With a ‘clap, clap, clap’, and a standing ovation for new and returning employees, on Aug., 18 we kicked off Opening Day, with all 20 Waterloo Schools buzzing with anticipation.
“We are 1,700 strong,” the Director of School and Community Relations for the WCSD and MC for the morning, Akwi Niji said proudly.
1,700 Strong. What an excellent way to introduce the school year to our teachers and support staff who are here in our community to continue to pursue, discover, create, engage and innovate this academic year. Each person who works for the Waterloo Schools has the capabilities to make a lasting impact on each student that walks through the doors of their classroom.
Sue Flynn, President of the Waterloo Board of Education, said it best.
“Everyone in this room is an essential person for the Waterloo Schools, you are the boots on the ground and we are all leaders of our school's community. There are 1,700 leaders in this room.”
The Waterloo Schools Foundation was invited to attend and speak at Opening Day hosted in the West High Auditorium. For those who aren’t familiar, Opening Day is a Welcome Back Celebration for the Waterloo Schools and this year is one that the WSF will never forget.
“There are SO MANY great people doing great work in Waterloo. In fact, I’m standing in front of 1,700 of those very people this morning,” she said.
Luce went on to say that you cannot pour from an empty cup and we all have to work together in order to make a lasting difference for our students and staff members in the schools.
Not only did Luce speak about what WSF has to offer for our teachers, her role as a storyteller for public educators, and why she chose to stay in Waterloo post-graduation, but she also was a judge for our school's dance-off competition!
A big congratulations to Cunningham Elementary for winning by a FLIP on stage to impress all the judges; they received Try Pie goodies for every one of their staff members to use on a professional development day. WSF continues to preach about building relationships in the community and we couldn’t have treated our winners of the dance-off to a better business and supporter of the Foundation.
Following a dance-off between 20 different schools, of all levels would be a tough task to tackle. Staff members showed off their shopping cart skills, got on top of chairs, and waved their hands throughout the competition. We also witnessed a teacher doing the sprinkler. Again, what a bold way to shake things up this academic year and welcome our faculty back.
The laughter, hype, and excitement died down when Dr. Jared Smith, our Waterloo Schools’ new Superintendent, took the stage to speak - but the stillness in the auditorium only lasted for a few short moments until he shared his first pictures of his childhood growing up in Waterloo, poking fun at himself.
“This has been a lifelong dream of mine, to come back and be here with all of you today. All of us together have a chance to impact the community.”
As a former Kingsley, Hoover, and West High graduate, Smith has accomplished many things since stepping into his roles in the education profession. Throughout his keynote speech, he shared stories, pictures, and videos, all circling back to how every staff member matters and their moments with students can influence them for a lifetime.
“There are turning points and breaking points in our school experiences, every interaction with a student matters because they will remember,” he said.
Smith is all about retention and keeping people in the Waterloo schools; both staff, and students. Transitioning into a new position as a new year starts can be hard, but throughout Dr. Smith’s speech, his passion for the Waterloo community was evident. The crowd of teachers, support staff, the Board of Education for Waterloo, WSF, and
others members attending Opening Day could feel his energetic and positive emotions shine through.
He has had many successes in past schools, but starting now, Waterloo is the future. Smith hopes to continue bringing innovative ideas to all schools and continue working together, not only as a school district but as a community to ensure all students and staff feel supported.
In closing, MC Akwi Niji introduced this year’s academic campaign, ‘Be Bold’. Here in Waterloo, we are BOLD. Our students should take pride in being daring, creative, and bright. The standard of excellence has been set and will continue to do so as many projects, classrooms, students, and staff progress in the Waterloo Schools.
“Waterloo Schools is the bold choice. What you’re doing now, leads you to all different opportunities to be courageous. All it takes is the next bold step,” Niji said.
Opening day was a prime example of what it takes to be bold in Waterloo, and as a district, community, and the WSF, we don’t plan on stepping aside from our boldness anytime soon.