GREENBRIER — One of the biggest events of the year (besides opening day of school and graduation, of course) is the annual "Back-to-School-Breakfast" hosted by the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce.  

All the cafeteria workers from all the schools gathered at the junior high school dining hall to bake and cook for more than 300 teachers and personnel from all the schools in the Greenbrier School District. The Chamber of Commerce furnished all the foods. The gala atmosphere showed how eager these teachers were to see each other, renew old friendships, compare summers and talk about the coming year.  After breakfast, they were invited to tour the hallways where 30 Greenbrier businesses set up booths to display their items and offer teachers sign-ups for prizes that were later drawn in a raffle. Prizes inclcuded bouquets of flowers; Greenbrier Panther apparel — a hoodie, wind shirt and T-shirt; huge "goody" baskets that contained morning coffee starts and/or candy and/or school supplies; gift certificates for gasoline and restaurants; $100 gift certificates and many $50 and $10 gift certificates; donuts; mouse pads; flash drives; and more — all donated by the businesses in town.

When junior high coach Phil Golden won a $50 gift certificate to Cracker Barrel from Tim Tyler Survey & Mapping, the whole table of athletic men threw up their hands and whooped and yelled congratulations.  One of them later said, when asked why they cheered so loud, "We were just so happy to win something." Cheers went up for every prize winner as they were awarded, and all the teachers were most appreciative of the variety and generous bounty awarded them on their special day.

The halls where the business booths were set up were crowded; but one was even a line stopper. First Security Bank, with Shawn Johnston hosting, was playing "teal or no teal" with the teachers. Jessie Hartsfield was the "dealer" who opened the boxes each teacher chose from a teal colored board set up with 24 boxes in it. Their faces lit up, and all cheered when there was a special "teal" in the box. Prizes like mouse pads, chip clips, toothpick holders, tape measures and flash drives were instantly awarded.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laci Booth chaired the Chamber table handing out the new Greenbrier city maps and brochures. Chamber President John Patron who is also the marketing/sales representative with First Service Bank, helped his bank partners distribute bags so teachers could carry all their loot home.

A wide variety of the teaching programs in the district were represented in all the attending teachers. Christie Harper and Becky Atkinson, of Eastside Elementary, are both ABC teachers. This is known as Arkansas Better Chance for School Success, a program that gives an opportunity for pre-school children who do not qualify for pre-school or head start because those programs are based on income. They presently have 40 children enrolled in that program. Jeanne Kirkpatrick goes into homes to work with parents on how to teach their children in a program called HIPPY, Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters.

Superintendent Scott Spainhour had nothing but praise for the success of the Greenbrier School District and their high standings, based on the efforts of all their fine teachers. In his remarks, welcoming all the teachers back, he gave a short slide presentation of the academic standings compared to the previous two years. 

He said, "In looking at the student achievement data, it has to be about results. I don’t compare us to a state, county or region because we should be better and should score better. We should compare ourselves to ourselves to see our improvement or where we need to work better."

He showed slides of the Math benchmarks, comparing 2007, 2008 and 2009 years. Dramatic improvements were visible for third grade through eighth grade in spite of the terrific upheaval that happened to fifth graders last year.  He commented that those kids started at Eastside elementary, then moved to Westside elementary, and then to a new Wooster school.  In spite of that, great teaching and leadership gave them one of the highest improvements. 

He said, "It would have been very easy for a child to get lost with that many moves, but they did not."

The literacy graph showed the same kind of improvements bringing students into the 70 to 84 percentile proficiency. He pointed out that the higher the percentile gets, the tougher it gets to promote growth. "The struggle to teach kids is no longer content, but rather how to deliver that content in the classroom," he said.  

Strategies to improve teaching will include looking at team teaching and other teaching methods to improve them and to improve the use of technology as an instructional tool. He announced that a smart board and document camera will be placed in every classroom, starting at the elementary level as soon as the money, which flows in increments, is sent. By Spring, 2010, even the secondary level should all have those technologies.

The slides of the exterior model of the new middle school building were beautiful to see. A hard surface between the two buildings will eventually be made for basketball and other sports. In the future, a Fine Arts building is planned and they hope to break ground in late spring/early summer, 2010.

He then recognized Jeana Williams as District Teacher of the Year. She is the advanced placement calculus and pre-calculus teacher for 11th and 12th grades at Greenbrier High School and has been in the Greenbrier system since 2000, teaching everything from pre-algebra to AP calculus.  

Spainhour closed with a great big thank you for all the good work and fine efforts with kids. He reminded everyone of our teaching purpose, "To do whatever it takes to ensure the academic success of every student."  

He said, "Every club, every sport and everything we do should be geared to that."