The Verona Area School District All Staff Convocation took place on Thursday, August 25, which brought together more than 900 teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors and caretakers in the auditorium of the new high school.
Regardless of their role, everyone in the district is an educator, Superintendent Dr. Tremayne Clardy said at the event, which was also attended by members of the Verona Area Education Association, Verona Education Support Professionals Association and of the VASD Board of Education.
“Everyone is an educator, no matter your title, we all work to serve students and we all teach in our own way,” he said.
Two students were able to address the crowd, Faith Rush and EJ Van De Grift.
Rush said she is “very thankful and thankful for” all the teachers she has had. She spoke of the teachers who made classrooms a comfortable space to discuss Roe v. Wade, Title IX, same-sex marriage and school shootings, she shared her appreciation for her vice-principal at Savanna Oaks Middle School who led the students’ weather drop-off, and she spoke about her science teacher eighth grader who helped her realize how cool science was.
Rush said it can sometimes be difficult to build trusting relationships with adults and sometimes young people feel invalidated and afraid to speak up, but she feels she has built trusting relationships with teachers. VASD.
Van De Grift explained how being dubbed ‘Money’ by a teacher helped him see his educators as other people, not just robots working in the school
“It may not seem like much, but it’s the personal connections you all make that keep us waking up every day and learning – it’s the relationships we care about,” he said. “I strongly believe that to call it a community, it has to be more than students, teachers, counselors – more importantly, we are people.”
In Dr. Clardy’s address, he emphasized the importance of ‘disciplinary literacy’, to increase students’ ability to write, listen and speak as they read and learn content from different content areas or disciplines. Disciplinary literacy can be defined as the confluence of content knowledge, experiences and skills merged with the ability to read, write, listen, speak and think critically.
Clardy said all educators teach some form of literacy, whether it’s music teachers with musical notes, football coaches with x’s and o’s in their playbook, counting with numbers – he said literacy goes beyond letters, reading and writing.
He said educators have a “moral obligation” to ensure that every student walks away from VASD with the ability to not just survive, but thrive, in an increasingly diverse global community.
Seven staff members were recognized who have worked in the district for 25 years.
There were student performances by the Black Star drum line, the Verona area high school dance team, and dancers from the Latin nation.
2022 National Teacher of the Year Kurt Russell was among the guest speakers. Russell teaches courses such as African American History and Race, Gender, and Oppression at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio.
It was introduced by VAHS English teacher Kabby Hong, who was one of five statewide teachers named Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, who said Russell “advocates for classrooms to better reflect who is there”.
“If you ask your students who the teacher of the year is, I hope they’ll say one of you,” Russell said. “Our job is to make students feel humanized, important and valued, not just because they are our future, but because they deserve it. They deserve our best.