Armstrong welcomes, challenges teachers

First Posted: 1/15/2009

PEMBROKE -- Superintendent Colin Armstrong, resembling a football coach on the first day of practice, stressed to more than 2,000 teachers Tuesday that teamwork will be the key to a successful school year.
The theme of Armstrong's power-point presentation was “Vision for Education Excellence.” Outlining his expectations of the staff, he emphasized that their advice will be considered when decisions are made.
“We've got to work together on defining that vision,” said Armstrong as his Canadian accent echoed inside the Givens Performing Arts Center at UNC-Pembroke. Applause often interrupted his 30-minute presentation that was a mix of humor and serious issues.
Teachers went back to work Tuesday and students will begin the new school year Aug. 6.
Armstrong challenged teachers to be “better tomorrow than we were today. It's a compelling task. However, if the passion is not there we are going to burn ourselves out pretty quickly because these are demanding jobs.”
The two elements of assuring educational excellence, according to Armstrong, are improving student learning and closing the achievement gap between different groups of students.
“We need all children to be successful in as many ways as we can,” he said. “We have to take children from where they are and move them forward, despite their baggage, despite the issues they are going through in their lives, despite our lack of understanding. We serve a society that oftentimes forgets how important and difficult our job is.”
Armstrong cited the 12 most valuable things to him, a list he also offered to the Board of Education when he was being interviewed in April for the position. The list included bringing out the best in people, working positively with the board, involve people in the decision-making process and encouraging involvement from parents and the community.
Armstrong keeps a framed copy of the list in his office.
Teachers impressed
Dorenda Taylor, a seventh-grade teaching assistant at Lumberton Junior High, said she thought Armstrong was speaking directly to her and to her needs.
“He is very upbeat,” said Taylor, adding that this year's orientation was more “down-to-earth” than in previous years.
Michelle Oxendine said Armstrong's 12 goals and teamwork speech emphasized his commitment to success this upcoming school year.
“It shows that he has a great interest in the schools and the system as a whole,” said Oxendine, a teaching assistant at Lumberton High School. “His goal is for teachers, assistants and all the staff to work together. He wants to see qualified teachers at all the schools and great students … because they are the future.”
Charles Thrailkill said he strives every year to put more emphasis on the students in the special education department at St. Pauls High School.
“Even if they are not my students, you've got to talk to them and take care of them,” he said. With the new administration in place, Thrailkill said he expects better communication between teachers and upper-level staff.
“Teachers were not informed in the past,” he said. “Things happen and we wouldn't know about it until it had already happened.”
Angela Hodges, a music teacher at W.H. Knuckles Elementary School, will start her 12th year in the classroom next week.
“I like his ideas,” Hodges said, “and I hope he will give his support to special education as well.”
Hodges said she anticipates continuing improvements with Armstrong at the helm.
“With our scores going up so well this year, we've made great strides,” she said. “I hope that it can move us up in reputation as far as more academically improved schools and put us back up where we should be.”

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