Annual Showcase of Schools highlights success in the classroom

Published 7:03 am Friday, February 23, 2024

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ALABASTER – Leaning over to get a better look, Oak Mountain Principal Andrew Gunn and Alabama State Teacher of the Year Jeff Norris both listened intently as two students from Inverness Elementary School highlighted their heritage.

Originally from Japan, and moving back there soon, the two students showcased the different reading techniques between America and Japan and highlighted their heritage through visual learning and description.

This was one of many interactive booths set up at the annual Showcase of Schools on Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center—an event put on by Shelby County Schools and the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation each year.

“My heart is filled with gratitude today,” Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks said. “Just gratitude for you all being here, gratitude for our teachers and our students who have the opportunity today to share with you the things we feel like are important for them and their future.”

Throughout the morning, there were many similar setups to that of the group there from Inverness Elementary ranging from the young elementary students all the way up to those about to graduate high school.

For keynote speaker and Shelby County High School senior Sarah Elizabeth Shelton, the event brought back sweet memories from her first trip to the event back in 2017 as a fourth grader.

“I gave a speech about the seven habits of highly effective people and how the habits have granted me a paradigm shift regarding my perspective on how to treat others and myself in order to become the best version of me,” she said. “This was the day I realized how important it is to use your voice, but how equally vital it is to have adults who listen and amplify your voice.”

Now, seven years later, Shelton is poised to graduate and chase down a career in performing arts—her lifelong passion.

“Our school system is the teachers and not the institution,” she said. “I am so thankful to be a part of Shelby County Schools, but most of all, I am proud to have studied under such quality educators. I will move forward with a solid foundation of learning because of them. May we never forget the people who helped us pave our paths on the road to excellence.”

During this year’s event, similar situations to Shelton’s were on display as the next group of leaders showcased what inspires them and the passions they hope to pursue as well.

Helena High School students got to showcase their digital advertising techniques and thank Helena City Councilors Hewy Woodman and Alice Lobell for the TAG Grants used to purchase some of their equipment, leading to an engaging conversation.

Brooks and others got hands-on training from Calera High School students about 3D printing and the endless possibilities with a growing field.

Student athletes shared their opinions on the current state of high school athletics in the state, the balancing act it takes to be successful in the classroom and in their particular sport and how to take the next steps in chasing their dreams.

Elvin Hill Elementary students showcased their skills with distributive property and translating it to the medical field.

Chelsea High School students did a live painting that reflected the Japanese culture for the students from Inverness Elementary School.

Oak Mountain Intermediate School students and hopeful lawyers set up a mock trial booth and discussed with law enforcement officers from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Those were just a few of many shining examples from an eventful day featuring interactive experiences from each school in the district, while everyone also flocked to new Shelby County Schools facility dog Guava—a golden retriever.

Norris also hosted a roundtable with this year’s Teachers of the Year from Shelby County, including Calera High School’s Anna McEntire, Calera Middle School’s Chris Oravet and Oak Mountain Elementary School’s Jill Vaughn.

The group discussed the importance of education to them personally, but also the classroom and community where they hope to inspire the next group of leaders.

“There is so much power in the things that are happening in our classrooms around the state, but especially in Shelby County,” Norris said.

Each of the three educators touched on preparing the students for the future, community relationships and classroom comfort in not being afraid to take risks as key roles in education.

Those three aspects and the talents of the students in attendance throughout the program build off Shelby County Schools’ slogan of “Do Great Things.”

“This isn’t just a catchy slogan,” Brooks said. “It is a guiding principle that encapsulates the spirit of continuous improvement and striving for excellence both for our students and educators. It serves as a reminder that our journey in education is not a destination, but a constant pursuit of greatness.”

Brooks said the day served as an opportunity for the community and others in education to see the progress made and strides taken to strive for excellence.

“As we embark on this journey together, let us hold fast in the belief that by working collaboratively and supporting one another, we can truly do great things,” Brooks said. “May today serve as a reminder of the incredible potential within each and every one of us and may it in spire us to continue to drive for excellence in everything we do.”