VALDOSTA — A twist. 

At the Valdosta City Schools convocation, students gave their teachers advice to inspire them for the new school year.

Their message: impact a student this year, even if it’s just one.

“As we prepare for the new school year, I wanted to tell you what an important job you have,” said Ella Clark, Sallas Mahone fourth grader. “I know we students may not always act right, and can sometimes be rowdy, but we are worth the investment you make in us.”

Clark was joined by Valdosta Early College Academy middle schooler Michael Ferguson and Valdosta High School student Albert Holmes in giving inspirational speeches to their teachers, some who have even taught them once or twice before.

The students recounted times they had been in the classroom with some of the teachers sitting in front of them in the Valdosta High School gymnasium.

“In fifth grade, I was taught to never give up, no matter what life throws at you,” Ferguson said. “One teacher taught me this during my fifth-grade talent show when I froze up. She talked to me, gave me courage and told me to go up there and do my best — I did just that.”

Holmes even took the opportunity to thank others in the building, such as the school administrators, coaches and other staff.

“Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students,” Holmes said.

To get the educators even more excited about the school year, Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason gave them some facts about where the city schools are now.

For instance, the district has been able to give raises to all employees, their test scores have increased in levels three and four and it is already looking like the Valdosta High School graduation rate could increase to 88 percent.

“The needle is moving,” Cason said. “In order for the needle to continue moving, our students need you to commit to staying with them. Commit to being a Wildcat for more than a year or two. Let VCS be your home until retirement. Our students need consistency, and our students need you.”

The hour-and-a-half-long ceremony celebrating educators ended with a giveaway of cash prizes, gift certificates and even a television. Most of the gift items were donated by local businesses, Valdosta Board of Education members and even the superintendent.

More than 8,500 students and the teachers sitting in the bleachers at convocation returned to VCS campuses Thursday.

Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.

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