LUMBERTON — The village on Thursday treated teachers with the Public Schools of Robeson County to plenty of food and fun as well as words of encourage and appreciation.
More than 2,000 educators, members of the Board of Education, central office staff, volunteers, vendors packed the Southeastern North Carolina Agriculture Event Center to celebrate the beginning of the school year.
The event, which had the theme “It takes a village,” included presentations from Dr. Robin Cummings, chancellor of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Tommy Lowry, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County; free food; and gifts from local organizations, businesses and agencies.
“You probably don’t hear it enough,” Cummings told a crowded room of teachers. “Maybe you haven’t heard it at all, but you are the most important group of people in Robeson County.”
Cummings credited his 10th-grade Biology teacher, Steve Jones, for inspiring him to become a doctor when he realized how fascinated the student was during a dissection class.
Cummings became a heart surgeon.
“That took me from the cucumber field to an operating room,” Cummings said. “It allowed me to hold 3,000 hearts in my hand.”
Cummings vowed his support for teachers during his address, pointing out that nearly 60 percent of the certified teachers who work for the Public Schools of Robeson County are UNCP graduates.
Lowry challenged teachers to make an effort to smile and speak to every student each day during the school year and to refuse to allow the words “I can’t” to be uttered by a student or even by the teacher themselves.
“You may not see the fruits of your labor in your classroom right now, but you will see them down the road, so don’t give up,” he said.
Fairmont Middle School teacher Gaye Cushing, who teaches eighth-grade Social Studies, said she was at her school at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday to start the year off. She said she is excited and confident that this school year will be better than the last.
One new teacher, Rikki Bullard who will teach Special Education, is ready to heed Lowry’s call.
“My hope is to make an impact way beyond the classroom and into their everyday lives,” she said.
Josie Torrence, who teaches eighth-grade Science at Fairmont Middle School, says teaching is a two-way street, with beneficiaries at both ends.
“I’m excited to see what the kids are going to wow me with this year,” she said. “I’m always learning something new.”
Teachers were provided lunch, a Public Schools of Robeson County bag and goodies like free pens, pencils and yardsticks from vendors stationed around the arena. Prizes ranging from $100 gift cards and tote bags to mops and brooms were given away in a raffle.
Students in the Public Schools of Robeson County will be able to meet their teachers on during during open houses. Classes begin Aug. 29.
Gabrielle Isaac can be reached at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @news_gabbie.