By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Teachers for the Tupelo and Lee County districts reported for their first work day of the school year on Wednesday.
Each district began the day with a meeting of its entire teaching and administrative staff. Both meetings introduced new superintendents and provided a motivational message. Tupelo and Lee County each begin class on Tuesday.
For Lee County Schools, it was the first district-wide meeting in several years.
The district borrowed Tupelo Middle School’s Civic Auditorium for the occasion, which was highlighted by keynote speaker Deborah Tierce.
Using a combination of sharp wit, Southern charm and personal anecdotes, she impressed on the teachers how long-lasting the impressions they make on students are.
“If it was your last day to teach, what would you teach?” she said to an audience of more than 600 educators.
“Will students remember you for the good or bad?”
One of those teachers, Louis Southward at Plantersville Middle School, said he was ready to begin.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s going to be a prosperous year.”
Superintendent Jimmy Weeks, who took office in January, spoke to the teachers about the district’s new strategic plan.
“I think it is helpful,” Weeks said of having all the teachers in one location. “The new staff members get a chance to see who people in Central Office are, and put a face to the name. Everyone gets the same information at the same time, and hopefully it adds more to the cohesion in our district.”
Tupelo’s gathering of about 1,000 employees was held at Tupelo High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. encouraged teachers to accept the challenge of teaching all students who enter their classrooms.
“You are Tupelo’s Olympians, and these accomplishments will be your accomplishment of the human spirit,” he said.
Superintendent Gearl Loden, who was hired on Feb. 28, talked about supporting teachers, not making excuses, fully using instructional time and having a child-friendly environment with adults in charge.
“The core message is teachers are the ones who make a difference,” Loden said, “They are the leaders in the classroom. We will have 7,500 young people here next week, and we need to greet them with a smile and help them get started on a great year.”
Pierce Street Elementary School teacher Kaylah Lawrence said she liked the mayor’s message about the Tupelo Spirit being restored.
“I like that we have our swag back,” she said.