Teachers can make a difference in the lives of students was the overriding message of Monday’s welcome back breakfast and spirit rally at Paso Robles High School.
The first day of school in PRJUSD schools was Thursday, Aug. 16. District teachers ushered in the start of their 2018-19 school year on Monday with the breakfast and spirit rally inside the Gil Asa Gymnasium at PRHS.
The spirited start to the school year has become an annual event since Superintendent Chris Williams was hired in 2014.
Two students who received a Paso Robles Joint Unified School District education spoke at the rally of more than 300 teachers and district staff.
“You are not just teachers,” said Maria Vargas, who graduated from PRHS in 2018 after first attending Lewis Middle School and is moving on to the University of California, Davis. “You guys are support systems, you are mother figures and father figures to your students. Do you guys know how much power you have in your hands? It’s amazing what you can do with a simple smile. So take initiative. Say, ‘Hello.’ And, make someone’s day. You might not even know this might be the connection this person needed to get involved.”
Vargas will be the first in her family to attend college, Williams said during her introduction. At PRHS, she had just above a 4.0 GPA, was a Top Cat award winner, completed two years in AVID, participated all four years in FFA and was the chapter president as a senior, and advanced to the state level of SkillsUSA in speech and early childhood education.
Mayer Pohlod, a 2015 PRHS graduate who is majoring in sustainability, journalism and communications at San Diego State University, pointed out several teachers throughout his time in the Paso Robles public schools system that impacted his life, especially when his mother and father divorced while he was entering Flamson Middle School.
“As you can imagine, a young kid going into middle school just having his parents divorce isn’t exactly the best recipe for success,” Pohlod said. “But because of the impact Flamson had on me, I think I did pretty OK.”
While at Flamson, Pohlod said there were teachers that would let him come into their classrooms, read and “just talk about and deal with whatever it was I was dealing with. They made an incredible impact on me.”
His mother, Nancy, has taught for nearly 30 years in the Paso Robles school district. Following his talk, he went up into the stands and gave his mother a big, long hug, much to the delight of the packed gymnasium.
“My mom is the biggest difference-maker in my entire life,” he said. “I don’t know what I would be doing or what I would be without her and I know she is the reason I am standing up here today.”
Williams thanked staff for helping him get through the tough loss of his mother during the last school year and reminded everyone of the importance of their job.
“Let’s be real for moment about what we are here for and what our passion and purpose is,” Williams said. “The importance and significance of every one of us, knowing we have the chance to be that caring adult in a child’s life, which can single-handedly change their path, single-handedly be the support that they need to be successful.”
The morning began with breakfast outside of the gym. Staff wore T-shirts in their respective school colors featuring positive slogans for the school year. Shortly after 8 a.m. Paso Robles High School cheerleaders formed two lines and cheered on the teachers as they made their way into the gym.
Inside, the schools were divided up into sections in the bleachers of the gym. Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by PRHS ASB President Marshall Wiesner and playing of the national anthem by the PRHS band, Williams introduced new staff, recognized the hundreds of years of service by returning staff, employees of the year for the district and went around the gym identifying each school.
As each of the 11 school sites was singled out they, whooped and hollered. Some waived homemade signs and others used thundersticks to make noise. The school deemed to have the best spirit throughout the morning received the perpetual Most Spirited Staff Trophy. Flamson Middle School walked away with the hardware this year.
The event also included routines from Paso Robles High School cheerleaders and a contemporary dance routine from the first-ever competition dance team at PRHS.
“Onward and upward to a great 2018-19 school year,” Williams said as the rally concluded.