By Dr. Cami Hamlin
The first day of school has always been my favorite day of the year since I was a little girl. School is my happy place, and I find that a school is happiest when it is filled with children. On Friday, July 30th, 2017, students and families filled the halls of Porter Elementary for Friday night open house with great anticipation for the school year to comeIt is a Porter tradition to invite students to school a night before school starting. It is when they learn who their teacher will be in the coming year. It helps ensure that the children know the route to class for the first day of school. It is a festive and joyous event that marks the return of children after the long break.
This year, students have found a few new faces and spaces, and a renewed spirit of Porter infusing our brains and hearts. As they reach the end of their first month of learning and discovery, the new year enthusiasm is still alive. Children are forming new friendships, meeting new goals, and settling in to the routines of their classrooms.
Porter Elementary is the epitome of a neighborhood school. We are fortunate to have some faculty and staff who attended our school when they were children. We also have former students who are all grown up and bringing their own children to Porter.
In the spirit of welcoming students and families, our faculty and staff took a pre-planning field trip to one of our school neighborhoods. We were able to visit with students and families, and remind them about open house. We are proud of our relationship with the community around Porter Elementary.
As I begin my second year as principal of Porter Elementary, in Porter’s 50th year of educating Bibb County’s youngest students, I celebrate the many community partners who are contributing to our school’s vision of innovation. It is the collective commitment of several community partners that makes Porter Elementary an amazing community school.
Along with incredibly talented students, we have a steadfast Parent-Teacher Organization and School Council, dedicated volunteers, and the support of the Bibb County School District. We have formed new partnerships, as well as maintained existing partnerships. Porter received generous gifts totaling $32,000 from Peyton Anderson’s Teach to Inspire Grants, which has energized our spirit of innovation.
Also, we will be a Leader in Me school this year, thanks to support from our community through OneMacon’s Business Education Partnership. The Wallace Foundation will support my growth as an instructional leader and we are using Get Better Faster training to support teachers.
While we continue a plethora of partnerships with United Way’s AARP grant and Read to Succeed, Middle Georgia State University’s School of Education, Forest Hills Backpack Buddies, Lawrence Drive Baptist Church, MidSouth Community Federal Credit Union, HealthMPowers, Kroger, Fred’s, Liberty Church, CenterState Bank, it is our sincere desire to reciprocate by developing a culture of giving and service to our neighborhood.
This summer, more than half of our faculty went to conferences and workshops, took coursework for advanced degrees, worked with children in summer camps, and read professional books, with the goal of enhancing our craft. I went to three conferences, presenting with a Porter teacher and GCSU professor about our word work at the International Literacy Association Conference. When education is your passion, it is easy to spend time with other educators in the summer.
One of our projects that we have been working on since I arrived at Porter is converting the media center to a Learning Commons. Our vision is a collective effort of transforming the physical space in our media center, to inspire the mental space. We are in the process of creating a versatile space for reading, discovering, exploring, and collaborating. It is exciting to see the evolution of the space.
We just need one key component for it to really take shape and that is for our Porter Elementary students and faculty to continue guiding the vision as they learn and share ideas in the new Learning Commons. It is an organic evolution to listen to children and hear their interests, and then to create a space for them to thrive.
Which brings me back to my favorite time of year, the school year. Throughout the end of the summer, teachers shared their enthusiasm for learning throughout our building, creating classrooms where students will want to come to learn. They prepared welcome gifts for students, and forms for parents to fill out to facilitate communication. Teachers created their own classroom Facebook pages and websites so that they could share their classroom activities with parents.
In the Porter Elementary community, there are smiles and hugs, and there is joy. In our halls and classrooms, you will see brightly-colored, themed rooms of flamingos, pineapples, sunflowers, superheroes, and more.
Porter Elementary is filled with superheroes. The real superheroes are the students who demonstrate work ethic by showing up to learn every day, the parents who get their children to school on time every day all year, the community who supports our district’s strategic plan, and the educators who are passionate about helping children learn. If you haven’t been to a school lately, I encourage you to come for a tour of Porter Elementary. You will be amazed to see so many super powers in one place. You may just develop your own super power upon reflection and decide to regularly join us. We hope you will.