When Panthers mascot Sir Purr visited Caleb’s Creek Elementary
students last week to offer test-taking tips, students had already been working
with counselor Barbara Nieters and teachers Freda Henry and Gina Hill.
“We worked with students three mornings this past week for an hour
on test-taking strategies,” Nieters said. “We discussed reading and math strategies
that most all classes have taught all year as a refresher. Perhaps more importantly,
we spent a good deal of time talking with the kids about test anxiety,
relaxation strategies, and giving ample importance to the test without
stressing out over it.
“We feel like kids need to know tips such as ways the classroom looks
different at testing time (walls bare, desks separated), that teachers are a
little stressed too, that there are no prizes for finishing first, that if
their tummies or heads hurt or feel funny it could be anxiety rather than an
“We spent time talking about bedtime, healthy breakfasts,
preparing things the night before so they don't feel hurried, getting activity
in the afternoons after testing so their bodies can release the energy of
sitting still for so long.
“We believe that the more children know and understand about their
physical bodies, their emotional reactions, and their academic strategies, the
better experience they will have during the stressful testing time as well as
Plaster, Principal Joe Childers, Sonya Rexrode, and Monta Ervin accept the
Scholastic Cup at the NCASA Annual Meeting
By Scott Plaster
know schools whose programs dominate in almost every event across the board,
going to state finals, taking home medals and trophies, winning state
championships, and having individual state and fielding teams in almost every
imaginable category. In sports, we call that school a “powerhouse.” But in
academics, there’s an actual award given by the NC Association of Scholastic Activities
(NCASA) for the school that has the best year in academic competitions at the
year 2015-16, Atkins HS in Winston-Salem was that dominating school, winning
the NCASA Scholastic Cup award by over 300 points and repeating as champions in
the 1A small-school division. The Cup was presented to Atkins at its annual
Letterman Banquet on Saturday, May 21, which recognizes competitors and award
winners of both academic and athletic teams each year.
excited that our school has won this award for the second consecutive year,”
said Atkins Principal Joe Childers. “I believe this validates all of the
outstanding after-school academic programs at Atkins. Students and teachers are
extremely motivated to be the best, and I believe it shows.”
striving for the Scholastic Cup compete in a range of seventeen competitions
that span nearly every aspect of the school curriculum, from math and science
all the way to the arts and dance. “Atkins ended up participating in 13 NCASA and
Cup Partner competitions, more than any other high school in North Carolina,”
according to NCASA Executive Director Leon Pfeiffer. ”They also earned Top Ten
points in twelve competitions, also more than any other high school.” Top
finishes for academic teams this year for Atkins were “HS Large Chapter of the
Year” honors at the state Technology Student Association (TSA) conference and
state championship runner-up finishes in NCASA Art Showcase and at the NC Chess
tournament. Atkins also had an individual category state champion with student
Ryan Holmes in the Quill, and the school earned a state champion certificate
for one of its Cyberpatriot teams.
some of the Atkins trophy winners at the state TSA conference
such a comprehensive scholastic program is both a blessing and a challenge,”
said Atkins HS Scholastic Director Scott Plaster. “Many of the teams at Atkins
grew larger this year, and we also added several teams. Sustaining growth and
maintaining success will take dedication and focus as we head into next year.”
Some academic teams at Atkins, such as Chess and TSA, are the largest in the
state or even region, even including “JV” teams the same way a sports team
NCASA Scholastic Cup competitions are not even the full scope of the scholastic
program at Atkins, which also fields academic teams in 13 other areas that are
not associated with NCASA, such as HOSA, JLAB, and arts and music programs.
Atkins teacher Kevin Hamilton coached some of Atkins’ most talented students
this year, fielding teams for the NCASA Twelve and Quiz Bowl, but also the local
Winston-Salem Forsyth County Academic Team. The county Academic Team
competition pits area schools against each other for a regular “season” and
then a conference tournament. Atkins emerged as county champions again this
year, despite losing ten seniors. “The team still started strong and only lost
one regular season match against Reagan near the midpoint of the season. The
team then ended up repeating as district champion when they beat Reagan in a
thrilling come-from-behind win in the championship match,” said Hamilton. The
NCASA Quiz Bowl team coached by Hamilton finished fifth in the state this year
against very stiff competition, which is the school’s highest-ever finish in
the state quiz bowl.
academic competitions at Atkins this year were even large-scale or schoolwide
efforts. Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest, begins at the class
level, with nearly the whole Atkins English department and over 100 students
participating. For this year’s Economic Challenge, Curriculum Coordinator and
Coach Monta Ervin created 25 teams of students, and two teams went all the way
to the state level.
the other state-qualifying competitions for Atkins this year were teacher Dr.
Ellen Palmer’s Environmental Debate team, which took first-place honors at the
state level, the Atkins team for the NCDOT Model Bridge Building competition
(also first place), and the health issues debate team at the state HOSA
conference, who won the state title in that event. This HOSA team, along with
Atkins students of some other competitions such as TSA, will actually get the
distinction of competing at the national level.
D’Agostino is just one student who competes in multiple academic competitions
at Atkins; he even plays Varsity Tennis, leads a school dance club, and is
actively involved in his church. “I really love that at Atkins, students have
so many opportunities to compete and excel. The sky is the limit when it comes
to being on competitive teams here at our school,” he said.
are so actively involved at Atkins that sometimes they end up double (or even
triple) booked as they qualify for regional and state competitions, coupled
with juggling their sports team schedules, family commitments, and academic
course work. “It’s definitely a cultural change in the building that makes this
type of student involvement possible,” said Principal Childers. At least
sixty-five percent of Atkins students are involved in a competitive team, with
most students being on multiple teams. “It wasn’t always like this here at
Atkins. We literally started with just three competitions and built everything
from there,” he said. Curriculum Coordinator Sonya Rexrode attributes the high
student involvement to the school’s unique academic environment. “At Atkins,
our students are encouraged to excel and are not afraid to try new things and
take risks,” said Rexrode. “They’ll go out for a team when they haven’t done it
before, and when they do that, they sometimes discover talents and skills they
never even knew they had.”
type of cultural change is what it takes to make Atkins the dominating force it
is in area of Scholastics. Winning the NCASA Scholastic Cup earns Atkins the
right to call itself “The Premier Small School in the State of NC.” Just as in
its heydey of the Atkins Camels of the 1940s and ‘50s, Atkins has kept its
winning tradition by bringing home a string of high individual and team
finishes and championships over the past few years in a wide variety of
events—everything from art to science. With these accomplishments under their
belts, some Atkins students are often offered scholarships from multiple
universities and can write their own ticket, just as top athletes around the
Atkins chess team coached by teacher Scott Plaster even competed
internationally against schools from several countries around the world as a
part of a global chess partnership in conjunction with the Sister Cities
organization of Winston-Salem. The team from Freeport, Bahamas even came to
Winston-Salem in person to play the Atkins players the weekend of the state
player Daniel Winkelman engaged in intellectual battle on the chess board
NCASA Scholastic Cup was first presented in 2011 to encourage schools and
students to increase their participation in NCASA and other independent
scholastic competitions. Since it was first presented, NCASA membership has
grown from 44 high schools to 143 high schools this year. Schools with a
comprehensive scholastic program have grown from since 2016. NCASA and the Cups
we present have provided additional scholastic opportunities for tens of
thousands of North Carolina students.
Atkins High School was
also recognized at the May 24 WSFCS school board meeting for the Scholastic Cup
win, along with some of its individual students and teams.
One group on the Atkins Twelve team strikes a pose at the state
On Friday May 20, North Forsyth High School had a
Community Health Awareness Fair.
North Forsyth is moving toward becoming a magnet school
with a focus on health sciences and health services by the 2017-18 school year.
The school will offer programs that
ready students for jobs when they graduate from high school and prepare them to
take the next step should they want to continue their education in such fields
at sports medicine, EMT (emergency medical technician), nursing, medicine and
medical business management.
As one way of introducing the idea to the wider community
and inviting community input, the school held a health fair from 1 to 3 p.m.
On May 19, at the school system’s Education
Building, the Nursing Fundamentals classes held a Pinning Ceremony in which students received their nursing pins after
meeting the necessary program requirements for completion of the nursing
“East Forsyth, Glenn High School, North Forsyth High School and
Walkertown High School came together to celebrate the accomplishments of these
students. Each school had two or three students recognized as an
Outstanding Clinical Student. Alayshia Gaines and Mia James won from North
Forsyth. North in partnership with the Red Cross also awarded a $2,500
scholarship to Jackeline Melendez. Students have or are eligible to take
the North Carolina Certified Nursing Assistant exam upon completion of the
“The students work extremely hard in this class. After
completing the curriculum, students spend anywhere from 40 to 60 hours
performing hands on patient care in a skilled nursing facility. I am
extremely proud of all of them. They are fantastic kids and now are also
Teacher Christina Davis RN, BSN sent the text of the speech by Elizabeth
York RN, BSN:
This ceremony was special because the
students are coming together from different schools and unifying the common
goal that they all share which is healthcare.
Each of these students has worked very
hard this year. This class and the previous classes they took to get here are
not easy. It takes focus, determination and the attitude of an upright student
to get where they are. They didn’t just take the nursing fundamentals class.
They applied and had to be chosen. That
makes each of them special and we saw that in them. They did some things this
year that they never thought they would do. They were pushed in the classroom
and out of the classroom to make them a better person and healthcare worker.
Each of them has grown as a student and
as a person this year, not only because of the skills they’ve learned and
practiced but the people that they have met and made relationships with.
The elderly that they came into contact
with touched their hearts and I don’t think any of them expected that. The
nursing home that they attended was filled with elderly people that need help
the most. The residents were reliant on them for what you do for yourself every
It’s when you realize that, that you
develop that sense of empathy for those around you. In today’s world it’s hard
to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but when you come face to face with
what may be your own future, it’s hard not to try and see from the residents
point of view. These students worked so hard to get to this point and for that
they should be congratulated!
Friday, May 13, was a very special day for the students in Lisa
Davis Bailey's classes at Northwest Middle School.
“It was the 17th annual Authors' Tea held in the Northwest Media
Center,” Bailey said. “English/Language Arts students from the sixth, seventh,
and eighth grades shared their student writings with a host of family,
friends, former students, teachers, and staff members.
“This year, each student shared their own personal ‘I Am’ poems, a
Robert Louis Stevenson Bookmark project highlighting their favorite Stevenson
story, as well as a book project.
“Sixth-graders researched and wrote biographies on important
people in history, such as Marco Polo and Clara Barton. Seventh-graders
researched and wrote stories based on various topics aligned with the seventh-grade
Social Studies curriculum, such as ‘The Great Wall of China.’ Eighth-graders
researched and wrote stories which were aligned with the eighth-grade Social
Studies curriculum, such as ‘Gettysburg,’ ‘D-Day,’ and ‘Pearl Harbor.’
“Mrs. Bailey and her students look forward to this event every
year even though it's a lot of hard work! A highlight of the event for Mrs.
Bailey is always a visit from former students who return each year to
attend the Authors' Tea.”
On Friday May 13, students at Lowrance Middle
School set up a lemonade stand to raise money for the fight against childhood
Lowrance shares a building with Atkins
Academic & Technology High School and they set up the Squeeze
of Love - Alex’s Lemonade Stand in the hallway of the 500 Building where
students and staff from both schools could stop by for a glass.
“We made $241.70 on Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” said teacher Carrie
Adams. “This money will be going to the Alex Lemonade Foundation to help with
Childhood Cancer Research.”
The lemonade stand also served as a learning
“The children in our SP/ Exceptional Children's
classrooms are learning about Economics in Social Studies this month,” Adams
In addition to joining the battle against
childhood cancer, the lemonade stand enabled students learn about helping
others “while working on their social skills, math skills, language skills,
turn-taking and functional communication skills.”
Gregory Emad Gordon with his mother La' Trenda Boyd-Gordon
La’ Trenda Boyd-Gordon, who is the Exceptional Children case manager
for John F. Kennedy and Carter high schools, is proud of her son, Gregory Emad
Gordon, who is an eighth-grader at Southeast Middle School.
“My son – my favorite and only son – is an eighth-grader in the
district and has performed, behaved and accomplished a lot this year,” Boyd-Gordon
said. “The major accomplishment is the fact that he has never missed a day from
school since his initial enrollment in 2007 in kindergarten at Moore. Yes,
perfect attendance nine years (come June 10th).”
He has done well in other ways, too, she said. He has been an AG (academically
gifted) student since third grade, has made A/B Honor Roll at Southeast first, second,
third and (hopefully fourth quarter, too). He has been a member of Crosby
Scholars and National Junior Honor Society since sixth grade. This coming school
year, he will go to Atkins Academic & Technology High School, already
having earned high school credits.
In the May 18 issue of Journal West, Winston-Salem Journal reporter Lisa O’Donnell writes about West Forsyth High School senior Arinton
Davis. Here is an excerpt:
The violin felt natural in Arinton Davis’
Holding one for the first time as a
sixth-grader at Jefferson Middle School, he knew instinctively how to grasp the
bow and cradle the neck.
“Oh, this is awesome,” Arinton thought to
Eager to set forth on the journey of
making beautiful music, he took the instrument home that night and put bow to
Not one sound played.
“It was a very rough first day,” Arinton
said with a laugh.
He has since learned that the bow needs a
few good swipes of rosin to make the strings sing.
He’s absorbed other musical lessons as
well, so much so that he is among the top student violinists in the state,
having twice been named to the N.C. Music Educators Association All-State
That’s just one highlight on a college
application heaving with the kinds of honors and achievements that turned the
heads of some of the country’s top universities.
Duke University took notice and recently
awarded the West Forsyth High School senior its prestigious A.B. Duke
Scholarship, which will provide him with free tuition and room and board for
four years. While there, he plans to combine his interest in math,
computational science and genetics, and hopes to play with a student orchestra.
Earlier this month, third-graders at Speas Global
Elementary School took walking field trips to Brighton Gardens Assisted Living
“The four classes each went one day and the
residents were excited each day to greet them,” said assistant principal Paul
E. Pressly. “The kids were begging to go back and some even asked if they could
live there. Mrs. Simmons’ class was lucky enough to see the music therapy on
“Aminata Diagne said, ‘I really enjoyed the music
“The trip was part of the third-grade curriculum
dealing with communities changing from ‘then to now.’ Students interviewed
residents about most important inventions during their lifetime and what their
schooling was like as a child. Students
enjoyed completing a BINGO game activity board which had their questions and
room for the resident’s answers.”