Getting back to the education basics

Published 10:26 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

I have a lot to say about Northampton County Public Schools.

And, no, I’m not going to use my 700 word limit to bash the school system, but rather praise it. Yes, write it in the history books one of those slimy reporters is taking the high road.

At Tuesday night’s Northampton County Board of Education, I was first pleased to see Central Elementary School teacher Johnnie Rawles recognized as the district’s Teacher of the Year.

Though Mrs. Rawles may or may not recall, in my first few months in the Roanoke-Chowan area I interviewed her for our annual special section Crossroads in February 2007.

I like Mrs. Rawles immediately, she reminded me of many of the teachers I had back in grade school.

Mrs. Rawles is a kind, humble teacher who takes a great interest and instills knowledge as well as self-esteem in her students.

To me the recognition of Mrs. Rawles as Teacher of the Year (for the fifth time in her career) was a proverbial “tip of the hat” to those teachers that rely on the basics.

When I refer to the basics, I mean those teachers that rely on their own education, knowledge and keep in mind the goals their students need to achieve.

With the “day and age” we live in it’s easy to get caught up in the technology and the different theories of classroom instruction that the actual teaching gets lost along the way. I’m not challenging either one of those aspects…there should be technology in classrooms and not every student learns the same way.

To me, the definition of a teacher is first and foremost an educator, a person who wants to (and does) make a difference by inspiring, encouraging and helping their students, especially through their weaknesses.

But some times it seems the point of teaching has been buried under other issues in education.

What ever happened to getting back to the basics?

Also at Wednesday night’s meeting, the Board addressed three reform programs in their schools.

Yes, there are three reform programs in Northampton County Public Schools.

Seem like a little much? Well, board members along with Superintendent Dr. Bracy thought so.

As the board and Dr. Bracy discussed their plan of action the same concern was at the center: there are too many people telling administrators and teachers what to do.

While writing up the article for that meeting, I had to wade through Assistant Superintendent Kelvin Edwards’s thorough notes on the three different programs.

Each of them had their own way of staff development and teaching students. At the end of writing the article I wanted to shred and then burn the notes because they gave me such a headache.

So, I’m assuming if I, a reporter, can get fed up with these programs from just reading and writing about them, I can’t imagine how confusing and frustrating they are for teachers and administrators when implemented in schools.

Sure, the glam of having a program with its experts, specialists and coaches mentoring your school’s educators looks great on paper…but if it doesn’t work, why have it?

I’m glad the board is re-evaluating the reform programs in their school system.

It’s a good thing when school leaders can see and admit where their charges can be improved and what needs to be weeded out.

The way to building a strong school system is reinforcing it with strong educators and leaders.

Northampton County needs to get back to the basics.

Let educators be educators.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.