AFT middle school tour speaks volumes in Charleston, W.Va.

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Randi Weingarten at Stonewall Jackson MSAFT state and national officers chat with students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston, W.Va.

Stonewall Jackson Middle School hosted a festive celebration of literacy and learning on Dec. 16 when local, state and national AFT officers toured the Charleston school along with representatives from First Book, a national nonprofit organization that puts reading material in the hands of children in need.

The AFT has partnered with First Book to provide new books to students at Stonewall Jackson and one of its feeder elementary schools, along with school grants to purchase more volumes. Plans are under way to involve the school in an AFT Innovation Fund grant to help revitalize the city’s neighborhoods through “community schools”— buildings that offer a range of health, social and other services to children and their families. Stonewall Jackson also has been designated as a five-year community development school pilot program by the state Legislature.

AFT president Randi Weingarten, AFT-West Virginia president Judy Hale and Jackee Long, president of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, joined local school leaders to observe an interactive lesson on world religions in sixth-grade teacher Sonja Davison’s classroom and also sat in on exercises in range, median and mode led by sixth-grade teacher Misti Assaley. The mathematics teacher said she was able to hook some students into the discipline by appealing to their love of sports and the prospect of “someday being a statistician.”

student at Stonewall Jackson MSStonewall Middle School students like Dahkari Eubanks received free books during the school visit.

The tour ended in the school media center, where students were assembled to receive free books they had selected days before. Stonewall Jackson school librarian Heather Mottesheard was beaming throughout the event and said the book distribution will help build on a new summer reading initiative that the school rolled out in 2011. “When you give children their own books, something that’s really theirs to keep, it’s just amazing to see how invested they become in a desire to read it.”

“It’s just better reading something you can hold,” noted seventh-grader Maddie Plutro, who said she loves adventure stories and plots “that are going to surprise you.”

And books will always stand head and shoulders above television because “you don’t have to sit through commercials,” added seventh-grader Dahkari Eubanks. [Mike Rose/photos by Bob Bird]

December 21, 2012