School staff looking forward to bright year

Kara Bates, a nature resources and ecology teacher at the Massanutten Governors School at Triplett Tech, speaks during the Shenandoah County teacher and staff convocation Friday afternoon at Central High School. Bates was the school's teacher of the year for 2014-2015. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – A sea of teachers and faculty sporting highlighter yellow-green shirts filled the Central High School gym for Shenandoah County Public Schools’ all-employee convocation Friday afternoon to look toward a bright new 2015-2016 school year.

Several faculty members received awards for the 2014-2015 school year and administrative staff recognized achievements within the district while charging those present to continue pursuing many more.

Assistant Superintendent Evelyn Linaburg gave an introduction to the ceremony and named 19 teacher experts who presented at the Instructional Challenge and Innovation Project symposium this past summer and received grants. School Board Chairman Richard L. Koontz Jr. gave those assembled his thanks and best wishes.

The 2014-2015 award for Employee of the Year went to Peter Muhlenburg school nurse Becky Cooper, and the award for Team of the Year went to the multi-disability team at Stonewall Jackson.

Before awarding the Teacher of the Year grant, Shenandoah Education Foundation Executive Director Cyndy Walsh announced at the convocation that the foundation would hone in on the music program this year, first focusing its efforts on repair and upkeep on school instruments.

Jeremy Raley, school superintendent for Shenandoah County Public Schools, addresses teachers and staff during the school convocation Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Kara Bates, who teaches natural resources and ecology to 11th and 12th grade students at Massanutten Regional Governor’s School at Triplett Tech, gave a speech to her coworkers after accepting the foundation’s $2,500 grant. In it, she described bits of advice that she would leave her students as chapters in a book.

“It’s also important for our students to realize that we share our gifts and talents with them and they share their gifts and talents with us,” she said.

To prepare for metaphorical rainy days as an educator, she encouraged her fellow teachers to keep an “umbrella,” which for her is a “warm and fuzzy folder” filled with student accomplishments and encouragement that she keeps by her desk.

After a photo montage of staff wearing sunglasses to the song “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” by Timbuk3, Superintendent Jeremy Raley spoke to the school employees about bright accomplishments and goals while sporting some shades of his own.

He commended members of “team Shenandoah” for going above and beyond their contracts over the summer and throughout the year by pouring their talents into extra programs.

“When it comes to the business of education and what we are tasked to do, business is good,” he said.

Faculty applauded student achievement within organizations like FCCLA, Skills USA and FFA and school successes in student vocational training and college preparedness.

“And as we focus on the upcoming year, the culture of deeper learning is where we’re going to be,” Raley said.

Despite some of the challenges the teachers and staff in Shenandoah may face, Raley called for continuing improvement and adherence to that culture of deeper learning as a collective team of educators in the coming year.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com