Shelby County employees from every school and every department kicked off the 2014-2015 school year with a celebration on August 5. The Kick-Off Classic was held at the McChesney Student Activity Center on the campus of the University of Montevallo.
The event, formally referred to as Teacher Institute Day, was a pep rally style gathering of all district employees to energize them for the upcoming school year. The event program featured students, teachers, and speakers with ties to every community in the district. Staff members were greeted by student ambassadors from Montevallo High School and cheerleaders from every school in the district. The Helena High School Marching Band Drumline got the event started with a percussion performance while the cheerleaders helped to get the crowd motivated. The Vincent High School ROTC presented the colors as Mt Laurel Elementary School music teacher Haley Spates performed the National Anthem.
Guest speakers for the event included Oak Mountain High School alumni, Ameen Barghi; Calera Middle School teacher and First Year Teacher of the Year, Richardo Conte; and attorney and child advocate, Elizabeth Huntley.
Barghi, who qualified for UAB Medical Schools’ Early Acceptance Program while still in high school, spoke to the teachers about how well the Shelby County School District prepared him for college. Barghi, who just completed his Freshman year at UAB, also spoke about teaching classes at UAB during his Freshman year and writing grant proposals for his medical research. He credited his own Shelby County teachers for emulating a teaching style that he now uses himself in his own classes. He said the high standards that his teachers held him to have helped prepare him for the challenges of writing a research funding proposals for his medical research.
Conte shared a different story of overcoming the stigma of being an unmotivated student and “trouble-maker” in school in order to eventually discover his own calling to become a teacher. He credited a special teacher with encouraging him to use his gifts in a positive way. It was in high school that he discovered a love for theater that eventually took him to the University of Montevallo to pursue a Musical Theater degree. While at Montevallo, he discovered that his true calling was to become a teacher and later pursued a degree in education. He now tries to see encourage his own students to use their gifts in a positive way as his own teacher once did for him.
Mrs. Huntley shared her very inspiring story of overcoming a childhood riddled with poverty, neglect, and abuse to become an overachieving student and very successful attorney with Lightfoot, Franklin, and White. Mrs. Huntley serves on numerous boards in Alabama and is a well-known child advocate and a supporter of early childhood education. She credits her own exposure to an early childhood education program, very caring teachers, and her faith to setting her on a pathway to success.
The feedback regarding the event was overwhelmingly positive from the staff.
“This entire event was an awesome way to start the year,” said Helena Elementary teacher Melanie Henderson. “The speakers were incredible! They had us in tears at times and laughing at time. They were so inspiring!”