Oxford teachers start the year with festival atmosphere

Aug. 4—OXFORD — City students won’t be showing up for another week, but their teachers got an early start to the new school year Wednesday with a morning best described as their pep rally before they man their classrooms for the tasks ahead.

“The Institute 2022: On Target For Success” was the erudite title of the morning’s agenda and the knowledge disseminated was distilled into a simple message: The teachers of Oxford are appreciated, are supported and as a unified team, will successfully lead each individual student to the point of being well-equipped to tackle life’s challenges.

The appreciation began early as teachers were treated to a breakfast served by the Oxford City Schools Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization which raises funds to augment the educational experience of Oxford students.

Foundation executive director Judy Muncher called it “an honor” to serve the teachers.

“You are very, very important to the Foundation,” Muncher said. “You are important to our city. You are important to our schools. You are especially important to our students.”

Dr. Christy Shepard, Human Resource director and emcee of the morning, said the morning would be a “fun-filled day” and received the feedback of loud cheers of “Yes!” when she asked the group if they were ready to get started.

Mayor Alton Craft, Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory, Oxford Board of Education Chairman Dr. Tony Bolton, and Fire Chief Gary Sparks all gave brief comments thanking the teachers for their service and telling them they had the full support of the cities, the councils, the school board and the first responders.

“If you need a fire truck ladder to drop eggs from, we’ll gladly bring you the ladder,” Sparks said with a nod to one of the common science experiments done by students each year.

School Superintendent Dr. Shannon Stanley, an Oxford High School alumna serving her first full school year in the title role, said she and the administrative staff had “heard you” when year-end surveys completed by teachers were reviewed over the summer months.

“This is my favorite day of the school year, especially this year,” Stanley said. “I get to stand in front of my ‘family’ and I’m home. I am so excited about that.”

She acknowledged the presence of so many city officials noting “they are committed to helping us have the best environment for our children.”

“They want to see our children thrive and flourish because a strong school system makes a strong city,” Stanley said.

She told the teachers they needed to know “how much you are appreciated and loved.”

Stanley also gave a special welcome to the district’s newest teachers — a welcome that came two days after Shepard reported to the school board all of the teaching posts have been filled for the upcoming school year.

“You made a great decision,” she said. “We love having you as part of the Jacket family.”

Stanley also thanked those returning saying, “We want to keep you here and please keep the communication lines open with us.”

Stanley described eight major target areas for the school district this year: creating a safe environment; clear and consistent communications; building relationships and focus on the whole child as the owner of their learning; tiered instruction/academics for all; expanding career pathways; supporting the development and retention of teachers; technology integration as a tool for learning; and developing and maintaining high quality athletics and extra-curricular programs.

“We are working on these and it is a work in progress,” Stanley told the teachers. “You are going to be the group that drives us forward because we need your feedback.”

Stanley gave a final “Go Big O!” and gave way to Dr. Vincent Windrow of Middle Tennessee State University who used humor to motivate the teachers with a talk entitled “All of Us For All of Them.”

The teachers then went outside to enjoy a row of food trucks and some cornhole competition. They’ll enter their classrooms on Thursday to begin in-service work.

Oxford’s public school students will return to class on Aug. 10.

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