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Fayetteville teachers prepare to switch campuses for grade shift

by Brenda Bernet | June 11, 2015 at 12:02 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Ramay Junior High teacher Magan Randall was fine -- until the moment she turned in her school key.

She was composed when she handed in her key last week, but tears came when she saw her key immediately given to the teacher taking over her classroom.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry," she said. "I felt like I was going to handle this in stride."

Teachers and students across Fayetteville campuses are preparing for a grade shift in August that coincides with the completion of a five-year, $96 million transformation of Fayetteville High School.

Randall is among 77 certified staff members, primarily teachers, who will work on a different campus for the 2015-16 school year because the district is realigning grade levels on its campuses. They comprise 11 percent of the district's certified staff, spokesman Alan Wilbourn said.

Fifth-graders will attend middle schools instead of elementary schools. Seventh-graders will be junior high school students instead of middle school students. Freshmen will join sophomores through seniors at the high school, bringing the high school's enrollment to about 2,500 students.

Teachers are packing up their rooms and offices, a process that hasn't only forced them to part with old lesson plans, but also has brought back memories of former students and important milestones in their lives. Some teachers are finished, while others continue to fill boxes.

Moving to high school

Randall loved teaching Ramay's eighth-granders and freshmen to cook and sew in her family and consumer sciences courses, but with the freshmen moving to the high school, Randall decided to go with them.

She downsized some but fit what was left from 10 years of teaching at Ramay into 41 boxes. She sorted through old college notebooks and examples of student projects she saved. She packed up sewing machines, bobbins, threads, pots and pans and colanders. She enjoyed finding wallet-sized school pictures students had given her.

Randall saved her name plate from Ramay and hung it in a shadow box in her new classroom at the high school.

"That's just been my home," Randall said. "That was my very first job out of college."

While she's sad to say goodbye to Ramay, Randall is confident in the teacher replacing her. She's excited about joining the high school faculty, she said. She's also started collecting new Fayetteville High School gear including a T-shirt and mug.

Cincy Mathis, a Woodland Junior High School teacher, will join Randall at Fayetteville High School. Mathis is leaving Woodland after 18 years. She taught English for the first 16 years before becoming an instructional facilitator two years ago. She trains teachers on strategies for teaching reading and writing.

She will have the same job at the high school.

Mathis said she's not a sappy person, but she remembers celebrating many personal milestones during her career at Woodland, including getting married and having four children. Her oldest child, Elise, finished ninth grade at Woodland this year and will be a sophomore at the high school in August. Mathis's twin girls will be seventh-graders at Woodland, and her youngest child will be a fourth-grader at Root Elementary.

"I will never truly leave Woodland," Mathis said. "This building has made me the teacher that I am."

Planning for the move seemed to accelerate in May, Mathis said. She had a loose goal of packing a box a day and on June 5 stared at the first 20 boxes in her office, knowing she had more work to do.

While packing, she was excited to find old pictures of students, puzzled by a giant bag of coins she found and amused to find multiple boxes of staples, an office supply she was always looking for, she said.

She's like many teachers who hang onto old lesson plans, she said. She has electronic versions of her favorites, but tossed some of the paper copies stored in binders, including a five-week poetry unit. Mathis remembers how reluctant her students were to learn poetry at first but gradually changed their minds, especially when they used music to explore tone and mood in poetry.

"That's what's hard is throwing those lesson plans away," Mathis said. "You feel like you're throwing who you are away. I created this. I taught this. This is what my English class looked like."

Mathis appreciates efforts the high school staff has made to plan for a smooth transition for teachers and students, she said. She looks forward to working with teachers on designing lessons that take advantage of new types of spaces designed for learning at the high school.

"There's so many things that are going to be new," she said.

Following students

Owl Creek seventh-grade teacher Bridgette Davis has taught at Owl Creek for three years of her 10-year career. Her campus is on a different calendar, putting her last day on Friday. She teaches seventh-grade math, keyboarding and literacy interventions.

She wanted to continue teaching seventh-graders and chose to move to Ramay to teach math. Her seventh-graders from this school year will be eighth-graders at Ramay.

"We are all moving up together," she said.

But Davis didn't want her students to think the school year was ending early, so she's waiting until the last day of school and the following weekend to pack.

"It's going to take me awhile to go through it all," she said. "Luckily the district is supplying the labor of moving boxes for us."

By June 5, Lisa Snyder's fifth-grade classroom at Butterfield Trail Elementary was devoid of all zebra print and was a shell of the learning jungle she had once created. Instead, a pile of 55 boxes sat against one wall waiting for movers.

"I started with the cabinets," said Snyder, who has taught at Butterfield Trail for nine years. "I emptied every one of the cabinets and the drawers. The kids helped me the last day. The hard part was going through all the file cabinets."

Snyder had done most of the packing the weekend prior to the last day of school for students, which was June 3, so she could enjoy the last few days with her students. She was emotional sitting in her classroom by herself going through things she had saved from her teaching career.

Snyder had a hard time throwing away a math game she spent hours making during her first year at Butterfield Trail when she taught kindergarten.

But Snyder wanted to continue teaching older students, and the transition provided an opportunity to teach sixth-grade math at McNair Middle School in August.

"I'm excited about getting to teach a subject that I love," she said.

Despite a flood of emotions at the end of her run at Ramay, Randall looks forward to seeing her former Ramay students at the high school in August when she starts unpacking and preparing her classroom for the first day of school.

"My students are excited," she said. "Getting to move with kids has been a lot easier."

NW News on 06/11/2015

Print Headline: Fayetteville teachers prepare to switch campuses for grade shift

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