it was really neat. It’s really progressed a lot in the last 30 years or so – really the last 10 years, all the digital work you can do. I have computers where I can look right here and control the whole city with them. It’s been pretty interesting.

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I feel like I can make a difference

I really like working on the high school level. I love working with the teenagers and having that time with them. Many times teachers can see when there’s an issue, but they don’t have the resources or time to fill in that gap. I feel like I can make a difference, and it makes me feel good at the end of the day.

I run the Holiday Connection program in the district. I connect children with sponsors at Christmastime. I feel really proud of that. I’ve been able to connect over 300 kids with sponsors. I make the connection between outside sources, such as businesses, school departments and clubs that want to sponsor a kid. The fall is very exciting for me.

I fell in love with social work during my college internship.  I really enjoy the one-on-one connection I make with people. I get a lot of hugs!

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I love coming to work

I’ve been working with Virginia Beach Schools since 1999. I’ve been working nights at Linkhorn Park the whole time. When I first started, I was working at School Plant for a few months and then I got called over here. I’ve been here ever since. All of my principals have been good to me, so I can’t complain.

When I’m not at work, during the day before I come here, I do lawn work. I get up first thing in the morning and do that, stop around 12:00 at the latest, go home, take a rest, and then come here and work until 10:30 at night.

I love coming to work. I’d rather work at night because I’m the type of person who likes being by myself. Working…I do better by myself. You can take your time to do what you have to do.

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I just love this school

I’ve been with Virginia Beach City Public Schools for almost 17 years. I’ve been here at Thalia the whole time. My two girls, who are now grown adults, went here. They grew up here. They’ve played ball in the ball fields. I just love this school. I love the staff. I work with an amazing team of PE folks and our administration is wonderful as well.

Obviously, you’re not in it for the money. You’re in it for the love of the children and to maybe just find that one child you can connect with and make a difference somehow in their life because you never know what’s going on in their home life. Unfortunately, it’s not all rosy.

We see every single student every day – kindergarten through fifth grade. As PE staff, we go into the classrooms when teachers are in collaboration. We’re in the cafeteria. I’m at buses. I’m the transportation coordinator also. I see the kids getting on and off the bus. I talk to bus drivers. I coordinate with them. I’m a little all over the place. It’s busy, but I like being busy. I like doing the job. I love being here at the school. Unfortunately, I do have to have a second job but I do love this. Everybody’s asked me, ‘If you have to have a second job, why not give up teaching?’ I don’t think I could. I’m not in it for the money. I think we’re all in it to make a difference for children, maybe the whole family. Sometimes you see all the kids come through here. I’ve been here 16 years and, I haven’t yet, but I’m sure the time will come when I’ll see the child of one of my students come through here. Hopefully they’ll say, ‘Oh, I remember Mrs. Brocki!’ And when I’m out in the stores, everybody says, ‘Mrs. Brocki! Mrs. Brocki!’ My husband says, “Oh, you’re a celebrity now.” I just don’t get that celebrity pay. There’s no other job I would want to have. I’m here because of the students and I love our faculty. That’s why I’m here.

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I really love playing sports

I really love playing sports and I like playing with my family and my dad. I like video games and I like doing stuff with my family. I like to play basketball, football and soccer. It’s really fun playing basketball because there is a video game I like to play it’s called NBA 2K18, and it reflects how I play basketball on the blacktop.

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

I want to be a play pro basketball player, a football player and a soccer player.

All three? Are you going to play one each season?

Well, I’m going to retire from one of the sports and then I’m going to go on to another sport. After soccer, my sports career is done.

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Teaching…I love it

Teaching…I love it. I’ve been doing this for 26 years now. What I love most is when that light bulb finally cuts on for students. In September, you’re getting adjusted. It’s about December, really in January, the light bulb comes on – it’s starting to connect. Recently there was an aha moment for one of my students. We were working on subtraction and he uses base 10 blocks a lot. He said, ‘Mrs. Pitts, I don’t need to use the blocks anymore. I know how to do this.’ I told him to keep them near in case he needed to use them. And he showed me: ‘Look! I learned how to do it!’ And he was just beaming. That’s the part I love most, when that light bulb comes on and they have that confidence that I can do this by myself.

I also love seeing the growth. There are a lot of positives. And then with their home life, they bring a lot to you. You just have to be that person – because they might not have that person in their life, to give them that hug in the morning to start off their day.

If you weren’t teaching what would you be doing?

I started off in nursing and when they presented a cat to dissect, I quickly ran and changed my major. I wanted to do pediatric nursing or neonatal nursing. When they brought me that cat I said I can’t do this. Children have always been my passion – maybe it’s coming from a family of five. I’ve always been around kids. I have three of my own, three girls: one who will graduate this year, one in middle school and a second-grader. I work in children’s church in church. I’m just always around children.

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2024 Olympics

Outside of school, I do gymnastics. I’m a gold so I’m kind of high on the skills. It’s really fun. I’ve done it for five years and I started doing it because of my mom. She did it when she was young and I started talking to her about it and then it kind of got fun for me. I started in Tots and it’s been five years later and I have loads of different skills. I do bars, beam, floor and vault. I compete at Chesapeake Ocean Tumblers. My goal is to at least do gymnastics for LSU in college and then go to the Olympics in 2024.

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Work is different every day

This is my 11th year at Landstown and with the school division. I’ve enjoyed it. Working as a security assistant, it’s different every day. There are different challenges, but the positives of our students outweigh the negatives, by far. You get to interact with all the students in a different way and that’s what I appreciate most about the job. There’s a good diversity here.

When I’m not here, I’m either with family or I’m at the church working with different things we have going on in the community. I’m a youth pastor. I’ve been the youth pastor at my church for about 7 years now. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Theology with a focus on youth ministry and with minors in Music Technology and Drama. I get to work with youth when I’m not here as well. I think that’s what I like most about my job here – I get to continue working with teens in a different way but still on a personal level. With both of my jobs, you’re helping them meet their needs in a different way.

The biggest thing with my work is that I’m vested not just because of the students here at Landstown but because my wife is a teacher; my son is a second-grader; I have nieces and nephews; my sister-in-law is a teacher; and my brother works for the school system as well. So we’re all kind of vested in safety, security and education, and what happens is important for a lot of different reasons.

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I just enjoy life

Every time I get to talk to somebody new or if I find out something new about somebody, that’s something that’s interesting for me. If do something new, that’s interesting for me. If I do something for my family, that’s interesting. I just enjoy life. I enjoy meeting new people and doing new stuff. I mean, when I came to the school system 40 years ago they had manual typewriters.  

I started in library processing. I was actually a cooperative education student for them [when I was in high school]. And then a few months later, I managed to get a job with them. Now I work in School Plant.

What do you see as the biggest change in the 40 years that you’ve been with the school division?

Technology really has been the biggest change. And the students. Needless to say, as technology grows the students become even smarter. Trying to keep ahead of them is interesting.

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