Sunday, June 16, 2024

Get Schooled: A Fond Farewell

When I started “Get Schooled” in January 2010, I wrote about the one thing I believe keeps life from becoming boring: curiosity.

Curiosity has led me all over the Historic Triangle, into classrooms and auditoriums and living rooms and on one occasion, into the York River. I’ve loved learning about the inventive teachers commanding local classrooms, and having the chance to interact with brilliant young students has always made my day.

That’s part of why it’s so hard to say goodbye. This is my last column for Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, where I’ve spent nearly four years. I’ve worked in several corners of the state, and the Historic Triangle is truly unique in its can-do spirit and high level of engagement in education. It’s important to this community, and in turn, it became very important to me.

I never set out to become an education or municipal government reporter, but it has been one of the defining experiences of my life. I believe I found myself through this job, and discovered that great truth – everything is connected. This job taught me how to connect the dots, notice patterns and predict the ramifications of every decision made at a meeting or in a classroom.

This community taught me about graciousness. When I started, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily had just passed one year in business and had never had a full-time education reporter. Slowly but surely, I managed to meet so many passionate people who took the time to answer my questions, no matter how silly. You’ve taught me so much, and I know you’ll roll out the welcome mat for my replacement (we’re hiring!).

Throughout my schooling, I loved two subjects the most: English and art. When I pictured my future, it always involved some intersection of both. I imagined I would become a journalist who wrote about art, or a curator, or an art history teacher or an English teacher who sponsored the yearbook.

I studied English, fine art and art history at Christopher Newport University, and even though it’s dorky to admit, I secretly loved writing research papers about topics like Thomas Jefferson’s obsession with the Pantheon and Salvador Dali’s window displays at Bonwit Teller. I was the Arts and Entertainment Editor of The Captain’s Log, the student newspaper, and it set me on my course to pursue journalism.

Reading to kindergartners at Matthew Whaley Elementary School on Read Across America Day.

I hope that explains why I couldn’t resist an opportunity to work in community engagement at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News. It’s a job that combines my loves – community and art – and I hope you’ll all stop by and say hello!

I would be remiss not to thank some of the people who taught me how to be a journalist. Kim Lenz is easily the most supportive supervisor I’ve ever had, and values community above all else. She taught Desiree Parker and me to be incisive, respectful and tough when we needed to be. She has encouraged us in everything we do, including my next step.

But my journalism education began at home, with my dad, Jeff Lester. My dad has worked in newspapers since I was in first grade and to say he’s written about everything is a vast understatement. I’ve always taken for granted what a huge influence it is to have a journalist as a parent; I forget everyone didn’t grow up knowing when the Board of Supervisors met and when the press run started.

Visits to his office when I was little were completely sensory: clouds of cigarette smoke, teetering towers of yellowed newspapers on every surface, the rumble of the press below our feet, the smell of ink and the black fingertips left over after reading a fresh paper.  Everyone else’s offices just seemed boring by comparison.

He raised me to question everything, play devil’s advocate, treat everyone with respect, avoid burning bridges and to remember the sobering responsibility it is to write the first version of history. I could have never succeeded in this job without his influence.

Thanks to Kim, thanks to Dad and my heartfelt thanks to all of you. Get Schooled will continue, so please send all your school-related news and story ideas to wyd@wydaily.com!

WCA Travels Back to ’70s for Anniversary Party, Establishes Scholarships

Left to Right: Gwen Martin, Stephen Lentz and Jane Vaught. (Photo Courtesy of Williamsburg Christian Academy)

Williamsburg Christian Academy will celebrate its 35th anniversary by shaking its groove thang ’70s-style.

Costumes are encouraged at the anniversary party, which will be from 5 to 9 p.m. April 20 in the school’s backyard. WCA family and friends are invited to participate in a giant game of Twister, corn hole, ’70s-era crafts, music and dancing. Food will also be available. A surprise musical guest will perform.

WCA is also recognizing more than 20 years of service by establishing scholarships for Jane Vaught and Gwen Martin.

Vaught joined the staff as a first grade teacher 25 years ago. She currently serves as Head of Elementary School. The Jane C. Vaught Scholarship will be presented annually to an elementary school student who demonstrates Christian character, perseverance and academic merit.

Martin, who serves as Head of School, spent 10 years as a high school and middle school math teacher before assuming her current role a decade ago. She also led the first capital campaign, and continues to teach algebra. The Gwendolyn P. Martin Scholarship will be awarded annually to a middle or high school student who exhibits Christian character, perseverance and academic merit.

The scholarships were made possible through donations, and were announced as a surprise at the school’s annual Soar Like Eagles luncheon at the Williamsburg Lodge.

York, Jamestown Teams to Compete in Boat Design Contest

Teams from York and Jamestown high schools will compete April 27th in the 2013 SNAME Boat Design Competition at the Mariners Museum in Newport News.

SNAME – the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers – challenges area students to design sea-worthy boats using math and engineering skills. The finalists’ boats are built by the Newport News Apprentice School and compete in sea trials at the Mariners Museum park.

York will send Team Hamm Squade, made up of Justin Bredbenner, Jordan Snyder, Tony Row and Trey Ross, and Team Deck Hands, made up of Joe Daly, Kevin Mastracci and Ben Kempton. They’ll compete against Jamestown’s teams – Team Tug Life and Team Wrecked Them.

Learn more about the competition.

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