Editor’s Note — This is the fourth in a five-part series showcasing each of the five Highland County public school districts from a teacher’s perspective as they kick off another school year.
What will the world be like in 2026 and 2030?
For Kelly Woods and Heather Carraher’s students at Lynchburg-Clay Elementary, it will be the year they graduate from high school.
Angela Godby is in her second year as principal at the elementary school, though she’s been an educator for 21 years.
“We run the gamut from the little ones who are learning their numbers and the alphabet,” she said, “to the fourth and fifth graders who are learning to be young adults.”
Lynchburg-Clay Elementary has grades pre-K through fifth, and Godby’s goal with the new school year is to see students learning in a confident environment.
It’s an attitude reflected by Carraher, who teaches first grade and is in her 13th year.
“I want them to be happy learners in the classroom, and to be engaged in their learning,” she said “It’s important for them to establish a routine so they can transition from kindergarten to first grade.”
Carraher started teaching because she loved working with children, and while at college she worked at a child care center.
That love for teaching is shared by fourth grade teacher Wood, who has been at Lynchburg-Clay for 22 years.
“I loved school and had really good teachers growing up, and I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl,” she said.
Woods’ fourth grade class has is required to complete state testing, which can be intimidating at times.
“I don’t teach to the test,” she explained. “But what I’ll do is find ways to arrange the curriculum so that you can both prepare them for the tests and teach as well.”
As an administrator, Godby agrees with Woods’ philosophy.
“We want to make sure all the kids have a challenging curriculum,” she said, “and we try to make it more challenging by adding more layers to the subject so the student will start thinking deeper.”
Gone are the days of memorizing facts, figures and dates.
“We get more into the ‘why’ and ‘what happened,’ what was the motivation behind the event,” Woods noted.
There are many challenges facing students in today’s world and the Lynchburg-Clay school district is no different.
“A big challenge that I see for students is mental health,” Godby said. “We see more and more students even at this young age with issues, ranging from something that’s happening at home to what they see on TV.”
Godby added that between video games and social media, it’s sometimes more than their young minds can handle.
“Something as simple as a child making a gun with their thumb and index finger, in today’s school environment we just don’t tolerate it anymore,” she said.
Something else that isn’t tolerated is the foul language freely used in today’s society, and it’s trickled down to her elementary students.
“We have little ones who get in trouble for using it at school,” Godby said. “And then we call home and find out firsthand where they heard it from — mom and dad.”
Godby summed up her teachers’ efforts by adding “we try to teach them to be kind, responsible and respectful.”
Another big concern, especially for a rural district like Lynchburg-Clay, is keeping up with advancing technology.
“Keeping up in a rural setting is a huge challenge,” Carraher said. “I don’t even have Internet at my house.”
It’s a problem that is prevalent in smaller, rural districts across the country.
“There are so many resources out there online that my students don’t have access to,” Carraher explained. “And kids in our district can’t access these things because where they live, it just isn’t there.”
Carraher said that there is Wi-Fi Internet in Buford, but just three miles away at her home, the Internet genie is still in the bottle.
“There is a discrepancy between our students,” Woods added. “In a small city like Hillsboro, Internet is right at your fingertips, but out here, because of where they live or can’t afford it, they don’t have it.”
Technology aside, another issue that concerns all three educators is students that show up for class unprepared — and it is not the kids’ fault.
“We get a lot of students who come in with no school supplies,” Carraher said. “And it’s sad, but some of them haven’t even had breakfast.”
Lynchburg-Clay has attacked that problem with its Ready Fest project, a community-funded program that helps students get prepared before school starts.
Every student, regardless of income, can sign up and get clothing, supplies, a backpack and used books. The program even provides laundry detergent and hygiene supplies.
“The whole idea is for the kids to come to school ready,” Godby said.
Getting and keeping the student prepared as the school year gets underway should be a partnership between the parents and teachers.
“Consider joining the PTO and really get involved with your school,” Godby encouraged. “The best thing parents can do is build a relationship with us, regardless of what their past school experience was.”
Woods recommended establishing good routines at home as the school year starts.
“As a teacher and a mom, make sure they go to bed at a good time and that they have a quiet place to do their homework,” she said. “And be encouraging, even if your time in school wasn’t the greatest part of your life.”
“Your little ones are learning how to play together and share, and then you have Kelly’s fourth and fifth graders trying to fit in, and having their first crushes in the process,” Carraher said.
Godby had the following advice for parents at the start of the school year.
“Communicate with us, tell us about your kids,” she said. “You know them better than anyone and together we can make their time in school rewarding and enjoyable — both now and when they graduate.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.