Business partnership with schools welcomes new teachers


To wrap up the welcoming party for new teachers, sponsored by the Alexandria Education Partnership, student Damba Korona talked about the courage she received from teachers at Ramsey Elementary and Hammond Middle School.

Damba lost her lef

t hand in the civil war in Sierra Leone but looked to her teachers to give her strength when the other students would tease her. This led to a school project, making a video about her experience that eventually landed her on the Oprah show. Now, when she faces adversity, that lesson in courage gave her confidence. In the end I find out I can do it, Damba said.

That story, along with success stories from other ACPS students Austin Toner and Kwasi Acheampong, were inspirational and instructive as 115 new teachers prepared to assume the leadership role in their classrooms in the city. They filled the cafeteria at George Washington Middle School on Aug. 22, with businesses, politicians and school officials to kick off the new year for the school and business partnership.

You make a difference in so many ways, Superintendent Rebecca Perry told the new teachers. In the school system, Perry said, there are children with parents who participate in the education, and then there are the at risk, students who rely on the teachers more. Their teacher is the most important influence in their lives, Perry said. Whatever it takes is what we do, she said.

The businesses in the AEP help the schools achieve that mission. Kerri Rogers, executive director at AEP, noted their role as a liaison between the business community and education in the city. We see if theres something in the community to make that work, she said.

A new AEP member, Donors Choose, offers assistance with upcoming school projects. The teachers just have to ask, said Melanie Duppins, teacher engagement manager of the Atlantic region. Teachers submit their project ideas on Donor Choose website, and the organization chooses which to fund. We will be funding projects immediately, said Duppins. It will go live on Sept. 5.

Anita Uyehara, a new biology teacher at T.C. Williams, picked up Donors Choose brochures at the first opportunity. Uyehara wants to incorporate several biology lessons with the green concept at T.C. Williams new school building.

The more hands-on resources we can get to those kids the more relevant it is, she said. She has lessons in mind with composting, rain water and sustainability.

New beginnings
Some of the new teachers are relocating to Alexandria and experiencing the city for the first time. Roberta Parsons came all the way from Newfoundland, Canada, and will teach Physical Education and Drivers Education at T.C. She arrived at the meeting with Alison Ahearn from Florida. Also in the newcomer group was Alexander Dunn, an incoming T.C. English teacher from Maryland, elated when he heard about the green concept at the new school. That was one thing that was more interesting to me [being a green building]. Im into that, he said.

Gina Folda, a new first-grade teacher at Maury Elementary is from Philadelphia. Im excited about being in a new town, she said.

Misty Allen manned the Mirant Mid-Atlantic table in the room. Mirant has hosted many tours through the years, teaching students a lesson on career awareness day, stressing for the younger students that there are people at work every time a light switch is flipped. We give them an electricity 101 plant tour, she said.

City Council member Rob Kupricka was enthusiastic about the business partnership at work for the students. Even more so, now that his daughter has just started kindergarten at Mount Vernon Elementary School. The business community support for our schools is one of the strong parts of our school program, he said.