With plenty of enthusiasm, Larry Bell captured the attention of teachers and principals as he made them smile, laugh, sing and clap. He also enjoyed putting several educators on the spot while providing motivation and letting them know that “it’s the little things that count.”
Sampson County Schools held its Back to School Kick-off Tuesday morning at Lakewood High School with Bell, an educational consultant, author and national presenter, as the guest speaker. With more than 30 years of education, he’s been recognized for classroom strategies for working with at-risk and gifted youths. He has presented to schools in hundreds of districts in America.
“My topic is about the power of the teacher through high expectations,” Bell said. “Every teacher can reach and teach any child put in front of them.”
He continued to say that high expectations transcends race, gender, economics and the handicapped.
During his funny call and response format of presenting, he stressed that it’s the little things, such as compliments, that matter.
“Little things make a huge, huge difference,” Bell said with excitement.
That includes bragging on students for the good things that they do. Some of the other advice included putting excitement in the classroom and challenging students.
“You don’t have to be prefect to make a difference in the world for these kids,” Bell said.
Whenever a child enters a classroom, Bell mentioned how their parent hopes that they reach their full potential.
“Every time you look at someone’s child they’re giving us the best they got and they want what’s best for them,” he said.
Before Bell talked to the audience, several district leaders offered words of encouragement. Telfair Simpson, chairman of the Sampson County Schools Board of Education, told everyone that they were captains, regardless of their role.
“And we got to help children get to their destination,” Simpson said.
Wendy Cabral, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services, introduced new employees in the school system.
“We’re blessed with so many first year teachers and teachers who are new to Sampson County,” Cabral said.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy told the school teachers and administrators that they were strong, fearless and beautiful.
“I can’t think of better words to describe this team that I see in front of me for the wonderful work that you’ve done with our students in Sampson County,” Bracy said.
More than 8,600 students will begin or return to school on Monday, Aug. 29, in a system that he called the best in North Carolina. Bracy said they’re going to need encouragement and guidance.
“The first day of school has always been my favorite day of school because it offer so much excitement,” Bracy said. “It offers so much optimism and it sort of gets your juices flowing for everything that’s about to happen.”
While discussing many accomplishments of the district, Bracy mentioned the recent Olympics in Rio De Janeiro and how the United States had more gold medals than any other country. Many of the athletes are considered heroes and Bracy gave the same honor to teachers such as Teacher of the Year Brent Rivenbark and finalists Ebonique Ingram and Leasa Hodges.
“Those folks don’t have gold medals hanging around their necks and they don’t have endorsement deals with Wheaties, Coke or Pepsi,” Bracy said. “But they are certainly heroes to me.”
He encouraged his educational heroes working in a large rural environment to continue literacy and reading improvements which leads to success in other subjects such as math and science.
“We still owe it to all of our kids to give them the same experiences and the same hopes for the future that kids in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and other big cities,” he said. “We can’t let a lack of money determine the quality of education that our kids get. We’ve done a wonderful job over the years not letting that be an excuse for us.”
Bracy said he also wanted to see teachers have a better connection with students.
“You do a good job, let’s just go overboard with that,” he said about showing heart in a district where families face economic hardships.
For Bracy, education is not about wealth and fancy offices.
“What this business is about is rolling up your sleeves, doing the work and helping our gets get from point A to point B,” Bracy said. “I’m thankful that you’re here today and you made a choice because you’re committed to kids in this county.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.