New and old traditions

Published 4:37 pm Monday, August 23, 2010

Motivational speaker Dan Thurmon recently performed at Shelby County Schools’ Teacher Institute, which was held at the University of Montevallo for the county’s teachers.

As school began for teachers last week, the rush was on.  We had to ready our classrooms, make our copies, prepare our syllabi and take a half-day away from our schools and our campus meetings to return to an old tradition — Teacher Institute.

Traditionally, Shelby County’s Institute had teachers from all schools gathering for one large meeting.  My first Shelby County Schools’ Institute meetings were in Columbiana.

Through the years, the meeting moved to the newest, largest high school facility where we could gather.  Eventually, our numbers outgrew every Shelby County Schools’ facility and our group meeting consisted of a system video shared in our local schools.

This year, Shelby County returned to the tradition of a large group meeting at the University of Montevallo’s McChesney Student Activities Center.   Our speakers included Superintendent Randy Fuller, along with several familiar faces and old friends including Lewis Brooks and Larry Headrick.  Brooks said, “This has been the plan since last spring — for all of us to come together again.”

Teachers were also treated to a presentation by motivational speaker Dan Thurmon. The man juggles knives, rides a unicycle and does flips across the stage.  Delivering his inspiring message while he is flipping, cycling and juggling, this incredible multitasker even rides his unicycle while he juggles knives.

Leaving Thurmon’s presentation, teachers carry his energy.  Thurmon conquers incredibly difficult tasks and keeps adding layers of difficulty.   He urges us to view each addition of challenge as an opportunity to establish new patterns instead of viewing new challenges as additions to our duties.

Thurmon’s physical tricks take hours to perfect; yet, he’s willing to put in the needed time to master these skills.  As teachers, we know why — an audience will only hear your message if they’re engaged and attentive.

Pelham’s teachers are seeking new ways to engage students.  Rebecca Burnett’s Honors English freshmen students blog with an author from a summer reading book, writing classes create videos using music and photos telling the visual stories of their graduating classes, and English teacher Kara Ellis teaches literary elements by allowing students to present music clips that illustrate irony, personification and symbolism.

Patterns for the new school year emerge.  Reading and writing remain our focus.  Engaging students and holding their interest with new technologies and innovations is our daily challenge.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at