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Understanding the Assignment

Crystal Flowers and Tomanekka Irving Are Leveling Up Fulton County Schools

A Lesson in Community

Crystal Flowers is a proud Spelman College alumna, who credits the university with opening her eyes to Black excellence, namely authors. Flowers, who serves as social studies coordinator for Fulton County, wants students to share this experience.

“We all rely on one another,” Flowers believes, noting that she ensures this message is delivered through various school programs such as Junior Achievement. A signature program, Junior Achievement is a financial literacy course providing students with hands-on practice in navigating a realistic budget via a shopping simulation. The program also educates students about real-world financial concepts such as the difference between services provided by banks and credit unions.

Another program, Hometown Heroes, entails community civil and public service personnel, including police officers, mayors, firefighters, and military service members, sharing about their daily duties. Students are encouraged to explore the various career paths for these positions.

Although many students and parents are enjoying the summer break, Flowers suggests a few assignments to complete:

Assignment 1: Determine your involvement: Parental involvement looks different depending on the school; parents can provide monetary donations or choose to give of their time through volunteering and acts of service.

Assignment 2: Venture outside: Visit local government offices and introduce yourself and your student to the people working there. Help students understand how they make decisions and how those decisions impact the community. For example, investigate how traffic lights are controlled during peak hours to minimize traffic blocks.

Assignment 3: Tour a museum: Check out the High Museum and/or the Carlos Museum to view the displayed artwork.

Bonus Points: Challenge someone: If you or your student have questions about a “fact,” be empowered to ask clarifying questions. Still don’t like the answer? Contact the Georgia Historical Agency for confirmation; the agency works with historians to determine factual information about events and locations.

Flowers also has a few assignments of her own this summer. In addition to summer school, she will be monitoring how the political climate might impact Georgia students as well as working to expand and protect the new African American Studies program. Finally, she will be gearing up for the next school year by expanding the Funding the Future program and partnering with the Secretary of State’s office to educate students about building generational wealth.

Learn more about Hometown Heroes at https://www.neighborhoodtv.com/vod/hometown-heroes-at-school-05-09-2023-north-metro-atlanta-ga.html.

Just Do It 101: Dare to Be Different

Oakley Elementary School has bragging rights of being the home school for the Elementary School Teacher of the Year 2023, Tomanekka Irving. An agricultural program teacher who recently completed her first full year, Irving was nominated by her peers and interviewed by a panel before being declared Teacher of the Year.

Irving shares that the opportunity to teach agricultural and sustainability has renewed her passion for teaching, noting that it was a blessing in disguise for her when the position became available. Agriculture students are introduced to possible careers in farming, veterinary service, soil science, and chemical engineering.  

Irving suggests a few lessons to complete before school is back in session:

Lesson 1: Laugh often. Irving starts each day with a joke; one of her favorites is “Why are sports stadiums so cold? Because they are always filled with fans!”

Lesson 2: Check out the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB). Collect stamps in a Farm Passport (gfb.org) from 90 participating farms in the GFB Certified Farm Markets program. Trips to these farms allow visitors to see where food is grown, meet farm animals, and talk to local farmers. It is an exciting experience to visit a working farm in person, and maybe even sample some farm fresh fare. During the school year, students can take virtual tours of farms.

Lesson 3: Face your fear. On any given day, Irving might be seen handling a bearded dragon, petting a rabbit, checking on a chicken, or solidifying her role as a beekeeper—she was once stung three times!

“You cannot call yourself a beekeeper unless you’ve been stung,” she notes. Although she is a pro now, she was not always as comfortable around small animals. For students who are apprehensive about working with small animals, Irving has a clever method—she places the student’s hand on her own while touching the animal. The student is always encouraged to move at their own pace, which works well for both students and animals.

Lesson 4: Shop at school. Oakley Elementary sells honey—that is correct! The school has their own honey, and this year it is flavored with a bit of lavender (due to the environment). The labels are designed by students, making this a true student enterprise. Shop on the school website: fultonschools.org/oakley.

Bonus Points: Dare to be different and try new things. Find that thing or things that make you happy. Go after your dreams now; there really is no better time. DO IT NOW!

This summer, Irving interviewed and wrote essays in hopes of receiving a district award; while she wasn’t declared a winner this time, she is not deterred. In fact, she plans to work even harder to expand agricultural programs to other schools. Irving says she wants incoming students to have more hands-on experience with animals and take on the responsibilities of building cages, feeding, and growing more food sources. The 2023-2024 school year is already on track to be an educational and sustainable experience.

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