Eugenia Floyd, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, spent the morning in Rowan-Salisbury Schools (RSS) touring schools and classrooms learning about what makes RSS extraordinary on Friday, August 27, 2021.
Floyd’s visit began at Wallace Educational Forum before setting off on a tour at North Rowan High School, where the innovative staff is 100 percent Apple Certified. She learned about RSS’s Renewal flexibilities from Principal Meredith Williams, and how Renewal has allowed North Rowan’s teachers and students to think in terms of creation. Williams explained that their teaching practice is challenge-based learning where students learn how to solve real-world problems and to think creatively.
“Technology and the needs of society have changed so Renewal enabled us to design our institution to give us the outcomes we want,” Williams said. “We are developing entrepreneurs. It is not just about making money. An entrepreneur sees an opportunity and can make the most of it.”
During the visit, Floyd remarked, “Just because we have always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s best. Doing something a different way empowers not just educators but students.” She further commented, “Just because we have always done it doesn’t mean it works for all children. We are here to educate them all. Having the opportunity to be creative empowers the educator to bring what they are learning in their professional development into the classroom.”
Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington, Sr., stated, “RSS has led the state in utilizing teacher-led design teams to do things differently.”
Ninth-grade students shared their learning progressions in photography and tools like iMovie, skills they will use in the future. A tenth-grade classroom of students was providing feedback to their classmates on projects created using a rubric. Students explained they are comfortable providing feedback because it is an ongoing part of their design thinking. The first answer is rarely, if ever, the final answer in their work as they develop, test and revise prototypes.
Floyd also toured Hurley Elementary. Of particular interest was Hurley’s House System: 5 houses, 1 family.
Hurley’s principal, Jennifer Brown explained the House System enables students and staff to “inspire innovative leaders, build a positive culture, cultivate a sense of belonging and create an engaging environment.”
Floyd commented, “It was a part of my platform to focus on building relationships. We want to build relationships with students so we can accomplish the common goal of learning, and students and teachers are in this together.”
Principal Brown also shared how Renewal flexibilities have enabled her and her team to “flip the culture of our building. Renewal opened doors for us to do a culture shift and our focus has been on core instruction,” she stated.
“I love our intentional focus on core instruction because extraordinary learning will occur through extraordinary core instruction. I’m in this school enough to know when they reconfigure classrooms, it is not just cosmetic. It is in support of the outcome of engaging, thinking, interacting and working together so students can think, pair and share with one another,” Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington, Sr., stated.
“When we think about the students and the things that are working, we need to focus on what helps grow our children. The bottom line is for students to think and achieve the standards taught,” said Floyd.
During the visit at Hurley, House queens and kings (5th graders) from each House introduced their House and served as tour guides. Floyd even got a special impromptu assembly in the gym where she spun the wheel and became an honorary member of the Noviatis House. There were many things to see at Hurley including their outdoor reading garden, their social media ambassadors in action and the passion with which students celebrated their houses, however, one of Floyd’s favorite things at Hurley was a book vending machine. Students earn tokens they use to purchase books from the vending machine.
“The flexibility to repurpose funds has enabled us to reinvent our media center into a student-centered library. We have worked hard to build a love of reading in our building,” stated Brown.
The tour concluded at Wallace Educational Forum with a visit from Dr. Todd Parker, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year. We are confident State Teacher of the Year Floyd knows extraordinary education happens every day for the students of Rowan-Salisbury Schools.