Friday, February 27, 2015

Exceptional People Working for Exceptional Children

Will Wham
Starting with this issue, The Exceptional Times, a monthly put out by the school system’s Exceptional Children (EC) Department, is adding a new section called TeachED—growing one idea and one story at a time.

Established by EC program manager Doria Sullivan and EC administrative assistant Heather Surratt, the feature will spotlight some of the school system’s Exceptional Children (EC) teachers and teacher assistants.

As it says in a release announcing the feature, “We have some amazing individuals working in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School system. Let’s recognize them and inspire everyone at the same time. Our goal is to select an individual from the elementary, middle and high school level each month.”

Here is the piece for this month:

William Wham… He’s Our Man!

Will Wham is a second-year teacher who is part-time EC teacher (serving the EC population in small groups during the morning) and part-time regular education teacher (fifth- grade inclusion – ELA and math classes) at Vienna Elementary. He tutors after school, works tirelessly in the building over the weekends and plans great lessons. In addition Mr. Wham is often at the community center watching his students play in their basketball games, etc. Will is the school mascot - the tiger -when needed.  He dresses up in the Tiger costume and comes to the Bully walk, to Harris Teeter to encourage others to link their VIC cards to Vienna, to Vienna’s 5K and anywhere else the tiger may need to be seen...

The math teacher he works with noted: “Will puts more time into his students than any teacher I have ever known. He visits sick parents, he tutors every free possible second he has. He is an amazing team teacher/player. Last year he wrote each of the rising 6th graders that he taught a personal letter. The students felt so important. There is nothing he wouldn't do to help a student succeed.”

Other colleagues commented: “Will is there to help any student in need. He is very approachable which makes the students feel comfortable when they need an extra hand with school work. Will does this with kindness and love. He also brings humor to the classroom which makes working with him pleasant and the kids love him for it.” and “I have never heard Will say "no" when asked to do something, whether it is another teacher or student. He always goes the extra mile.”

Will grew up in Pfafftown and attended Vienna from Kindergarten through second grade. He is passionate about learning and helping children develop life-long skills. One of Will’s rules on his web page says it all: “Do your best.” He certainly does. Will Wham is a gem and is definitely an EC teacher who goes above and beyond.

Robin Douglas… You’ve Been TeachED!

Robin Douglas has been with Southeast Middle School for several years and was a first-time Case Manager when she was hired.  Robin is such a cheerleader for students.  She always puts the students first in every situation.  Her paperwork is impeccable!

Robin has truly stepped up her leadership this school year.  She has started a school-based Special Olympics team, called SOAR – Southeast Olympians Are Remarkable! This team has competed in the Special Olympics bowling tournament and plans to compete in the upcoming basketball and track events.  These students are inspiring to watch – they are passionate about competing and are very good sports – this is the perfect representation of Southeast Middle School.

In addition, Robin has started leading staff workshops at Southeast Middle School. She partnered with one of the guidance counselors and facilitated an Early Release day workshop on working with Autistic students. There was such overwhelmingly positive feedback from this workshop that Robin will do additional workshops during the summer learning conference for the district.
Southeast Middle School is so proud to have Robin Douglas as their EC Case Manager.  Her positive attitude and work ethic are contagious. Robin is a problem solver and works hard to collaborate, sharing creative possible ideas and solutions. Robin Douglas is an EC Case Manager who goes above and beyond.

Leshan Cunningham

Leshan Cunningham – A Shining Star at Carter

Leshan Cunningham is a first-year teacher who walked into her very own classroom at the end of first semester. She was expected to build a rapport with the two teacher assistants, 10 students and the rest of her colleagues very quickly. Not only did this young lady come in and do just that, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty with acclimating her students to hands-on activities that are aligned with Styer-Fitzgerald Functional Academics. Ms. Cunningham walked right in and hit the ground running with building sound relationships with parents, teachers, teacher assistants in her classroom and students. She has a wealth of knowledge that she shares each day with her colleagues.

Leshan brings a positive attitude and energy to Carter High School which is exemplary to her co-workers and students. She approaches each day as a new opportunity to help her students learn and grow as they prepared for adult life. Ms. Cunningham is truly a wonderful asset to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system and goes above and beyond!

To read the March issue, go to Exceptional Times

Monday, February 23, 2015

Public Invited to Arts and Literacy Festival at Southeast Middle on March 5

Joyce Hostetter
On March 5, Southeast Middle School will hold an evening arts and literacy festival.

A highlight of the evening will be a visit by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, the author of Blue, a historical novel about a family stricken by polio during World War II while the father is off serving in the war. The story is set in Hickory, where Hostetter lives.  

The festival is open to the public from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with the author visit scheduled for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Along with a presentation about polio during that time in North Carolina, Hostetter will discuss the process of getting the idea, researching and writing the book. 

Before and afterward, Hostetter will be available to sign books. 

Other activities that night include a book fair, arts and crafts show, face painting, music performances, and snack sales.  Admission is free, but you can bring money for snacks or arts purchases.  “We will also have tables with local artisans displaying their art or in some cases selling their art,” said Lisa Turner, the media coordinator at Southeast. 

Turner invited anyone who would like to display or sell their art to call the school at 703-4219 to make arrangements.

Before the festival, Hostetter will meet after school with students who have read the book to talk about the writing process. Throughout the week, the school will have a book fair.    

“Library staff and parent volunteers are holding the book fair with the proceeds used to support reading and our ‘One School—One Book’ to promote literacy and parent/community involvement in literacy,” Turner said.

Atkins Chess Team Takes Third in State

Scott Plaster
The Atkins HS Chess Team of Winston-Salem, coached by teacher Scott Plaster, recently clinched the third place trophy in the K-12 state championship tournament held Feb.13-15 in Charlotte.

In this article, Plaster tells the story of his duel with rival coach - yet friend - Johnny Williams of Northern Vance High School of Henderson:

The opening: It all begins with the kids

Some coaches tout their ratings and play “simul” games to challenge a roomful of hapless students. Atkins HS Chess Coach Scott Plaster says, “The goal for a chess coach should be not to show everyone how great of a player he is, but to do everything he can to make his players great.” In between rounds at the K-12 NC State Scholastic Chess Championship in Charlotte the weekend of February 13-15, 2015, Plaster played a friendly game with Johnny Williams, a rival coach from Northern Vance HS. Plaster and Williams soon had a large mass crowded around their board and the game quickly turned into a team vs. team game, with their players interacting with their coaches, and the two coaches engaged in competitive banter.  

“All right, now. I see what you’re tryin’ to do,” chimed Plaster. “Trying the old Orangutan or the Swiss ice castle or something like that!”

“Just make your move. Make your move, and you’ll see what I’m gonna do!” Williams quips in his best Samuel L. Jackson voice.

“I’m going to. I’m going to. I see how you’re eyeing F7 with your knight to go for the fork. Now you know I’m not going to fall for that old trick,” Plaster jovially responds.

The students can’t talk inside the game room, so the coaches talk it up outside the arena in a gentlemanly game with jokes that border on the “trash talk” of a basketball pick-up game at the park. Plaster’s team at Atkins HS in Winston-Salem is the largest high school chess team in the state, with more than 50 total players, and 20-plus tournament players. “I can’t imagine a more ideal place to be a chess coach than Atkins HS,” said Plaster, who teaches English and Journalism at Atkins, a technology magnet school that recruits math and science-minded students from around Forsyth County for its unique high school programs in Biotechnology, Game Design, and Engineering.

Local tournament director Tom Hales of the Asheboro Chess Club was pleased with Atkins’ success. “Congratulations to Team Atkins!” he said. “This is a major achievement since you have to contend with teams from much larger cities with more resources. Your hard work and dedication is paying off.”

Johnny Williams
Develop Your Pieces: Recruit and Nourish
Unlike Plaster, teacher Johnny Williams has the odds stacked against him in building a chess program at Northern Vance HS at the other end of the state. Plaster praised his dedication in an article last year in the Camel City Dispatch. In a day of decreased funding, lack of community support, and political climate, Williams and his students sell candy bars and drinks in the mornings and afternoons at school to raise the necessary funds to pay entry fees and fund transportation costs to attend tournaments. Williams’ magic allure with his kids all began when he brought out a chess board when covering another teacher’s class. Huddled around the board, the students learned more than simple math, but began to gather and assemble the building blocks of logic, creativity, and critical thinking skills.    

Plaster has different challenges at Atkins HS; many of his players have multiple commitments with other activities and academic teams so luring them to twice-weekly chess team practice isn’t as easy as it sounds. Since Atkins is a technology school, Plaster considers chess applications and web-based tools one of his secret weapons. “It’s not always easy having so many players. It sounds like a great problem to have, but then you consider that it takes two classrooms to even have practice. Many of my casual players just want to play, but at the same time I’m trying to challenge my better players to improve their game,” Plaster said.

For the complete article go to Atkins Academic & Technology High School

Monday, February 16, 2015

Students in Second, Third and Fourth Grades Who Love to Sing Are Invited to Participate in Spring Forward Chorus

The Winston-Salem Youth Chorus invites any student in grades two, three or four who loves to sing to participate in its Spring Forward Chorus.

This five-week singing group is an introductory choral program that includes learning solfege (do, re, me, etc.), singing in rounds, group singing, choral training and culminates with performing with the Winston-Salem Youth Chorus on stage at the Spring Choral Concert held at Ardmore Baptist Church on April 25.

No audition is required, just a love of singing. Beginning March 17, rehearsals will be held on Tuesdays from 4 to 4:45 p.m. at Burkehead United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem. For more information and to register your child, please visit or call 703-0001. The deadline for registration is Friday, March 13.

The Winston-Salem Youth Chorus, a nonprofit arts organization founded in 1993 by Barbara C. Beattie, has impacted the lives of hundreds of children and youth through music education and performance experiences in its mission to engage and develop youth from diverse backgrounds and enrich their lives by inspiring excellence in choral music. The WSYC now has around 100 members in four ensembles, ranging from grades three through 12 and representing more than 40 schools in Forsyth and surrounding counties.

Members of the WSYC learn vocal technique, theory, singing in other languages, discipline, confidence and teamwork while performing beautiful choral arrangements. The chorus also often collaborates with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, The Winston-Salem Symphony, the Piedmont Wind Ensemble, Piedmont Chamber singers and other groups in the region.