Taylors Creek Elementary students are learning valuable life lessons about beauty, respect and perseverance — but the teachable moments are coming from the community outside of campus.
Baconton Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Hermon Scott kicked off the school’s African-American history celebration Tuesday when he read to a kindergarten class. More than 20 representatives from government, education and other industries will visit the school to impart their wisdom through Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Paraprofessional Gwen Star is coordinating the engagement portion of the observance, which will culminate Feb. 28 with an assembly featuring author and speaker Stephen Peters followed by a Freedom Walk around campus.
Wednesday morning speakers included author and newspaper columnist Edith Anderson and Diane Cooke, mother of TCE teacher Dennis Cooke.
Cooke knelt as she read Laban Carrick Hill’s “Dave the Potter,” which is about a pottery-making slave, to Maureen Jenkinson’s second-grade class. She made it a sensory experience by passing around a clay jar that students could examine as she read the story and displayed illustrations of the character’s hands kneading clay on the wheel.
Students oohed and ahhed as both women read.
“It’s just simple books that have powerful meaning to it,” Anderson said, recalling that she and several other members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were recruited by Star — also a member — to participate. They compared notes on their book topics.
Anderson made points in the story relevant by asking students how they could relate to the book “Something Beautiful” by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. The key point she wanted to relay to Katie Purvis’ second-grade class is that they seek to find beauty.
“There’s always something beautiful, and the whole time, it’s up to us to pick that beauty out and to focus on that as opposed to focusing on all the negative things,” she said.
Classmates Kennedi Bell and Keagan Toole said they enjoyed the sensory experience that came with the story time.
“People coming in and reading a book to us, it’s kind of cool and fun,” Keagan said.
Other guest readers, such as Lee Herrin and Wyman May, will tell local stories about the Taylors Creek community and its 1940s school life, according to TCE Principal Debbie Rodriguez.
While the lessons have broad appeal and implications to all students, the event is oriented around influential African-Americans and their contributions to history.
“If you don’t know your history, then you really don’t know where you come from …,” Anderson said. “Really, it’s something that should be celebrated every day and not just set aside for a particular month. There should be something celebrated on a day-to-day basis because we should be proud of who we are, no matter what race we are.”