ROGERSVILLE — One theme that was repeated over and over during Wednesday morning’s Reward School celebration at Hawkins Elementary School was the importance of teamwork.
Principal Barry Bellamy said he’s been proud of the accomplishments of every school he’s served during 32 years in education, but what students and faculty accomplished in 2018 “is another level.”
“I don’t believe I can put in words how proud I am of our school for being recognized as a Rewards School,” he said. “One thing I want to make clear to everyone here, this is not about me. It’s about the school, and while I believe I did my job, the lion’s share of the credit for this honor we’re receiving today goes to our teachers, our assistants, our students, our cafeteria workers, our custodians and our parents. It’s a team effort, and I believe 99 percent of the credit goes to those folks.”
HES was one of four schools in the Hawkins County system to be named a Reward School by the Tennessee Department of Education in 2018. Only 20 percent of the state’s public schools achieved that status.
A teacher’s perspective
It was also the first time HES achieved the honor, and HES teacher Dawn Vodenik admitted that it caught the faculty by surprise.
Vodenik spoke during Wednesday’s ceremony on behalf of the teachers, noting that Bellamy tricked them into thinking they were in trouble during a surprise morning staff meeting, only to be informed of the Reward School honor.
“We were excited,” Vodenik said. “Some of us started cheering. Some of us had to stop and process it for a minute to understand the news that he had just told us. We were really excited and couldn’t believe our ears. And then he said, ‘Oh by the way, I’ve told you this great news, but you can’t tell anyone.
“I know our teachers, staff and our students are the best here at Hawkins Elementary. I’ve often heard teachers, when I walk by their classroom, telling their students they are the best class at Hawkins Elementary. Now I really feel these students believe they are the best.”
A student’s perspective
Fifth-grader Braxton Markham offered a student’s perspective about the Reward School accomplishment.
He said he asked his classmates to tell him who they think helped them the most to succeed in school.
“I got several answers from them such as our principal, teachers, assistants, parents and even fellow students,” Markham said. “This shows it takes a group effort to succeed. With everyone working together, we can accomplish many things.”
Kudos from the Board of Education
School board member Jackie Charles, who represents HES in District 5, congratulated teachers, faculty and especially students, whom she also praised for their attentiveness and good behavior. As a reward, she gave them permission to get rambunctious for a moment and applaud themselves for a job well done.
“You make me and all the citizens of Hawkins County proud,” Charles said. “We want you to continue the good work because we all know we work better together.”
A banner day for HES
Following a musical performance of “Simple Gifts” by the fourth grade class, Director of Schools Reba Bailey unfurled a “Reward School” banner, which will hang in the gym.
Rep. Gary Hicks, who also happens to be a Hawkins Elementary alumnus, then presented Bellamy with a Tennessee House of Representatives proclamation signed by Speaker Beth Harwell congratulating Hawkins Elementary for achieving “the top distinction a school can earn in Tennessee.”
Hawkins County Schools had four Reward Schools in 2018. Clinch School held its celebration Wednesday afternoon, and the Times News will recap that event later this week.
Carters Valley Elementary will hold its Reward School celebration Nov. 20 at 8:30 a.m., and Mount Carmel Elementary will celebrate its fourth Reward School achievement on Nov. 28 at 8:30 a.m.