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Gwinnett County Public Schools

May 2024 - Communication in the Central Gwinnett Cluster

In May, we explore Communication in our Central Gwinnett Cluster.  

Through Communication— Team GCPS students, families, and staff articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts, and for a range of purposes and audiences. Each and every student and staff member listen effectively to understand knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions.   

Throughout the Central Gwinnett Cluster, Communication means connection, creativity, and collaboration. Through shared experiences and freedom of expression, students and staff forge meaningful relationships by considering differing viewpoints and building a foundation for success, together.  

Principal Orr listens to CGHS seniors perform the alma mater

Check the clock, it’s about time for a meal so grab your bag and head down to the cafeteria. Your nose carries you along toward the delicious scents of lunch and suddenly your ears pick up the sounds of a familiar song, “All through the joys of our school days you’ve been our guide and friend...” No, these soon-to-be graduates of the Class of 2024 aren’t singing for their lunch, they’re singing for extra tickets to graduation. It’s a longstanding tradition at Central Gwinnett HS (CGHS) that every graduating class knows the school alma mater, and Principal Shane Orr says it’s a fun opportunity to interact with students. Every senior is allotted eight tickets and will get two extra tickets if they can sing the alma mater. 

“It’s important for the students to see that their principal is personable, approachable, and is a Black Knight just like them,” says Principal Orr. “As a proud alumnus, when I send these new generations of Black Knights out into the world, they’ll be able to connect and communicate with other classes as well.” 

Principal Orr adds that it’s a goal of all CGHS staff to build positive, personal working relationships with students. He says the school staff want students to feel safe, and through simply talking with students, getting to know them, and ensuring two-way communication, students also can get to know staff members as people, not just distributors of knowledge.  

Principal Orr stands with Central Gwinnett students

As CGHS freshmen wrap up their first year, many say they have enjoyed more freedom of expression and feel supported by their teachers who make sure students understand their work. Members of the Class of 2024 say direct and open dialogue with teachers and Principal Orr, the provided guidance and support, and upheld traditions have contributed to the joy of being a Black Knight

Talking really helps in terms of your assignments and tests, and what you need help with. If you never talk to [teachers] and you’re struggling, you’ll be in the dark and you’ll struggle by yourself, but asking for help lifts off some of that struggle,” says Darrius, a CGHS Senior

Grab your camera, it’s time to capture an event at Winn Holt ES, or maybe a portrait or two, or work on your composition principles. In the school’s Photography Club, students have the opportunity to convey their visions through photography, a visual form of communication that allows them to express themselves without words. 

“I joined a photography club because I like taking pictures with my friends and I like to work with others to take pictures for the yearbook and of school events,” said Photography Club member Aaliyah. “I also joined because I thought that I should try something new, and I enjoyed it.” 

Co-sponsored by 5th grade teachers Dedra Walker-Howard and Caci O'Neal, the Photography Club started in 2020.

Winn Holt ES photography club member during a photo session

Students in 3rd through 5th grade may apply with a teacher’s recommendation. At the start of each school year, students discuss their photography interests, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This year, students expressed a keen interest in adding videography to their repertoire and in capturing specific events occurring at the school. 

Faith joined the Photography Club to become a better photographer and help her parents film videos and concerts. Levi hopes to take over his grandmother’s business in photography one day. Lamija enjoys learning to take photos with cool angles and taking photos of flowers, friends having fun together, and school events.  

During Photography Club meetings, students can cultivate their unique photography styles in a creative setting, while learning basic techniques and handling camera equipment. Ms. Walker-Howard and Mrs. O’Neal guide students’ learning through various photography composition principles such as the Rule of Thirds, patterns, color, and background.  

Photography Club members Benjamin and Tahira both say they wanted to improve their photography skills, learn how to work with cameras, have fun with their friends, and make new friends.  

The club also includes engaging hands-on activities such as portrait photography, product photography, macrophotography, action photography, and forced perspective— all of which help build a foundation in digital photography techniques.  

“We aim for our young photographers to leave the club with meaningful relationships, enhanced confidence, and new skills that they will carry into the future,” adds Ms. Walker-Howard. “As students grow more confident in their skills, they will continue to communicate their visions, emotions, and creativity through their photographs.” 

Simonton ES students viewing the Maxwell and GSMST games

print('Hello, world!') 

# Output: Hello, world! 

Do you understand Python? No, we won’t be conversing with any snakes. Python is a computer programming language often used to build websites and software, automate tasks, and conduct data analysis. During the Simonton ES Video Game Design Workshop, students put their coding skills to work with help from teachers and students from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST)

With her own GSMST graduate currently pursuing a degree in Game Design at college, Simonton ES parent liaison Debjani Saha decided to research the industry. Ms. Saha found through her research that video games require a multitude of skills and knowledge. She started talking about video games more often and what was required to be part of the industry with her Principal Tamara Perkins, colleagues, and students. From then on, many students and teachers were interested in learning more about video games and the development process.  

Ms. Saha spoke to her daughter who suggested the GSMST staff members who introduced her to game design, Ben Schepens and Jennifer Sweat. With the support of Principal Perkins, Ms. Saha contacted Mr. Schepens and Ms. Sweat, and discussed an idea for a workshop with 4th and 5th graders to gauge their interest. 

Ms. Saha and family

To get parents on board with this new concept, Ms. Saha researched video game design facts and employed students to help construct posters with the information and illustrations of characters from games they currently play, and characters from games they would design in the future.  

“When we say, ‘video game design,’ people start to visualize a person sitting behind a computer and coding. However, it is more than just coding— think about a jigsaw puzzle game, where you need to assemble all the pieces together to complete the game,” Ms. Saha explains. 

Video games have many different elements such as storyboarding, visual art, music composition, mathematical calculations, science, logic, understanding human minds, marketing and promoting the game, and more. In today’s world, we need students who have creative minds. Ms. Saha says that game designs offer an opportunity for students to express their creativity in their own, personalized way, whether that’s coding, storyboarding, character designing, or marketing. 

Success followed Ms. Saha’s efforts in an after-school workshop that over 60 students attended. GSMST teachers taught the different components from game design, and GSMST students mentored Simonton ES students through logic, drawing, coding, and video game arcade cabinets. The workshop featured several workstations. For some GSMST teachers, it was their first time visiting an elementary school, and they were impressed with the students’ knowledge and preparation! Simonton ES students were so excited to learn more about the field they are already so familiar with. 

Simonton ES students

“Whether or not our [students] decide to pursue this [industry], it serves as an important reminder that unique career options are growing, and there will always be an outlet for students to find a passion that enables their best self,” says Ms. Saha.  

In addition to the lessons learned in video game design, Ms. Saha says students from GSMST and Simonton ES communicated with each other so well that it is clear to see— when interests are shared, age does not matter.  

“This workshop allowed students to come together and consolidate their knowledge and experience,” Ms. Saha adds. “Watching the different age groups bond over game design and seeing the GSMST students yearn to pass on their knowledge was a beautiful experience.” 

Other opportunities for growth at Simonton ES have included student council class representatives and Safety Patrol members attending the GCPS Peer Leadership Conference. Students attended leadership sessions presented by GCPS high school students focusing on how students can enhance and improve their leadership skills to influence their peers and make a positive impact on their school community. The school’s robotics team also recently participated in the LEGO® Super Regional Competition. While at the competition, students demonstrated their understanding of robotics and problem-solving by programming their equipment to complete specific tasks and explaining their projects to judges. 

Jordan MS Hispanic Heritage students

From Heritage Night to Counselors Against Drugs Day, and partnerships throughout the community, Communication is an important part of establishing and maintaining connections in and out of Jordan MS. Staff members work together to ensure that students understand they are supported and have the assistance they need to be successful. 

“I believe that communication is very important to the growth of our school and community,” says Jordan MS Principal Melissa Miller. “I take a collaborative approach to leading the school so that parents, stakeholders, staff, and students all feel they have voice in the decisions we make as a school.” 

Jordan MS students and the Kyle Pitts Foundation

Jordan MS relies on stakeholders and community partners like the Kyle Pitts Foundation and The Lawrenceville United Methodist Church for support and encouragement. Principal Miller says working alongside the community and communicating the schools’ needs and desire for excellence has created a family culture where all come together to support the students and families in the Central Gwinnett Cluster. 

This collaborative approach and effective communication help students learn and develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and teamwork. There are times when communication can be challenging, and conversations may involve elevated emotions and differing viewpoints, Principal Miller explains.  

"With empathy and understanding the feelings, communication style, and perspectives of others, I can engage everyone and help them focus on our vision and mission as a county to help move our students to continued excellence,” Principal Miller adds.  

Lawrenceville ES Knightworthy logo

From the Knight News to the “Knightworthy,” there’s no shortage of opportunities to connect, learn, and grow at Lawrenceville ES. Broadcast news crew members can be found collaborating daily to produce a successful morning show. The school’s podcast, LES Presents: Knightworthy is student-researched, written, produced, and led. It touches on topics that are interesting to students, from gaming and sports, to entertainment, reading, and more.  

“Students are able to share messages that are important to them,” says Lawrenceville ES Principal Candace Haynes.  

The school also develops and maintains important community relationships, including one with Lawrenceville First United Methodist Church (LVFirst UMC). Principal Haynes says LVFirst UMC is a vital partner, and members show up for many of the school’s events and activities. For example, these community supporters help clean the school’s outdoor classroom, pull weeds and overgrowth, plant greenery and flowers, and help keep the school grounds clean overall.  

Moore MS and Central Gwinnett Peer Leader Conference participants

At Moore MS, Communication means celebrating diversity, cultivating a sense of belonging, and developing student leaders. Join Peer Leaders, a student-led organization that provides and develops communication and leadership skills. Students engage in fun activities and support schoolwide initiatives to build community while learning the soft skills necessary to be successful in both school and life. Students also engage in the cluster-wide Peer Leader Conference to learn from other leaders throughout the Central Gwinnett Cluster

Is it your first year in middle school? Join the ATLAS (Alliance To Lead And Serve) Leadership Academy where you’ll find opportunities to grow and develop socially and emotionally through self-awareness. Students learn self-advocacy, personal and school branding, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. ATLAS student leaders also communicate with the rising 5th graders from Lawrenceville ES and Winn Holt ES about the middle school experience. 

“The goal is to provide each 6th grader with an opportunity to belong and make connections, and make decisions today for their tomorrow,” says Moore MS Principal Lamont Mays

Velocity Program in the Central Gwinnett Cluster

In the Velocity Program, CGHS student leaders are trained to mentor Moore MS students weekly. Velocity utilizes developmental mentoring relationships that increase the mentors’, mentees’, and their families’ connectedness to family, their school, the community, and a positive vision for the future.  

Maybe you’d like to try your hand at writing, so join your fellow students at Moore VOICE Magazine, “where students are heard!” This club provides students with a platform to discover their own voice and celebrate each other’s work, ideas, and thoughts on paper.  

“Seeing myself in the magazine makes me feel confident. I feel like I can accomplish all my goals,” says Precious, a Moore VOICE Magazine contributor.  

Students collaborate on ideas, learn to plan, increase their literacy skills, and understand the real-world applications of writing. Students build their confidence and self-esteem, and develop meaningful relationships with their peers and other adults.  

Moore MS Voice cover

“Seeing myself in the magazine made me feel like I’m a part of something,” says Jana, a Moore VOICE Magazine contributor. 

In collaboration with the school's Media Specialist Danielle Spells and her student broadcasting staff, suggested [writing] topics are displayed during announcements; however, students are encouraged by their teachers to write about their topic of choice. Moore VOICE Magazine advisor and publisher Vanzella Onuoha says students have communicated on paper their sadness and happiness, their thoughts about society, peer pressure, abuse, friendship, and love in both literal and figurative language.   

“I believe students who participate in extracurricular activities usually feel more of a belongingness or usually make better connections at school,” says Ms. Onuoha. “Moore VOICE Magazine was birthed to give each and every student here at Moore MS a platform to be heard while developing their own voice.” 

Throughout the Central Gwinnett Cluster, understanding the value of Communication leads to the development of supportive learning environments and meaningful relationships that ensure success for all.  

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Central Gwinnett Knight head logo

The Central Gwinnett Cluster includes the following schools: