By Jessica Farrish
Tuesday was a morning of music, applause and awards at Shady Spring Middle School, as West Virginia first lady Joanne Tomblin and other state and national dignitaries honored the faculty and students for winning the West Virginia History Bowl this year.
“It seems like there’s something magical at this school, with all the awards you seem to be winning,” said Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh. “I think it’s a combination of the students (and) your willingness to pursue an education, your parents working with you and the leadership of the school.”
SSMS students took home the same trophy in 2010.
Sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the History Bowl focuses on teaching West Virginia history to eighth-grade students.
It ends in an academic bowl competition that focuses on West Virginia history, literature, arts, architecture, geography and culture.
The 2013 History Bowl champs — Peyton Michaels, Ryan Young, Kristen Miller and Rachel Carrico from Team 1, and Luke Keaton, Tristen Nesmith, Shade Varney and Garrett Basham from Team 2, along with alternate Ty Smith — were honored with a traveling trophy and a permanent one to keep in the SSMS trophy case.
SSMS computer technology teacher Melody Cox coached the History Bowl teams. Tomblin said the SSMS students were “inspirations to others in West Virginia and the entire nation.
“There is a wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the end of the school year,” said Tomblin. “While I’m sure you are all looking forward to your summer, I hope you’ll also be excited about returning to school in the fall.
“The governor and I are so proud of you,” she added. “We hope that what you have learned stays with you through the years.
“We cannot move forward without knowing about our past.”
Beckley Area Foundation Executive Director Susan Landis, who also serves as chair of the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and as a delegate to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, introduced Tomblin as a “leader in her own right.” “It is not something that happened just by marriage, and the fact that her husband is the governor,” said Landis. “She has been involved in education for years; she is important in the areas of education and the arts.
“She understands that the arts are not just a frill, that we need creative problem-solvers, creative thinkers, skills that are developed through the arts, to solve problems and take advantages of opportunities,” said Landis. “She is a believer of integrating the arts into our curriculum.”
Tomblin is president of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
Raleigh Schools Superintendent Dr. James Brown praised SSMS principal Gary Nichols, SSMS teachers and parents.
“It’s like every competition was made just for you guys,” Brown quipped. “In four years, you guys have won it twice, right?
“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Success is not a path you follow, but a trail you blaze,’” said Brown. “SSMS exudes every one of those qualities.”
Delegate John O’Neal, R-Raleigh, encouraged students to take advantage of every opportunity.
“Put out the best effort you can in class each day,” he said. “You make the most of your opportunities in the school.”
The Shady Spring Middle School Band, directed by Mary Withers, performed “God Bless America” and the “Star Wars” theme at the assembly.
The band, which has been invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., next year, received $30,000 worth of instruments in 2011, as part of the VH-1 Save the Music Program.
West Virginia Commissioner of the Division of Culture and History Randall Reid-Smith brought the program to the state. In prior years, the program was funded only in inner-city schools in large metropolitan areas.
Reid-Smith’s dedication to the arts and to education was praised by many of those present.
Other students were also recognized at the event, including annual Money Smart Week winner Josh Backus, and Dakota Cogar, who was recognized as the second top archer in the nation in the middle school division.
The Shady Spring Middle School Archery Team, which won first place in the state tournament and finished 10th in the nation recently, was also mentioned.
Tomblin offered one final compliment to the History Bowl team in her speech. “I know you even stomp the governor, who is the absolute history buff of West Virginia,” she quipped.
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