Monday morning, as the kids begin to flow into one of the five schools in the Clinton City Schools system, principal Greg Dirks will smile and welcome the many middle school students who are part of the local education agency.
Dirks, who has been named the 2016-2017 Clinton City Schools Principal of the Year, is on a long list of educators who were part of an opening day ceremony Wednesday afternoon, as administration and local business leaders took time to welcome the educational staff back to another school year.
“You are and come Monday, you will have the heart and soul of our community,” First Baptist Church of Clinton pastor Dr. Ray Ammons said.
Ammons gave the invocation at the start of the ceremony, where Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year Juandalynn Ray encouraged her peers to be an active part of the education process.
Ray, who compared teaching to pruning a grapevine, said teachers have a purpose and that purpose is to produce the leaders of tomorrow.
“We are the branches and we have to produce quality students,” Ray said. “Clinton City is preparing for the future.”
As Ray named the many things teachers have done over the summer of in the last few days to prepare for the opening of another school year, the current teacher of the year said each student is like a grape — none are alike.
“The kids are our future,” Ray shared. “They are our product, much like a grape is a product of the grapevine. Just like grapes, our kids are all different.”
Images of grapes were displayed on the screen as Ray described how students often come to school ready and prepared, but a teacher must always be prepared for those surprises.
“Slow down and enjoy the grapes,” Ray encouraged her fellow co-workers. “Like the grapes with tough skin that you have have to chew and chew and chew, some of our kids take time and effort.”
An important part of the grape-growing process, Ray said, is pruning the vines.
“Teachers have to prune,” she added. “Education is always changing.”
Grapevines are often burned to allow for new growth each season. Much like the grapevine, teachers have to burn away that negative attitude that often finds its way into the classroom.
“Allow for a renewal to come into your mind,” Ray said. “As teachers, we have to be approachable. And together, we can produce the finest wines in Clinton City Schools.”
Wednesday’s theme was “Preparing the Future — Together.” Superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount encouraged his staff to work together as a group and a community to make the students the leaders of tomorrow.
“Take time and look for opportunities everyday to engage in random acts of kindness,” Blount shared.
Before closing out the ceremony, Blount took time to announce the system’s principal of the year. Dirks, who Blount said is one of the many stars in the school system, is the current principal of Sampson Middle School.
As Blount called Dirks’ name, the auditorium at Clinton High School filled with the applause and cheers of the many supporters in the room. As Dirks received his congratulations from board members, he took time to show his appreciation for the teachers in the room.
“I applaud you for what you do,” Dirks said, as he fought back emotions. “It takes courage to make the successful kids we have.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.