North Colonie educators entered the auditorium at Shaker High School on Staff Opening Day greeting each other with smiles, hugs and handshakes as the new school year got underway. The day kicked off with opening remarks delivered by Superintendent Joseph Corr and Board of Education President Linda Harrison. Corr jokingly noted that between the two, he and Harrison had a combined 82 years of opening day experience in the North Colonie school system where both once taught social studies. In addition, this is Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, and former English teacher, Kathy Skeals’ 28th opening day.
Corr and Harrison spoke of the important work that teachers do – Harrison pointing out that every English as a New Language (ENL) student who graduated in June was entering college this fall. “You are the reason that is possible,” she told teachers. “Many of these students were able to overcome troubling, even dangerous circumstances – fleeing war-torn countries, poverty and homelessness – because of your encouragement and reassurance. You keep the American Dream alive.”
Corr’s message encouraged North Colonie educators to “be counter-cultural,” as he challenged them to stand in contrast to the harshness and negativity that permeates today’s national dialogue. He spoke of the significant role that teachers often play in shaping the lives of their students. “We must model the virtues and values of civil discourse for students,” he said, “and nurture not only the academic growth of our students, but also their development as compassionate, thoughtful human beings.”
To illustrate his point, Corr noted Shaker students who serve as role models in and out of school by quietly doing what they can to bring about positive change in the world. He cited several students who were named North Colonie Kids Who Care during the 2015-16 school year, including: Ruth Rankin’s sixth graders at Southgate Elementary who volunteer as peer models for special needs students; Cheyenne DeLair, a high school student, who volunteers for The College of Saint Rose Friday Knights Recreation Program that offers a structured and supportive recreational environment for children who experience difficulties relating to peers and require extra support or opportunities to practice their social interaction skills with others; and Shaker High School student Malerie Muratori who volunteered countless hours helping rehabilitate wildlife at Whispering Willow Wildcare in Schenectady. Read more 2015-16 North Colonie Kids Who Care
Bring on the Lemonade Challenge
Corr then invited Shaker High School sophomore Jack Cheney to the podium to speak about another challenge – the Lemonade Challenge – available to educators following the morning meeting. The Lemonade Challenge is a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis that Cheney helped initiate in the community this summer. With support from his friends in the World of Difference Club and Student Government, Cheney set up a makeshift lemonade stand in the lobby outside the auditorium to offer lemonade to teachers and staff for a donation at their discretion. Proceeds from the Lemonade Challenge go to a special fund through the Donna Crandall Foundation, a not-for-profit organization Cheney’s family established in the early 2000s in tribute to his late aunt who passed away from complications of cystic fibrosis. This funding will help Albany Medical Center renovate two rooms, in honor of Dawn McGuiness, a friend of Cheney’s who passed away in April, that will provide a peaceful place for families to gather and patients with cystic fibrosis to heal. More about the Lemonade Challenge
More Opening Day
In his opening day presentation, Corr also included an excerpt of Dean James Ryan’s 2016 Harvard Graduate School of Education commencement speech highlighting not answers — but the five essential questions to ask as one moves through life, which the North Colonie superintendent again connected back to the roles of teachers.
A quartet of Shaker choral students brought the Opening Day meeting to a rousing close as they serenaded teachers with a moving rendition of “The Impossible Dream,” accompanied by Mr. Tyler Thomas on piano, which elicited a standing ovation from teachers and administrative staff in the room.
While teachers returned to work on Tuesday, the first day of classes for students at North Colonie schools is Thursday, Sept. 8.