January 30, 2018
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Since the beginning of the school’s existence, Walter Hill Elementary School’s mission has been to challenge every student to achieve academic excellence.
Now in her fifth year as principal at Walter Hill, Helen Campbell has been challenging her staff to continue the pursuit of that mission.
“We like to dream big,” said Campbell, who also has placed an emphasis on putting kids first, thinking outside the box, engaging kids, “and making them excited about learning.”
Campbell and her staff have worked hard as a team to provide their students “with opportunities not found elsewhere.”
One of those opportunities has been the Amazing Shake.
Heather Eskridge, a counselor at Walter Hill, spearheaded the program, which was inspired by the Ron Clark Academy, last year.
This year’s competition culminated Monday morning when Campbell and Eskridge announced to the entire school that the top two performers — Riley Sims and De’Shawn Miller — will be attending the national Amazing Shake event at Clark’s Atlanta-based academy in February.
When asked what she’ll remember most about the Amazing Shake, Sims said, “All the people I met and all the places I went.”
Walter Hill has hosted numerous guest speakers from the community.
Among them was Bill Taylor from Bushido School of Karate, who spoke to fourth- and fifth-graders about work ethic and business management, and Malissa Mayfield from MTEMC, who talked about business phone etiquette.
Throughout the past semester, students also learned interpersonal skills, customer service, resume skills and properly dressing for the job you want as opposed to the one you have.
They also took fieldtrips to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and the Tennessee Air National Guard.
“There’s such an interest in (developing) soft skills for kids because there’s such a deficit for people going out into the workforce,” said Eskridge, who asked. “Knowing it’s a deficit in our community, why isn’t everybody teaching soft skills?”
Last October, Eskridge teamed with Leah Bagwell to present a session regarding the Amazing Shake at the annual LEAD Conference and then again later that month at the Governor’s Conference. The two will host another Amazing Shake workshop at this year’s Governor’s Conference.
They talked about the benefits, how to connect with businesses and discussed the fact that fourth and fifth grades are capable of understanding how to create a resume.
Campbell said the program has been successful in building “confidence and skills in the classroom” that can ultimately be “applied out in the world.”
Students experienced real workplaces for three days last week.
After an all-day competition at school on Tuesday, the top 40 students traveled to Nashville on Wednesday. They visited Nissan Stadium and the Country Music Hall of Fame. On Thursday, the top 20 went back to Nashville to visit Bridgestone Arena and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.
The top 5 — Abi Funk, Ethan Adkins, Cooper Jernigan, Miller and Sims — were surprised to learn on Friday morning they were going to spend a couple hours at GoNoodle.
“We just screamed in the car,” said Funk, who was excited to visit the Nashville-based education and technology company that develops mobile apps and online videos focused on combining physical activity and interactive learning.
“That is true,” Sims confirmed, of their shrieking excitement.
GoNoodle co-founder Scott McQuigg told the group that studies have shown physical activity makes your brain ready to learn.
After quizzing McQuigg and touring the facility, which gave them an opportunity to meet and introduce themselves to everyone, the five finalists participated in one of two skits after which the top two students were chosen.
“What I saw today are real-world skills,” said McQuigg, who was impressed with their quizzical nature, curiosity, desire for discovery and willingness to learn. “Those are skills they’re going to need when they grow up and become young adults and look to create careers.”
McQuigg added, “There’s no doubt Walter Hill Elementary is doing amazing things for kids.”
“This is a real highlight for Walter Hill,” Campbell concluded.