The end of summer is near and the start of a new school year is finally here.
As students and teachers return to their classrooms this week, there will be many stories to tell, photos to share and memories to relive. From trips around the world to a journey through the nation’s capital, Bossier Parish educators have had quite a busy summer.
Haughton Middle School teacher Kathy Cook had a close encounter with American history after she was chosen to attend a summer program with the Catherine B. Reynolds Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows program. Cook, an American History teacher, and two dozen teachers from around the country spent five days at the nation’s capital visiting Abraham Lincoln’s summer home, the Lincoln Memorial and a tour of the Frederick Douglas house.
A highlight of the trip, Cook said, was eating dinner in the same venue, on the same night as the Senate made a historic vote.
“It was awesome,” Cook said enthusiastically. “We were all history teachers living history in such a phenomenal way. It was literally history in action.”
The Civil War Washington Consortium is aimed at helping teachers make history come alive in their classrooms, which also aligns with the newly implemented Common Core State Standards. Educators will now use drama to help historic figures come alive, get students to practice oratory skills by performing speeches, and take their class on a content-driven learning adventure.
Cook said she plans to not only share stories with her classes, but she will also include her experience into her lesson plans, where she will make history feel like a much bigger part of present day.
Also making a trip to the east coast was a group of educators from Plain Dealing’s Carrie Martin Elementary School. Principal Stacy Crawford, Assistant Principal Jill Koeppen and 10 teachers visited the Landmark School in Boston to attend classes at the world-renowned Landmark School’s Outreach Program for educators.
The program is designed to provide educators with strategies and teaching methods used in a language-based classroom. Crawford said they received new ideas that they have began sharing with the rest of their faculty and staff.
“The teachers who went have decided which of the strategies they are going to implement in their grade level and which ones they want to implement school wide,” Crawford said. “We will share those strategies during the in service as our own professional development workshop for the whole faculty.”
Their trip was part of a surprise they received in March from A-Kid’s-Choice Foundation, a local non-profit organization. Attending the Landmark School with Crawford and Koeppen were Jaime Whatley, Charlotte Barnett, Susan Wilson, Jamie Payne, Leslie Alexander, Wendy Crews, Tricia Huckaby, Michelle Craig, Brittanie McMillan and Rachel Gifford.
“They did it for the students,” Crawford said. “They brought back some great ideas to help our students be more successful. We’re ready for a great year.”
Rounding out a whirlwind summer, a Curtis Elementary teacher began her summer in the USA before leaving the country for an experience that she’ll never forget.
Ashley Johnston, a fifth grade , kicked off her adventures in Knoxville, Tennessee with a group of Bossier students at the Destination Imagination global finals. The event is known to be the “world’s largest celebration of creativity” and the culminating event of the Destination Imagination season.
This year, more than 1,000 teams from 45 states, seven Canadian provinces and 13 countries gathered to showcase their Challenge solutions, bringing together more than 15,000 people in one event.
“It is such an awesome experience,” Johnston said. “They got to meet kids from all over the country and the world who have done the exact same challenges as they have during the school year. It’s great for them to get to connect with other kids and to see the different solutions they come up with.”
Although the school year had already ended, Johnston said the students still had a lot to learn. She, too, spent the summer learning in more ways than one.
The day after she returned home from Tennessee, Johnston was on a plane to Africa where she spent eight weeks as a missionary intern in Kenya. While there, Johnston said she worked among the people in the community, passing out Bibles, learning the language and help other missionaries in their every day efforts.
Johnston said the trip, one she also made last year, was quite a journey and one she plans to share with her students.
“I love sharing pictures with the kids because they can really see what that country looks like, what their schools look like and how they live their lives,” Johnston said. “Hopefully, that translates into a little bit more appreciation for what we have here. We are very blessed here in Bossier Parish and I hope they will see that.”
Teachers will continue preparing for the upcoming school year with in-service through Wednesday. Then, their classroom doors will open Thursday to students eagerly waiting to hear how their they spent their summer vacation.
The first of school for students in grades 1-12 is Thursday, Aug. 8. The first regular day for all Kindergarten students is Thursday, Aug. 15.