Teachers and child care providers, save the date -- April 14 will be a teacher appreciation opportunity just for you.
Hosted by the Partnership for Children of Wayne County and Wayne Community College, the free event will be held at WCC and feature a keynote speaker who is also in the profession, organizers say.
Michael Bonner is a second-grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary School, where the majority of students have severe challenges, many of them homeless. One hundred percent of its population receives free and reduced lunch, and test scores have been shaky at best.
Bonner, a victim of poverty growing up, has only been at the school for four years but his efforts to change the learning culture have brought him to the forefront. He has written a book, "Get Up or Grow Up" and captured the attention of the "Ellen Show."
"He's been on the Ellen Show twice -- she's honored him and actually started a GoFundMe page for his school and partnered with Walmart to provide iPads and technology," said Jodi Baker, department chair of public services at WCC. "He was on there about a year ago and then she invited him and his whole class back."
Baker and Valerie Wallace, assistant executive director of the Partnership, attended the N.C. Association for the Education of Young Children conference in September, where Bonner was a featured speaker.
The message he shared was about some of his struggles in the teaching profession but mostly how he persevered and didn't give up.
"I think just realizing that it's not just about teaching to the test, that it is about building relationships and then looking at how to teach those children and meeting their needs," Wallace said. "I think it is so important, since a lot of our early care and education teachers deal with that on a daily basis.
"They deal with the misconception that early childhood is not a profession, that they are just day care workers and that is definitely not true. But just meeting those needs of those children is so very important. We tend to forget that it doesn't start when children get into kindergarten."
Securing Bonner as keynote speaker is a coup, the women said. He will have much to say to those in education and the hope is to have a large audience take advantage of the opportunity.
As a male in a female-dominated profession, he is not only a great role model for students but others in the profession, Baker said.
"He talks about meeting the needs of the kids and making those relationships important, that if you teach to the kids you meet the test part," she said. "He's brought his scores up with his kids and showed them things that they would never ever get otherwise, to make them successful."
Details about the event are still being worked out, but the organizers have created an events page on Facebook, Provider Appreciation featuring Michael Bonner, with frequent updates.
"Anybody who wants to participate is welcome but it is geared toward the early childhood community," Wallace said. "The nation recognizes provider appreciation during the month of May and because May's so busy for the college (WCC) and the Partnership, and we usually do a child care conference during the late winter, early spring. This year we decided we would not do the conference but we would do provider appreciation, a bigger appreciation than what we normally do."
Those attending also receive training credit, which they are required to earn each year.
The tentative plan is to have the event run from 6 to 9 p.m. and feature a meet and greet with Bonner as well as hors d'oeuvres, a time of networking and then the keynote address. Copies of his book will also be available for purchase, and there will be a book signing afterward.
The networking will be just as important as the message, the women said.
"It will be really advantageous for our teachers and providers," Baker said. "I'm excited that we are planning to have that cross-cultural network of different types of teachers.
"We're inviting the teachers from WCC as well and will give us a broader view of networking with each other in the profession."