The gym at George Washington Middle School was buzzing. Cheers pierced the air as applause reached a crescendo. The percussive roar of feet stomping on the bleachers sounded like an airplane landing in the gym.
But this pep rally was unlike others: This one was for teachers.
The Alexandria City Public School system held its annual convocation ceremony on Monday as teachers, administrators and principals packed the middle school gym to hear music and speeches. As the school year approaches, school administrators wanted to let teachers know that their efforts are appreciated.
Education Association of Alexandria President Francis Chase told the crowd about his third grade teacher, who moved his desk to the front of the class to give him special attention. A generation later, she taught his son — moving his desk to the front of the classroom to give him special attention.
"Ms. Johnson reached through the cracks and pulled me out. Because of Ms. Johnson, I am a teacher today," Chase said. "A word, a smile or a wink could be all it takes to change a child's life."
School Board Chairwoman Mollie Danforth offered to work with teachers during the upcoming school year.
"The board knows that the important work of the school system is not done by members of the board but by teachers in the classrooms," said Danforth. "What we want you to do is ask for what you need."
According to Wendell Council, who recently moved here from Atlanta to teach math at George Washington Middle School, the school system does a good job of responding to the needs of teachers.
"Coming from an environment where teachers don't get resources, this is like teacher heaven," said Council. "They seem really concerned about the schools. It's like they're a family, and I like that."
MAYOR BILL EUILLE, who served on the School Board for several years before running for City Council, told the teachers that they were heroes in the eyes of their students, and he challenged them to inspire their students.
"The City Council stands with you," the mayor told the teachers. "And the kids are ready to get back to school and see your smiling faces."
Superintendent Rebecca Perry told teachers that they have been asked to assume a difficult and important task.
"Our current students are being asked to meet higher standards than any generation of students," said Perry. "They are meeting those standards, and you are the reason they are able to meet those standards."
She also pleaded with the teachers to work with all the students, especially those who present the biggest obstacles.
"We cannot afford to let any child fail," she said. "We passionately believe that every child that walks in our doors will learn to grow and succeed. And we must keep that promise, whatever it takes."