Educators get dose of motivation for new school year

By Mack Spencer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – City schools Superintendent Randy McCoy appeared at the opening teacher convocation Thursday in a yellow rainslicker and pushing a mop bucket, in case of a repeat of last year's flooding of the Ruth Liveakos Auditorium stage.

“The first thing I did this morning was look at the forecast,” McCoy quipped.

Teachers looking ahead at the school year were charged up by Frank Charles Winstead, a longtime educator and motivational speaker originally from Meridian. A large part of his message: Teachers matter.

He spoke of his own teachers, like Marguerite Jenkins, in whose class “it was rumored somebody once made an A,” Winstead said.

“She gave me the gift of writing,” he said. “I was in love with the phrase It is interesting to note' É She graded with a dull red pencil, and she wrote on one of my essays, If it is interesting to note, I will note it.'”

His fourth-grade teacher discouraged him, but fifth-grade teacher Mary Ann Bonney, his favorite, reawakened his desire to learn. In Bonney's honor, Winstead gives six $1,000 scholarships to Meridian Community College students who plan to major in education.

“We must be committed to teacher education,” Winstead said. “Teaching is extremely complex.”

Winstead also encouraged the teachers to engage in “wayside teaching,” the informal moments outside of class where students and teachers can interact.

“We have to keep the main thing, the main thing. Student learning is the main thing,” Winstead said. But, “we rarely reach a student through formal teaching. They forget most of what we teach, but they will always remember what we did to them and for them.”

Thomas Street Elementary School principal Brenda Robinson said the program fired her up for the year.

“He is really good,” Robinson said of Winstead. “I hope all my teachers enjoyed it because they're likely to hear a lot of it again.”

McCoy told the teachers that the district already has the foundation on which to build greater success. Results on the Terra Nova standardized test showed that district students in first through eighth grades, on average, scored as well on their tests as students a grade higher elsewhere would score. District eighth-graders scored two grades higher.

Sixth-grade results were not announced because they will be released in about two weeks by the Mississippi Department of Education.

Contact Mack Spencer at 678-1582 or mack.spencer@djournal.com.