Archive for March, 2013

A Taste of Reality

March 27, 2013


On Friday, March 22, the eighth grade students at SCW participated in a Reality Store, an event sponsored by the Virginia Co-operative Extension Office to give students a taste of life as an adult.

Karlee Steffey, Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development, explained, “The hope for the Reality Store is that students will get an idea of their financial futures and to make the connection between doing well in school and then doing well in life. This is a great opportunity to really see how much things cost and to jump start their thinking about budgeting.”


During the event, the eighth grade class divided into three different sessions, each teaching them a different aspect of finances in adulthood.

In one session, students gained knowledge of checking and saving accounts, depositing money, and financial needs versus wants. They were made aware of all deductions taken from paychecks to demonstrate the difference between gross and net pay.


Another session consisted of students completing a skills assessment, values assessment, and an interest assessment to determine potential careers that match their interests and abilities. Students also filled out sample job applications.

The third session involved a life simulation. Each student received an identity that included information on his or her job, income, and family. Once their identities were established, students had to pay taxes, purchase or rent a home, pay bills, buy groceries, and organize for child care and other necessities.


Jason Perry, Vice President for Workforce Development at Rappahannock Community College, volunteered at the event along with many other community leaders. Perry stated, “I applaud the staff and administration at St. Clare Walker Middle School for providing career education activities to students in the eighth grade. Unfortunately, with pressures of testing and accountability in our schools, we typically place career education on the ‘back burner.’ The Reality Store is a fabulous way to teach life and career skills. I would hope that more schools in our region would incorporate this program in the future.”


After it ended, students continued to discuss the event throughout the day. They enjoyed the hands-on activities and being able to connect the lessons to relevant aspects of their lives. When asked about the event, students shared varied responses.

Marty Bristow declared, “I never knew children cost so much!”

“It was very worthwhile and really opened up my eyes about being careful of what I spend,” said Zack Bristow.

Greg Pitts summed up the event well. “Real money doesn’t last very long. Life can hit you hard, and you have to adjust.”

Teacher Feature – Melvina Robinson

March 25, 2013

“In every student that walks across my threshold, I see the numerous possibilities that lie before them. I see their hopes and all of their dreams. I became a teacher to become their dream-maker.”

Mrs. Rob

This quote embodies Melvina Robinson’s philosophy when it comes to her profession and her students. Robinson, a MBA graduate from Virginia State University and Hampton University, teaches Marketing Education at MHS. She resides in Mathews with her husband Eric. They have 3 children: Nicole, a 3rd grade teacher in Franklin County; Eric, an animator; and Mariah, a freshman at Mathews High School. When not working, Robinson enjoys interior decorating and reading.

In addition to her classroom teaching, Robinson is also the sponsor of DECA, the senior class, and Building Black Achievers Mentoring Program. She strives to generate in her students “the same thirst and curiosity for knowledge that was instilled in me. I was raised to believe that with faith, hard work, and determination, there was nothing that I could not accomplish.”

Robinson believes one of the most important things she can offer her students is the “power to dream” followed by the encouragement needed to follow those dreams and aspirations. Her main goal is to create a comprehensive learning program that gives students opportunities for stimulating classroom activities that connect instruction to careers and higher education. “I strive to instill in my students a strong work ethic, respect for themselves, and to have pride in their community.”

One of Robinson’s innovative lessons allowed her students to apply learning to real-world situations by using marketing functions to plan, organize, implement, and evaluate a promotional campaign. The students’ creativity blossomed as they produced campaigns for YOVASO (Youth of Virginia Speaking Out About Teen Traffic Safety). YOVASO’s Save Your Tailgate and Mission Possible program provided students the opportunity to create the promotional campaigns and write public service announcements. An elementary school lesson plan was formulated and taught by Teachers for Tomorrow. Other elements of the unit included sponsoring a BUD rally, hosting a 3-point competition at a MHS basketball game, making an appearance on 99.1 radio, and designing t-shirts, flyers, and table tent cards.

In addition, the marketing students also created a promotional video. They wrote and rehearsed the script, interviewed administrators and teachers, then filmed and edited the video. MHS students viewed the video during mentoring to generate discussion about the importance of seatbelt safety.

At the end of each campaign, students evaluated the effectiveness and made recommendations for the future. The students’ campaign won 3rd place in the State for SYT and 1st place in Region 5 for the Mission Possible Campaign.

This comprehensive learning unit, which included input and effort from the whole school, was a huge undertaking, but it is an example of the dedication and innovative thinking that Melvina Robinson brings to MHS and Middlesex County students.

Teacher Feature – Danielle Norris

March 20, 2013

Norris 1

Since 2008, Danielle Norris has taught at Middlesex High School and currently teaches English 9, Pre-AP English 10, and AP English 12. Prior to teaching, Norris studied at James Madison University and graduated with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Secondary Education. Originally from Gloucester, Norris now resides in Wake with her husband, Brad, and is expecting their first child in early April. In June, they welcomed their first nephew. When not teaching, Norris spends most of her free time with family and friends and enjoys arts and crafts, decorating, writing, and spending time on the water during the summer months.

As a teacher, Norris is dedicated to the success of her students. “My goal every year is to challenge my students and teach them as much as possible. Ultimately, growth is always the end goal.” In addition to information, Norris also strives to teach her students skills that will help them succeed beyond high school. She believes whether students continue their education in college or not, they all deserve the opportunity to grow as a student and as a young adult.

Flexibility is the most important thing Norris feels she offers her students. “Not in my expectations, but in my lesson planning. Each semester, I have to adapt and adjust my plans to best fit the needs of my students.” Norris also feels building relationships is essential for her students to have the most opportunities to learn. “Learning is only enhanced by trust and that is something I strive to build in my classroom each year.”

When planning lessons, one of Norris’s main goals is to make literature accessible and interesting to her students. One example of this is her Julius Caesar lesson plan for 10th grade. While reading, the students focus not only on content but also on rhetorical devices used in the speeches of Brutus and Antony. The students then use the rhetorical devices as they develop their own speech based on a topic of interest. Students utilize technology to record their delivery of their speech and ultimately play their recording to the class. This gives students the opportunities to use technology to enhance a “traditional” speech. In the final aspect of the unit, they take the rhetorical devices to a new level and with a focus on media bias create their own public announcements.

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Norris’s importance to MCPS and the students is evident in her belief that “every student can be successful. It is my job as a teacher to make sure every student feels that way and is encouraged to discover and utilize their true abilities.”  One quote Norris values is from Albert Einstein. He stated, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  She feels that it is imperative for teachers to remember the quote as a reason why they do their job every day…to make sure students find and achieve success.

SCW Hosts the 2013 TSA Tidewater Regional Fair

March 13, 2013

TSA Regional Fair 1

The Technology Student Association (TSA) gives student members opportunities for leadership and personal growth in all areas of technology, innovation, design, and engineering. 

Through TSA’s regional, state, and national competitions, members can challenge themselves in over 60 different middle and high school events. These competitions stress the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts, leadership, and presentation skills.

Virginia Regional fairs are hosted every spring by each of the six TSA regions in Virginia. On Saturday, March 02, 2013, TSA held its Tidewater Regional Fair competition at St. Clare Walker Middle School. Middle school and high school students from all over the region visited Middlesex for this well-attended event. Volunteers from near and far showed their support for these young leaders as judges, coordinators, and/or student supervisors.

TSA Regional Fair 2

TSA members assembled in the auditorium where regional TSA president, Brett Fochtmann of Middlesex High School, called the meeting to order.  Middlesex County superintendent Dr. Taylor welcomed guests to Middlesex County and congratulated the students for being a part of TSA.

Guest speaker Mr. James Wright, resident of Deltaville Va. and a graduate of Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, shared five points for students to keep in mind as they go through life. He was sure to advocate for the importance of technology in today’s society as well as the future. However, he cautioned students to understand that technology “has no emotion, and it can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. It is the people behind the technology who determine the intent of the constantly advancing technology.”

The competition began promptly after the general meeting. Students presented projects that they have been working on throughout the school year. Some of the most popular events were middle and high school Dragster Design, Essays on Technology, and Flight Endurance.

The competition concluded with the presentation of awards. The following St. Clare Walker Middle School students ranked in the top 10 and were recognized at the Tidewater Region awards ceremony:


Chloe Hodges and Jeffrey Jones received 1st place, Kevin Horton and Andrew Hudson received 2nd place, and Brooke Daniel and Cole Radabaugh received 4th place in the Tidewater Region for Challenging Technology Issues.  Participants worked in teams of two individuals to prepare and deliver an extemporaneous, debate style presentation on a spontaneously assigned technological issue.

Kevin Horton received 3rd place in the Tidewater Region for Digital Photography.  Participants produced an album consisting of color or black and white digital photographs that represent or relate to a chosen theme.  The theme for 2013 was “TSA, Organized Chaos.”

Cole Radabaugh received 1st place, Jerry Lindsey received 2nd place, and Kenneth Beam received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Dragster Design.  Participants designed and produced a fast CO2 powered dragster according to state specifications and used only certain materials.

Kevin Horton received 5th place in the Tidewater Region for Essays on Technology.  Participants conducted research in specified subtopics of a broader technological area and, using the knowledge and resources gained through that research, wrote a comprehensive essay in thirty minutes on the one subtopic that was designated on site.  The topic for 2013 was “The Positive and Negative Effects of Technology on Today’s Youth.”

Tyler Radabaugh received 1st place, Jack Ruark received 2nd place, Chloe Hodges received 7th place, Andrew Hudson received 8th place, and Cole Radabaugh received 10th place in the Tidewater Region for Flight.  Participants designed and built a glider that stayed in flight for the greatest elapsed time.  Students created a documentation notebook with all components, sketches of test gliders, and assembled glider to be tested at the competition.

Tyler Radabaugh received 2nd place and Jack Ruark received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Promotional Design.  Participants created and produced a color pin design that would be appropriate for trading at the national TSA conference.

Tyler Radabaugh received 1st place, Jack Ruark received 3rd place, Jerry Lindsey received 5th place, and Jack Graulich received 6th place in the Tidewater Region for Transportation System.  Participants applied and documented the engineering design process, mathematical principals and scientific concepts used in the research, design, construction, testing and evaluation of a rubber band-powered boat.  Performance ratings of the boat were based on a combination of speed and payload capability measurements.

Students who placed in the top three at the regional fair will compete against other regional finalists from around the state in those events at the state level competition, Technosphere, held May 3- 5. TSA members will also get to compete in new events that are not available at the regional fair. If they place at Technosphere, they need to pack their bags because they’ll be traveling to Orlando Florida to compete at TSA National Conference.

Mr. Odom and Mr. Short, Middlesex HS and SCW TSA advisors, are very much appreciative of the many volunteers and judges that supported the event.

Article written by Matt Short

SCW Student Receives National Recognition for Artwork

March 11, 2013

SCW is pleased to announce that 8th grade student, Cheyanne Duncan, has received national recognition in the 2012 National Association of Conservation Districts Poster Contest.

Cheyannes poster

Duncan’s poster, seen above, won Honorable Mention at the national level of competition for the Grades 7-9 category. Her poster was displayed at the NACD Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, and on the NACD website.

Elizabeth Blackwell, SCW art teacher, understands how Cheyanne could win such an award. She explained, “Cheyanne is an independent worker who is persistent when pursuing a goal; she surmounts obstacles and follows through to completion in a timely manner. Her approach is consistently creative.”

The annual contest allows kindergarten through twelfth grade students the opportunity to express their ideas about soil, water, and other natural resources through art. The contest also emphasizes the educational outreach effort of district and state-level conservation associations and agencies to allow students to utilize their imagination while engaged in a study of conservation.

Each year, the contest begins at the district level. Local districts then forward their winning posters to the state-level Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Finally, state winners advance to the national contest. NACD officers and members recognize the national winners at the Annual Conference.

Blackwell added, “Cheyanne is providing very positive representation for Middlesex County at the district level, at the state level, and at the national level. Her first place wins for the district and the state and her honorable mention at the national convention are such wonderful accomplishments.”

Teacher Feature – Matt Short

March 7, 2013

Matt Short, who teaches Middle School Technology Education at SCW, claims his main goal every year is to reach as many students as possible. To do this, he instructs students using innovative and exciting hands-on activities.


One favorite activity involves CNC manufacturing. Students choose a sport or another area of interest and design plaques. The CNC machine cuts the plaque design to depict an aspect of the interest area.

Residential house construction is another lesson the students enjoy. Students use computer design to create different parts of a house for construction. They must calculate needs for floor and wall framing and then build models of different sections of the houses.

Students thrive on competition, and Short allows them the chance to compete during Team Problem Solving. This unit of study consists of teams of students constructing solutions to given problems. Each team is not only trying to solve their problem, but they are also attempting to do so in a more efficient and effective way than the other teams.

Short feels these hands-on activities help expand future interests. He explains, “What we do in my class may spark an interest in a future education or career.”

Short, a 2000 graduate of Virginia Tech, is originally from New York but now resides in Middlesex with his wife Amy. When Short isn’t at SCW, he spends time boating, woodworking, drafting, doing construction, restoring automobiles and boats, and playing tennis.


Somehow, Short also finds time to serve as the TSA advisor and the Lego Robotics coach for SCW. He regularly spends many extra hours for the technological development of the students of MCPS. His dedication truly benefits the present and the future of our students.

Two MES Events Emphasize the Importance of Reading

March 4, 2013

One School, One Book

Throughout the month of February, students at MES read A Cricket in Times Square. The Parent Outreach Committee sponsored this initiative to promote family reading time. Every night, Monday through Thursday, families read one chapter in the book. The following morning, both 99.1 radio and the MES morning announcements posed a question from the previous night’s chapter. All correct student responses were placed in a drawing for prizes.

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On February 28, the culminating event for the activity consisted of a PTA Fundraiser in the MES cafeteria. Families feasted on Chick-fil-a while being entertained with the violin music of fifth grade student Macy Taylor. MCPS superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor also addressed the crowd. A large backdrop depicting a scene from the book decorated the cafeteria for the evening.

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After dinner, attendees watched the movie version of the story. Mrs. Stamm, MES principal, discussed the differences between the movie and the book. Mrs. Patty Larson, MES teacher, led the group in a craft project in which students designed crickets made of clothespins and pipe cleaners.

MES parent Jamie Wynberry shared her thoughts on the initiative. “The event was a great way to wrap up the program. It was well attended, and it seemed everyone really enjoyed the book. It was refreshing to see so many families who read the book together. There was a lot of discussion about the book and who liked which parts. My favorite part of the program was listening for the question on the radio in the mornings. It made us all get a little excited to get out of bed to see if we could get the question right.”

Dr. Taylor later said, “The One School, One Book program provided an opportunity for all students at MES to engage in reading at different levels, in a way that was unifying for the school community and fun for the students and teachers. The culminating event on Thursday evening allowed families to share in a cross-disciplinary approach to student learning. The student craft variations of clothespin Chester Crickets helped bring the story of A Cricket in Time Square to life for the families who attended. My kudos to Mrs. Stamm, Mrs. Swift, and the rest of the MES staff for hosting a successful family event which focused on student learning.”

Celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America

Friday, March 1, marked the annual National Education Association celebration of reading, Read Across America, and Dr. Seuss’s 109th birthday. For this special event, MES students and staff dressed in red and white or their favorite Dr. Seuss apparel. In honor of Read Across America, MES recognized the importance of reading by having every teacher share their favorite Dr. Seuss book with their students at 9:00 a.m. The morning announcements also included famous Dr. Seuss quotes to celebrate these events.


Mrs. Stamm stated, “Reading to children and with children is one the most important things to do to help with literacy development. We wanted to open the forum and encourage reading by fostering the relationship between school and home in a fun and inspiring way through our One School, One Book event and our celebration of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday and Read Across America. Reading is the gateway to understanding, comprehending, and being successful in all areas of school and in life.  It is so rewarding to have such a high participation rate in something that is so beneficial, yet fun, for each and every student at our school.  We truly appreciate the parental support and participation with our initiatives in uniting our school and its families through reading.”

The National Education Association goal is to build a nation of readers through this signature program. Now in its 16th year, this year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.

For more information about the NEA, visit their website. In addition, always remember the inspiring words of Dr. Seuss. “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

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