Warren teachers look ahead to new school year

Superintendent announces she will retire next summer

By Josette Keelor

FRONT ROYAL — At Warren County Public Schools’ Wednesday morning convocation, keynote speaker Scott Habeeb asked educators to be compasses for students this school year.

Listen to him, Superintendent Pamela McInnis later asked the crowd gathered at Skyline High School in Front Royal, “and please do those things that will make a difference in children’s lives.”

She awarded teachers and support staff for their exceptional service to the school system. Then she announced plans to retire after the 2014-15 school year, which begins Monday.

“Or according to the thesaurus, I’ve decided to give up work, to step down, to be pensioned off, to be superannuated … or to be put out to pasture,” she said.

“I consider it a privilege to have served you as your superintendent for 14 years,” she said. “My heart is here. … We’ve made great strides in improving the teaching and learning process for the children in this community, and we continue to strive to make things better every day, thanks to all of you.”

McInnis awarded Support Person of the Year awards to Diane Kelley, instructional assistant in the library at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, and Chuck Brendlin, on the maintenance staff at Warren County High School.

Teacher of the Year awards went to Joanne Baker, first grade teacher at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, and Devin Smith, culinary arts teacher at Blue Ridge Technical Center.

Thanking school employees for all they do for children, School Board Chair Catherine R. Bower said schools are much like families.

“Each school is a unique group of people brought together in love — love for teaching, love for learning, love for our students and love for each other,” she said.

Habeeb, principal of Salem High School in Salem and founder of Solutions Etc. Education and Technology Consultants, reiterated Bower’s suggestion that love is what matters when encouraging a learning environment.

“Do you love your students? Do your students know you love them? … Love is only as valuable as it is felt,” he said.

“A teacher has two jobs,” he quoted from the 1995 film “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”“Fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more importantly give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn’t go to waste.”

Many children derive necessary truths from parents, grandparents, pastors or Scout leaders, but other children don’t. “They don’t have a compass pointing them to truth,” he said. “They might have a compass spinning in circles or a compass that’s stuck.”

So he challenged teachers to be that compass for students on a path to being lost.

“Look for the kids who are the hardest to get to know. … Look for the kids who scare you. Look for the kids who don’t like you,” he said.

Start with “hi.”

Showing off a picture of his family, Habeeb introduced his daughter Kaitlin, a second year student at Mary Washington University.

“Don’t put her on your list,” he said. “You’ll get to know her anyway.”

Instead, he told instructors to put his middle daughter Kelsey on their list. She’s a rising 11th grader, he said. “She has Asperger’s [syndrome] and she has no friends.”

“You have Kelseys in your school,” he said. “Don’t miss an opportunity to inspire a kid.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com