The annual Shelby County Showcase of Schools event was held April 21 at the Birmingham Marriott Hotel to highlight the achievements of teachers and students from across the school district. The event was sponsored by Regions Bank and was presented by the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation and Shelby County Schools.
Every school in Shelby County was showcased during a one-hour networking time for business and community leaders. Guest speakers for the luncheon included students and teachers who shared how Shelby County Schools has “prepared them for their journey.” Music teacher Haley Spates had a unique perspective of being a former
Music teacher Haley Spates had a unique perspective of being a former student/graduate, and now a teacher and parent with children of her own attending schools in the district. Spates, who recently sang the National Anthem in the movie Woodlawn, attended elementary school in Vincent and middle and high school in Chelsea. She now teaches music at Mt Laurel Elementary and Shelby Elementary.
“I attended both a Title 1 school and then schools that were not,” Spates said. “And, now I teach at a Title 1 school and one that is not. I can tell you that I was prepared at every school I attended and I now see my students being prepared at both schools where I teach.”
She added that as a parent, she is very pleased with the education her daughters are receiving. Spates said both daughters have indicated their desire to follow in their mother’s footsteps and become teachers working in the Shelby County School District one day.
Emma Smith, a senior at the Shelby County College and Career Center, shared her experience of going from a struggling student with no clear path for her future to being the only high school student in the state to graduate as a fully licensed cosmetologist. After her graduation in May, Smith plans to pursue her associate’s degree in business at Jefferson State Community College and then open her own salon.
“When I came to the CCC as a sophomore, I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was struggling academically,” Smith shared with attendees. “Since my first day at the CCC I have been accepted and nurtured academically. I have thrived at the CCC.”
Oak Mountain High School senior Aleksandra Foksinska shared how she overcame being a shy, scared little girl who had recently immigrated from Poland and spoke no English when she started kindergarten at Inverness Elementary. She is currently taking seven Advanced Placement courses and will graduate in May as the valedictorian of her senior class. Foksinka plans to attend UAB this fall on a presidential endowed merit scholarship to study molecular biology.
“With the help of my teachers and peers, I felt welcomed,” Foksinska said of her experience as a student in Shelby County. “I felt that someone was always there, and someone was always watching out for me.”
Oak Mountain High AP Calculus Teacher Amanda Bittinger, who was named the Shelby County High School Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016, shared the various ways that the school district supports both students and teachers in their journey.
These supports include the district’s emphasis on professional development, professional learning communities, vertical teaming, and mentor programs for teachers. She also highlighted the programs for students including a focus on soft skills training, student lead conferences, peer helpers, learning targets, advanced placement classes, ACT prep, and transition programs. She also praised the Shelby County College and Career Center for preparing students through Career Technical programs that give them the skills to be successful regardless of whether they continue their education at the post-secondary level or go directly into the workforce.