School is back in session, but before school started, Institute Day was held for all teachers and administrators of the St. Clair County School System.
Last week at Bethel Baptist Church, the sanctuary was filled with teachers ready to go back to the classrooms to teach young, eager minds.
St. Clair Schools Superintendent Jenny Seals said the institute was a huge success.
“One of our goals at Institute is to highlight the excellence in our county,” Seals said. “In this, we recognized some our current teachers and students and also teachers and students who have been through our system who are leading successful and productive lives. Our speakers are there to challenge and inspire our administrators and faculty. In preparation of the agenda, I was fully aware of our speakers and their topics, but was even more blessed by their comments after hearing them speak. Institute is more than just a requirement for our people. It is an opportunity to challenge them for the upcoming year and encourage them to “Be the Best That They Can Be” and to make a difference in every life that that they touch. I believe the 2012 Institute was an inspiration to all who attended.”
Levi Dorsett, a student at St. Clair County High School and president of Saints for Christ, led the Pledge of Allegiance, scripture reading and prayer. Shelby Hicks, a student at Odenville Middle School, sang the national anthem.
Performing a couple of songs was Odenville’s Todd Simpson, who graduated from St. Clair County High School five years ago. Playing alongside Simpson was his dad, Wes Simpson.
After playing one song, the elder Simpson, who coached and taught for 29 years in the St. Clair Schools System, shared with fellow teachers what life had been like for his son, who was born with pulmonary atresia.
That is a form of heart disease that occurs from birth, in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly.
At 1-day old, Todd had major open-heart surgery at UAB.
By the time Todd celebrated his third birthday, he had already spent 767 days in the hospital.
Wes Simpson shared with the educators how difficult school was for Todd, and how some teachers tried to make Todd “fit inside the box.”
“I’m here to tell you that every student will not fit inside a box,” Wes Simpson said. “I am so thankful to Jenny Seals, who was Todd’s first principal, and Jan Bailey, Todd’s first-grade teacher. They accepted Todd for who he was. It didn’t matter he never learned to read. He can’t read music, but he is a very successful musician because he plays the guitar in colors. He might not be able to read, but he has written over 200 songs, all in his head.”
Odenville Elementary School second grade teacher Jan Hamrick said Institute this year was one of the best she has attended in her 16 years of teaching.
“The purpose of this day is to inspire and motivate teachers to get ready for the new school year,” Hamrick said. “I had two former students who participated in Institute Day. Shelby Hicks sang the National Anthem beautifully, and Levi Dorsett inspired everyone with his words.”
Hamrick said the talent of Todd Simpson was remarkable and the words of his father, Wes, were very moving.
“This year I believe the tables were turned,” Hamrick said. “The teachers learned more from the students, and it got us all excited about the upcoming year.”
Guest speaker was Lt. Col. Cindy Eskridge, who is the senior Army instructor over the JROTC program at SCCHS.
Eskridge shared with those in attendance how she was the Battalion Commander of 250 soldiers in Afghanistan for one year in 2004-05.
“It was a huge responsibility,” she said. “I was responsible for what they did and what they didn’t do. I served in the military for 22 years. I’m basically going to share with you today 10 simple rules — the foundation of teamwork. These 10 rules have served me well through my military career and through life.”
The 10 simple rules were:
• Positive mental attitude. Get one!
• Team first.
• Quit taking things personally.
• No excuses.
• Don’t blame anyone else.
• Build your teammates up. Do not tear them down.
• Perform one random act of kindness every day.
• You have three seconds to revel in the glory of a great play. You have three seconds to get over a mistake.
• Give credit where credit is due.
• Live in the now.