Friday, January 29, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Young Adult Writer Geoff Rodkey Speaking at Community Event and Visiting Schools

Booksmarks is bringing award-winning writer Geoff Rodkey to Winston-Salem on Feb. 1 and 2.

In addition to an event that is open to everyone in the community on the night of Feb. 1, he will speak at four Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools – Jefferson Elementary (from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Feb. 1), Griffith Elementary (from 1 to 2 p.m. Feb. 1), Middle Fork Elementary (from 7:45 to 9:25 a.m. Feb. 2) and Clemmons Middle School (from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2).

Thanks to the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the Power2Give online giving program and Wells Fargo, which matched the money raised elsewhere, Bookmarks will give 50 of Rodkey's books to each school – 25 copies each The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) and The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York.

“We find that authors who visit schools inspire students in wonderful ways and that the school library copies fly off the shelves, said Ginger Hendricks, the Bookmarks executive director. “We are excited to have him visit Winston-Salem!”

This program for the community on Feb. 1 is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Loma Hopkins Theatre at Summit School at 2100 Reynolda Road. It is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase from Bookmarks and a book signing will follow the presentation.

The Tapper Twins’ story unfolds as an oral history that uses drawings, text messages, screenshots, interviews, digital gaming art, and smartphone photos to relay the interaction between the siblings, their friends, and their parents. The Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) and The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York are the first two in the series. The Tapper Twins Run for President will be published in September.

Rodkey is also the author of the coming-of-age, adventure trilogy series called The Chronicles of Egg and wrote the screenplays to such movies as Daddy Day Care, RV, The Shaggy Dog, and to the Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, It’s Christmas.

Bookmarks is a literary arts nonprofit organization that engages, inspires, and connects readers with authors. This is achieved through the largest annual free book festival in North and South Carolina; Triad-based author talks; and the Authors in Schools program, which reaches 5,500 students annually. For more information, go to Bookmarks

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Exceptional Children Division Supports Special-Needs Families During the Holiday Season

By Cynthia J. Braun
Exceptional Children Process Specialist

Many people in Forsyth County struggle to make ends meet and in particular have a difficult time to provide a special Christmas for their families. When the family is comprised of children with special needs—the challenges can be even greater.

Every year, the EC Division staff, selects a needy family within our district who has at least one child with a disability to support during the holiday season. This year two families were chosen, each with a single mother and multiple children in the home. The EC Division staff purchases gifts for the children and brings in non-perishable food and household items for the family.

Additionally, the EC Division compiles favorite recipes into a cookbook that is sold to WS/FCS staff at large. The proceeds from this cookbook in 2015 enabled the division to provide $500 worth of grocery and gas cards to the families. 

The families are extremely grateful for the generous support given to them and in turn, the EC Division staff has the opportunity to experience the true meaning of Christmas – giving from the heart.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Atkins Joins Sister Cities Global Chess Partnership

By J. Scott Plaster
English teacher
Atkins Academic & Technology High School

Ever since chess was invented around 1,500 years ago, players from around the world have sat across the board from each other to compete on an equal playing field, regardless of age, gender, and language. Chess truly is a timeless game that bridges humanity in a figurative power struggle of the intellect. Fast forward now to the year 2016, and students in three cities around the world are now using modern internet technology on the website to play their global counterparts.

Atkins High School Chess Team at State Scholastic Tournament in 2015

In conjunction with the Winston-Salem Sister Cities organization, players from the schools are using the site to view and submit their moves in a modern version of “correspondence” chess. Atkins High School in Winston has one of largest high school chess teams in the Southeastern United States and plays in local, regional, and the state scholastic tournament.

“I was surprised and delighted when I was contacted by Shaun Gittard of the Sister Cities group; this plan was just the type of opportunity I’d been looking for,” said Atkins HS teacher Scott Plaster, the coach of Atkins Chess Team. 

The partnership was originally going to be between the Atkins HS group and a school in Moldova. It wasn’t long before Sharon Glover, contact for Bahamas Sister Cities, became involved to make the partnership a truly global venture between three cities. Glover heads an organization that is a leader in training and facilitation and advocates for environmental, cultural, and educational issues in schools and communities. 

“Chess is a popular game throughout the world and is able to connect people, even across language barriers, which makes it a great tool to use to bring people together,” said Glover.   

The online chess play happens over the course of days (even months), with each player having three days to make a move. 

“With the difference in time zones, this type of set-up was absolutely essential; it’s just like the days before the internet when players would write their move on a postcard and mail it across the country or overseas to their opponent,” said Plaster. 

Each player in the groups will maintain games with each of the other groups and the games will continue indefinitely. Some will be won, and some will be lost, but the name of the game is “global partnership.” Students will get to know each other through the online communication features so that they can learn about each other’s countries in the process. Plans are also coming to add other Sister Cities to the partnership, including Shanghai, China.  

The Freeport, Grand Bahama chess group has already grown in number to exceed even the Atkins HS group. Bright and curious, the students are eagerly learning the game and are rapidly improving in skill. It's been said that Grand Bahama Island has it all: one of the world's largest underwater cave systems, three national parks, miles of beautiful beaches and crisp blue waters. Now add chess to the list; Bishop Michael Eldon School (BMES) became the only school on the island with a chess team. Coached by math teacher Shawn Sorsby, the BMES Warriors are now going out to battle in a game of the minds, on the chess board. Since most students at BMES had never played chess before, one might think it would have been difficult to build interest. To much surprise, however, in only a matter of months the chess team, known as the PAWNSTORMERS, has grown to become the largest team at the school with over 40 members! While many students had the notion that chess was only for "nerds" and might not be for them, now even the "cool kids" are playing chess, which is cool indeed.

The students themselves see many benefits to chess beyond just the game itself. Eighth grader Rolith Nair said, “Chess can teach you many good lessons like patience and focus, and also can help your mind mentally. It’s better than playing video games!” 

Ninth grader Elijah St. Armand even pointed out a life lesson he's learning from the game of chess: “One advantage to playing chess is weighing options because on the chess board if you make the wrong move you can easily lose, and the same goes for life.”    

Shawn Sorsby’s chess group in Freeport, Bahamas

Meanwhile in Ungheni, Moldova, a very established chess program is also a part of this global partnership. The Ungheni chess club was set up within the Municipality Sports School for youth and children, where there are two chess coaches (Vladimir Pricladov and Iulian Bacalu). Ungheni chess club is attended by 150 children and young people aged between 6-35 years old. Up to 30 children and youth participate in the daily chess workout. The Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, bordered to the west by Romania and to the north, east and south by Ukraine. It is one of the most densely populated European countries, with a population of 4.1 million. The Republic of Moldova declared its independence in 1991.

Practice in Chess hall in Ungheni, Moldova

Winston-Salem Sister-Cities is an agency of the City of Winston-Salem and an all-volunteer organization whose main goal is to promote peace through diplomatic relations between citizens and create economical, cultural, and educational connections that even break through challenges such as language barriers. They have been working on connecting these vastly different and far away places. Now we are doing it through the game of chess to better relations and understanding between students of similar age. is an internet resource that is already being used by Atkins Chess Coach Plaster and will quickly be instated as a way for these students to play. The site has a virtual chess board that has a drag and drop function for moving pieces along with a user friendly app that is regularly used by the Atkins Chess Team. The product is free but with many payed advantages available.

You can learn more about the individual chess groups and follow their progress at  Sister Cities Global Chess Partnership

Friday, January 8, 2016

Brunson Elementary Students Head to the Coast for an Educational Field Trip

In December, students from Brunson Elementary School headed to the coast for a field trip. Here is what Lara Overby, who teaches fifth-graders in the HAG (highly academically gifted) program, had to say about the trip:

“This was the second year that we have taken students to the Trinity Center Sound to Sea Program in Salter Path, N.C. The Center is located on Bogue Banks, one of the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. 

“The students were in learning groups with fabulous environmental educators while we were at the Center. The expertise level and knowledge base of the Center counselors is really remarkable.

“The students have a firsthand look at beach, salt marsh, sound, and maritime forest ecology. We also did evening programs. One was focused on sea turtles; the other was a night hike. In addition, students worked on team building and did a squid dissection.” 

Parkland Students Present Play to Students at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy

In the Thursday, Jan. 7 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, reporter Arika Herron write about a play that Parkland High School students presented to students at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy. Photographer David Rolfe took the pictures.

Here is an excerpt:

Gay. Ghetto. Cocky. Promiscuous. Nerd. Snob. Immigrant. Outcast.

She’s a fast girl, hanging around the wrong people.

That boy’s a no-­good thug.

These are just a few of the things that Stacie Pelsinger’s theatre arts students at Parkland High School have heard about themselves.

“It’s about how people first perceive you,” said Pelsinger, who does the project each year. “And people get bullied because of (those perceptions).”

In their original work, “I Can Be Anything,” the Parkland students are setting the record straight.

“I’m a black, African American male with a 3.5 GPA,” said senior Cameron Wagner, who plans to play football in college next year. But, Wagner said, that’s not most people’s first impression of him.

“They say, ‘He’s probably slinging drugs. He’s going to end up in jail,’” Cameron said.

People assume that Elijah Booth, a senior, only likes to play ball. Really, he likes to sing. He might join the student choir at North Carolina Central next year, where he’ll be majoring in education.
For Shaquayvia Christian, it was: “She’ll be pregnant by senior year.”

“Well I’m a senior,” she said from the stage at Philo-­Hill Magnet Middle School, where the Parkland students took their production Wednesday. “Do I look pregnant?”

Shaquayvia does not, and is not.

But, Pelsinger said, the things that people think about young people can have detrimental effects. So she invited her three theatre arts classes to push back against those perceptions.

After the students wrote down what people thought of them, Pelsinger asked them to write down how they see themselves and what they want. She took the written assignments and created a script with the 45 strongest statements.

“It ends up being a very powerful play,” she said.

For the full story, go to Winston-Salem Journal

Best Buddies at Sedge Garden Elementary School

At Sedge Garden Elementary School, fifth-graders in regular classrooms have become Best Buddies with students in the self-contained Exceptional Children classrooms.

For the story, go to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Here are some more pictures:

Lauren Higgins

Amy Pitts

Gregg Davis

Jill Bussell, Lauren Timmons, Teresa Hazlett

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reagan Marching Band Goes to London

The marching band at Reagan High School participated in the New Year's Day parade in London.

For the story, go to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Here are some more pictures:

Andrew Craft and Kenneth Tysor

Zack Windham

Hannah Larson

Julie Cadigan

Jacob Dobson

Matthew Mottesheard

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hanes Students Collect Food and Raise Money to Help Others

Here is what Principal Lisa Duggins had to say about the holiday food drive at Hanes Magnet School:

“The Hanes Magnet School dragon roared against hunger this holiday season. 

“The students set a new record for their annual food drive which supports the Winston Salem rescue mission’s food bank. They filled 40 barrels with canned goods and raised over $3,200 dollars.

“Each day the Hanes dragon, who is an anonymous teacher, would make announcements for the latest weekly challenges, which included SMOD-free days, a staff/student basketball game, going to a Wake Forest University basketball game and some wild teacher challenges.

“Two teachers had a dance-off in front of the entire school to a few popular hip hop songs, while other teachers had to dress in wigs and have their fingernails painted.  All in all, the food drive was a ‘roaring’ success.”       


Kiwanis Club Throws Holiday Party for Students with Special Needs

Each year, The Winston-Salem Kiwanis Club puts on a party for students with special needs. Here is what Martin Levy had to say about the party this year:

“Kiwanis is dedicated to serving children in many capacities. To that end, The Winston-Salem Kiwanis Club has a project that has been near and dear to our hearts for more than 30 years. That project is to sponsor and fund a Christmas Party for 200 to 300 Children with Special Needs from several of the local elementary schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. 

“Over the years, we have given many gifts to the children. Each teacher is asked to select the gifts for us, for the children to receive. Through the hard work of our club and the some of the local high school Key Clubs that we sponsor, we also are able to give them a bag of goodies with such things as fruit, juice boxes, snacks and other treats for them to enjoy. We are also able to teach those Key Club members that help us bag the goodies, the importance of community work and the joy that comes from helping others.

“Of course, what would the experience be without a visit from Santa? While each child awaits his or her turn to receive their gifts and goodies there are activities for them to participate in. We have a local magician (a former Key Club member) entertaining them as well as enjoying some arts and crafts, where they can make anything from Christmas cards to tree ornaments.

“As a member of The Winston Salem Kiwanis Club I cannot explain the experience that we as members have, being able to see the children each year enjoying this event.

“We appreciate the support we get from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system and all of those involved that make this possible for us to do.”

Meet Todd Corley and Lisa Wood Who Work with Exceptional Children

Each month, the Exceptional Children Division recognizes some of the people serving students. For January, Todd Corley and Lisa Wood are being recognized.

Lisa Wood is an EC Teacher at Kernersville Middle School.
“When a jump bar is set high, athletes must adjust their performance levels in order to stay in the game. This may mean extra practice, learning a new technique or enhancing an already-used skill. Lisa Wood, an EC Teacher at Kernersville Middle School, sets the bar high for analyzing and gathering data on her students. She understands the importance and value of these tools. She is a great example for regular education and EC teachers regarding this practice. 

“Not only does Lisa set the bar high for her students, she sets it high for herself.  She is eager to learn as much as she can and attend as many trainings as possible in order to enhance her teaching on a continual basis. She understands how critical it is for her to learn and evolve right along with her students.  Lisa has high expectations for her students and encourages them to always do their very best.

Lisa is a wonderful model and asset to Kernersville Middle. She knows that always striving to reach the high bar will only result in positive outcomes for herself, her students and her school. She is definitely a blue-ribbon teacher!”


“If you work in EC, you know Todd Corley as the “wheelchair guy” or the Assistive Technology “computer guy.” He is the gregarious PT/OT/AT technician who keeps things working so that our students participate and progress in school. 
“Todd is always on the go, picking up and delivering equipment and assistive technology devices for students. He has considerable expertise in repairing and maintaining equipment as well. His organizational skills enable the Assistive Technology group to monitor the inventory and use of a significant amount of apparatus and devices.
“You probably don’t know that this humble man lives a life of service outside of work. In September, Todd was honored at the Citywide Neighborhood Conference. He has also worked with his lodge, Salem Lodge #139, and Faith Unity Missionary Church to provide Thanksgiving dinner to families in need.
“Todd’s sunny disposition and helpful attitude make him a welcome sight wherever he goes in the district.”