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Gwinnett County Public Schools

September 2023 - Our Blueprint in Action: Adaptability in the Grayson Cluster


Welcome to Adaptability in the Grayson Cluster!

As the new school year’s excitement settles into September, join us as we explore Adaptability in our Grayson Cluster.

Developing Adaptability— the ability to adjust to different conditions or circumstances— is key to ensuring that Team GCPS students, families, and staff can work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities. Our school communities clearly demonstrate flexibility when acclimating to various roles and situations, so they can respond productively to feedback, praise, setbacks, and criticism. Each and every student and staff member builds confidence in working independently and within diverse groups, persevering to achieve success despite difficulty or opposition. 

With technical education opportunities, Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs, and personalized learning experiences, coupled with community supportopportunity, and leadership, schools throughout the Grayson Cluster are making the 21st century learner’s vision for their future a reality.

Bienvenue à Trip Elementary, et comment allez-vous? At Trip Elementary School, students have the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the French language. The school's Dual Language Immersion program features students in Kindergarten through 5th grade actively learning the French language, adapting to lessons in both French and English, and sharing their own cultural heritage with their classmates. The school’s French Club offered students the opportunity to design t-shirt ideas and then vote on their choice.  

Learning and growing in this diverse cluster means developing students’ ability to adjust to new circumstances, environments, and challenges effectively, while relying on feedback and support from their families and communities, and empowering staff members to create learning environments that best meet the learning needs of each and every student.

Arrive at Grayson Elementary bright and early for the start of the school day and find friendly, smiling staff members across the five-building campus greeting students. This adaptive routine helps students feel acknowledged and valued by providing stability and creating a sense of belonging. Enter the vibrant halls and decide, are you energized and ready for a song and dance, would you like to try your hand at puppeteering, or dig into plant comparisons in Science class?

Staff members at Grayson Elementary know Adaptability plays a crucial role in ensuring that students receive the best possible education, and that it extends beyond cultivating individual skills to collaboration and communication. Teachers use small groups and personal tutoring to tailor teaching methods to individual learning styles, pace, and needs, which fosters a more personalized and effective learning experience. Adaptability means accommodating visual learners, and offering hands-on experiences and verbal discussions to leverage preferred learning styles and make lessons more clear and engaging. Project-based learning, music, and dance are all incorporated into the curriculum as strategies to foster creativity, critical thinking, and flexible problem-solving.

 At Starling Elementary, students, staff, and community members engage in various leadership opportunities that celebrate the diversity and Adaptability of the school programs. When adults engage in leadership opportunities throughout the school like the All Pro Dads program, Campus Beautification Day, and Kindergarten Extravaganza, they model for students how they can prepare for the ever-changing world they will face as they grow and develop into responsible adults.

 Students are engaged in opportunities, such as Readers Rally, Jr. Beta Club, classroom Social Emotional Learning activities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) tasks, and Student Council, where they learn problem-solving skills and critical thinking. Students at Starling Elementary are encouraged to approach challenges with a positive mindset and brainstorm different solutions.

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"Lights, camera, watch the teleprompter!” Get ready to reshoot your television debut, or maybe you’d like to stir up a pot of Jollof Rice...  hold everything! Head over to Music Industry and remix your tunes. At the Grayson Technical Education Program you’ll have access to 12 career pathway programs that include Commercial Photography, Culinary Arts, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurship, Exercise Physiology, Graphic Design, Information Support Services and Game Design, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Music Industry, Sports Medicine, TV and Video Production, and Veterinary Science.

For juniors and seniors attending Grayson Tech, Adaptability means having space to learn, develop, and grow while getting hands-on industry experience in future-ready programs that prepare them for life after graduation.

Music Industry teacher and two-time Grammy Nominated Music Educator, Andre DeRamus, tries to give his students a real-world experience and provide insight to the business side of the music industry in addition to creation. Students are included in business conference calls, they view contracts, meet with industry guest speakers, and visit music studios in Atlanta to learn about recording and day-to-day operations.

“I think the education [at Grayson Tech] is rigorous and real when it comes to industry,” Mr. DeRamus says. “I see the access that the kids have from the employees, we are active in [our] industries, and our kids get a chance to really do what [the job] is.”

 Follow your nose right down the hall where familiar sounds of blenders puréeing and some metal “clangs'' get closer. Turn into the brightly lit commercial kitchen where stainless-steel workstations abound, ranges are warmed, and that Jollof Rice is steaming. Students in Chef Phillip Garrett’s Culinary Arts class receive hands-on experience when it comes to working collaboratively with others and demonstrating flexibility when cooking meals in the Grayson Tech kitchen.

Throughout the school year, all Grayson Tech students participate in a series of employability skills training lessons based on the GeorgiaBest model. These include lessons on punctuality, professional dress, conflict resolution, public speaking, integrity, effective communication, and the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Students also develop leadership skills through participation in the Student Ambassador program and through Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) like SkillsUSA and HOSA.

“Our students are not only acquiring the skills needed to perform a job, but they are also building the skills needed to embark on a successful career path,” adds Grayson Tech Counselor Reta Elder.  

 For Rebecca C. Smith, a music specialist at Pharr Elementary who was named the school's Teacher of the Year, the Grayson Cluster has provided a well-rounded experience and family feel for her triplets, all soon-to-be Grayson High School grads. Mrs. Smith credits the amazing teachers throughout the Grayson Cluster who pushed all three of her children to strive to be their best. This, coupled with a range of activities including orchestra, band, tennis, swim, competitions, and concerts, has taught

 Mrs. Smith’s students to balance schoolwork with rehearsals, practice, and game schedules. Smith believes these skills will help her triplets as they move forward to college and beyond.    

"Everyone [in the cluster] works hard to give students the wonderful education they deserve," Ms. Smith says. (Standing in the center, Mrs. Smith is joined on the left by her husband, Chad; her son, Clay; her daughter, Liza; her sister, Mandy McGee; her son, Rett, and Principal Dr. Shamarlas Allens.)

Education comes full circle for Ms. Tracy Hawkins  who is a Speech Language Pathologist at Pharr Elementary. Ms. Hawkins says her son Reid was able to learn valuable lessons on how to navigate diverse environments throughout his time in the Grayson Cluster. That experience prepared him for college while heightening the importance of inclusion, acceptance, and excellence. 

Recognizing his own  Adaptability, Reid has now come back to serve the community that poured into him, right here at Pharr Elementary.