LAURINBURG — Teachers, principals and teacher assistants crowded Scotland High School auditorium on Friday morning for the adult version of a pep rally.
Superintendent Ron Hargrave packed 10 months’ worth of inspiration into 90 minutes, encouraging educators, as he did last year, to “grow greatness” in their pupils.
“Let’s see who’s here this morning … let’s have a cheer-off,” Hargrave said, before staff from each of the district’s schools took turns filling the auditorium with enthusiastic shouts.
For those students who may find little encouragement outside of school, Hargrave charged each teacher with being the adult who shows them how to dream big dreams and gives them the tools to bring those dreams to life.
“What must life be like if you can’t dream? What must life be like for our children who don’t have dreams? In their young life, has life pushed them down so much that they don’t feel like they can dream?” he mused.
“Let’s inspire our children to dream, let’s give them permission to dream, because if they dream about it, then they’ll start to believe it. If they start to believe it, they’ll start to work for it, and if they’re willing to work, there’s almost nothing that they can’t accomplish.”
Annie Cureton, a veteran educator who spent 32 years of a 39-year career teaching in Scotland County, was raised in Laurinburg by her grandparents, who worked as a custodian and a cafeteria worker in the schools.
She brought a dose of inspiration with stories of the teachers who made a point of going beyond their role as classroom instructors to help and inspire her: one fixed her hair weekly for years, another took her to New York City for a summer, and another paid her college application fees.
“The children already come to us with seeds of greatness inside them when they set foot inside that schoolhouse door,” Cureton said. “Parents have sent you the very best children that they have, so you ought to help them enhance that vessel and make this world a better place.”
Cureton also advised teachers to make the most of their time with their students this year, knowing from experience the impact that can come with working in a school.
“Energy wasted in resisting change can be better channeled into locating resources, providing opportunities for learning, and creating teachable moments,” she said, referring to the closure over the summer of Pate-Gardner and Covington Street elementary schools. “While you’re fussin’ and cussin’ about ‘we had to change these schools,’ you could be using that energy to go find something to help a child learn.”
On Friday, the school system’s human resources superintendent Cory Satterfield also announced the district-wide teacher, principal, teacher assistant and assistant principal of the year.
Winona Mishue, an eighth grade science teacher at Spring Hill Middle School, was selected from among two other finalists — North Laurinburg Elementary exceptional children’s teacher Catherine Pinkston and Scotland High School English teacher Meg Johnson —as Teacher of the Year.
Mishue has taught at Spring Hill for 12 years, where she strives to form a permanent relationship with each of her students.
“I try and build relationships with those kids and those families,” she said. “I’ve taught AG and I’ve taught kids with issues, and I try and build relationships with all of them. Whatever they need, they know I’m like mama. I’m the mother hen even of our staff. I’m like, what do you need? I’m here.”
After her award was announced — along with a $1,000 prize from The Ficklin Company and a year’s no-cost lease on a car from Griffin Nissan — Mishue was flooded with hugs and congratulations from her fellow teachers, principal, and even former students who are now teachers.
“I’m constantly checking on them to see what you’re going to do with your life after eighth grade. They motivate me.”
Mishue will move on to contend for the state’s regional-level teacher of the year competition.
“I’m so overwhelmed and so shocked, because I just was like, I know I didn’t get it, but I’m so excited to take on this task,” she said.
Laurel Hill Elementary’s Myra Bartell was named teacher assistant of the year. Pate-Gardner Elementary principal Chuck Dulin, who will lead South Scotland Elementary this year, was named principal of the year, and South Scotland’s Laura Bailey earned assistant principal of the year honors.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.