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Racing toward the school year

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Local educators re-create ‘The Amazing Race’

By Deb Hurley Brobst

Two schools, an “Amazing Race” game and one goal: getting teachers and staff prepared for the 2013-14 school year.

Playing a game might not sound like the typical way to get educators ready for teaching, but for Evergreen High School and Evergreen Middle School, it’s a fitting start to the new year. Who says staff development can’t be fun?

Teachers and administrators each played a game fashioned after the television show “The Amazing Race.” The games were different in terms of the challenges the groups at each school faced, but staff members got reacquainted, worked together and laughed in the team-building exercises.

The fun activities at both schools started in 2011 when former EHS principal Matt Walsh instituted a new perspective on before-school meetings. Two years ago, he created a miniature golf game around EHS to acquaint teachers with all parts of the building, and last year the staff participated in a school version of the Olympics.

This year, without consulting with each other, both schools created their own version of “The Amazing Race.”

At EHS, several staff members planned the activity, because incoming principal Ryan Alsup said he turned over the event to people more creative than he is. He said he’s never been at a school where an entertaining activity was built into the returning-to-school regimen.

“It’s fun,” said Alsup, who participated in the six stops at EHS. “It’s a great way to bring the staff together. It’s a great way to begin the school year.”

At EHS, the office staff and administration divided into two groups on Friday to play the game. The faculty participated on Monday afternoon.

Joelle Broberg, the new principal at EMS who formerly was an assistant principal at EHS, tied in the school’s new mission and vision statements with some of the seven stations during the school’s event.

The school’s accountability council had approved both statements — one that explains what the school does now and the other that explains the school’s goals —in May, and Broberg wanted to make sure teachers embraced the statements’ ideals.

The teachers divided into seven teams on Monday morning and made their way to seven stops.

“I wanted to do something fun,” Broberg said, “that was also team-building to set the stage for working collaboratively this school year.”

Teachers and staff members at both schools said they enjoyed participating in the games.

“This is what makes us a good staff,” EHS registrar Linda Hatcher said. “It’s not the tasks themselves, but it’s the team building and the camaraderie it builds among the staff.”

EMS assistant principal Lori Perry-Crumrine said the games allowed staff members to do something relaxing before the real work of the school year starts.

EHS’s version of the game

At EHS, educators performed stunts both inside and outside the building. At Collin’s Peace Pond on the west side of the school, a team member put on waders and walked into the pond to retrieve a plastic duck.

School counselor Merrie Desormier and assistant principal Bernie Hohman both donned waders and walked into the slimy pond water for their teams.

Hohman suggested after his daring escapade that he had risked life and limb for his team — and a possible dunk in the murky water — all in good fun, of course.

At other stations, they caught marshmallows in their mouths, dressed in Cougar spirit wear and sang the school song, and walked to Evergreen Lake to snap photos in swim paraphernalia.

Some administrators learned a thing or two about themselves throughout the experiences.

Assistant principal Jim Jackson learned that he’s not very good at catching marshmallows in his mouth, but his teammates were supportive nonetheless as he kept trying until he succeeded.

Others learned that they didn’t know the melody for the school song, but they made up for it in enthusiasm.

EMS’s version

The seven stations that EMS teacher teams went to combined activities — indoor fly-fishing, dancing, rock-wall climbing, apple juice pong and a team photo in goofy costumes — with more serious fun. In the art room, the teams created sculptures that depicted the school’s mission and vision statements. They also played a trivia game where they matched staff members with little-known facts about them.

“I chose ‘The Amazing Race,’ ” Broberg explained to the faculty, “because we have amazing students, staff and school, and it will be an amazing adventure this year.”

Teams acquired jigsaw puzzle pieces at each of the seven stations, and then they had to put the puzzle together. What the teams learned, Broberg said, is the seven individual puzzles were part of a whole, so the teams had to work together as a large group to put the final puzzle together — similar to how they work to educate students every day.

As eighth-grade science teacher Lizz Lincoln’s group took on the climbing-wall challenge in the gymnasium, participants laughed, cheered and provided encouragement as they took turns making the climb.

Eighth-grade math teacher Rachel Ullrich was the first to ascend as her teammates discussed how none of them had ever climbed a rock wall like this. They cheered and applauded as Ullrich quickly made it to the top and rang a bell.

“This is a lot of fun, actually,” Lincoln said. “It’s neat for us to get into groups and do these simple challenges. It was fun to laugh with each other and at ourselves.”

EMS mission statement

The Evergreen Middle School community, comprised of students, staff and parents, pledges to: 

• Provide a safe and respectful environment where responsibility and integrity are key values;

• Inspire students to achieve high standards, foster individual passion and creativity, instill an appreciation for life-long learning, and honor individual potential in a diverse academic setting;

• Cultivate critical thinkers capable of adapting to future challenges including technological innovations.

EMS vision statement

Evergreen Middle School believes that all students have the right to a high-quality education by providing a stimulating and differentiated learning environment that fosters valuing diversity in our school community; having pride and respect for self and surroundings; and developing personal responsibility. We will continue to nurture relationships between students, staff, parents/guardians and community.