North Davie teacher steps up when needed

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

There’s a silhouette of a witch on the wall in Janet Dyson’s classrom at North Davie Middle School.

There’s even a witch’s broom behind her desk.

And everywhere you look, there are squirrels – stuffed squirrels, sayings about squirrels, warnings about squirrels.

It’s all on purpose.

She had a broom “to clean things up with,” and decided to make it fun. “I thought, I’ll just embrace it. I tell my students to tell their friends that I’m the mean one. I’m the witch.”

More than once, she’s said: “Do I have to get my broomstick out?”

And the squirrels. Janet thinks it is important for teachers to impart a portion of their lives to their students. Let’s just say she hasn’t had the best of luck with squirrels running out in front of her vehicle.

She is a sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher, but will coach just about any sport she’s asked to coach. So far, it’s been tennis and track.

And when Principal Bryant Copeland mentioned driving a school bus, she got her bus license for a second time, and now drives substitute routes.

She is in her ninth year at North Davie, her 18th with Davie County Schools.

“I guess I need to learn to say no. But if I have time, I’ll do it.”

Her goal is to make reading and writing fun.

“I try to make reading dramatic, and put real-life lessons into the stories. I try to bring some energy into the classroom,” she said. “Even my most reluctant readers, I try to change their minds, to make reading less scary. They like the stories, and I like seeing kids rise above their circumstances. They have so many possibilities. I want to be that one teacher who makes a difference.

“Just seeing students, who you know their life is challenging, just seeing them graduate and succeed, that’s enough for me.”

It doesn’t hurt when they return after graduation, just to visit, and say:
“‘Mrs. Dyson, you were my favorite teacher’.”

She brags about the staff at North Davie and throughout Davie County Schools. “That’s one great thing about Davie, to collaborate with people inside and outside of your building. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of Davie County’s finest, and network with others.

“North Davie is very much like a family. If there’s a need, we rally around each other. It’s a tight-knit group.”

She feels a responsibility to do her best. After all, people move to Davie County because of the school system.

“It’s not about the money, but if you like working with children and you want to make a difference, teaching is for you.

“You’ve got to be focused on the kids. I coach. I tutor. You have to meet their needs, show them that people on the outside care.

“Middle school students can tell if you’re sincere, and they’ll call you out. The students just need to connect with us.”

She bought a teddy bear to represent the color of the “House,” (part of a behavior program) she belongs to, but students from the Houses went  into an uproar.

So she bought a teddy bear the color of each house.

Like most teachers, she takes some work home, and tries to respond to students and parents as quickly as possible.

“I feel like I need to respond. That’s what I’m here for,” she said. “I’m not going to ignore a kid. They’re my kids, a part of my family. Once you’re my student, you’re always my student.”

Did we say she likes to have fun with her students and fellow staff members?

“If I could only keep up with Tanya Kerr …” she said in closing, smiling all the time.