Oak Mountain Middle Holds Reception to Honor Students’ Reading Accomplishment

SONY DSCA group of 11 young men from Oak Mountain Middle School stood in disbelief as they realized a special reception they had just been ushered into on Wednesday morning was not for a special speaker, but for them.  Their teachers and administrators had orchestrated the surprise to celebrate a recent accomplishment in their lives – reading their first full-length novel. Teacher Sheryl Jones said the students are part of her Read 180 class, a collaborative Literature class composed of general education and inclusion students.  For these 11 students, reading has always been a challenge.  But the book Alabama Moon, written by Alabama native Watt Key, recently changed the boy’s perspective about reading. “This was the first full length novel that they read on their own from start to finish and actually enjoyed,” explained Jones. “They all clapped and cried at the end of the book.  It was amazing to see them this way.”

“We wanted to have this reception to celebrate their accomplishment,” Jones continued. “To show that reading can be a positive force in their lives.  And to praise them for this milestone.”

The reception featured refreshments and punch and was attended by all of the Oak Mountain SONY DSCMiddle School administrators, family members, some Central Office staff, and a few of the teachers and aides at the school. “You are here today because I am very proud of you” Jones told the students as she fought back tears.  “Most of you have accomplished something you had never accomplished before.  You read a 300 page book cover to cover and you enjoyed it! You read it with enthusiasm and didn’t get frustrated.  Everything you have done deserves a celebration.” “For real?” replied Travis Hawkins in disbelief. Principal Larry Haynes shared the same pride in the student’s accomplishment. “We are so proud of you,” Haynes told the students. “Mrs. Jones wanted to do this for you because she loves you.  She enjoys working with you because of your enthusiasm.” SONY DSCJones contacted Key to arrange for him to autograph copies of the book for each boy.  Key not only autographed the books, but also wrote a personal message to each one based on information that had been provided by Jones regarding their interests and hobbies.  The books were presented as a gift to the students during the reception, along with laminated copies of essays they were required to write as part of the book assignment. “No way!” the boys exclaimed as they realized the books were personalized for them. Parents who were in attendance were in tears at seeing their son’s hard work recognized. “I am beyond words right now,” said Tonya Hardy. “It is amazing.  It is a great feeling to see his accomplishments celebrated.” Dawn Smith said the most amazing thing for her as a parent was seeing her son’s excitement each day as they were reading the book.  “We had seen the movie, but he didn’t respond to the movie the same way he didn’t the book.” “What I loved about it was that he wanted to come home every day and share with me what he had read that day,” said said. SONY DSCThe boys brought Jones and aide Amy Castleman to tears when they presented them both with flowers, which had been purchased by fellow teacher Joy Graves.  And as excited as they were about their autographed books and the reception itself, they said what means the most to them is the love shown by their teachers. “What means the most to me is how helpful Mrs. Jones has been,” said Elijah Brooks. “I am just very grateful that I am at this school,” said Hawkins, who transferred from another school district. “The school I was at before, the teachers didn’t teach and didn’t care like they do here.” Jones said it will be very hard for her to say goodbye to this special group of boys when they leave for high school next year.  She has taught them for two periods each day for the past two years. “It is going to very hard for me to see you go at the end of the year,” she said. “But I hope that you are going to be more than ready for high school.”

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