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June Atkinson visits third graders at Western Union Elementary School

North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson answers questions from students in Jennifer Bittner's third-grade class Oct. 20, 2011, after she read to them from the children's book, “The T-shirt Named Zee,” which she wrote. Her book addressed determination and resilience in an elementary school setting.

North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson spent some quality time with a class of third graders today (Oct. 20, 2011), reading to them from a book she wrote, “The T-shirt Named Zee,” which addresses determination and resilience in an elementary school setting.

Atkinson visited Jennifer Bittner’s third grade class as a guest reader known as a Royal Reader in the school system.

“As state superintendent, I think it is very important to stay in touch with children, principals and teachers,” Atkinson said. “Without visiting different places in the state, I believe I would lose touch with what our educational needs are. Even more importantly, seeing students in the classroom renews my spirit as to how important it is to work on behalf of students in this state.

“I see those kids and how excited they are about learning and the types of questions they ask,” Atkinson added. “It really dispels myths that kids don’t want to learn and that things aren’t happening in the classroom. In reality, great things are happening in the classroom.”
After finishing the book, Atkinson answered students’ questions, and talked about her role as state superintendent, a job she has held since 2004. She not only answered questions about her job, but also her favorite books, places she’s traveled, her background and growing up.

“Did you make good grades in third grade and what did you have a hard time with?” asked one third-grader.

“I made good grades, but I guess the subject where I struggled a little bit would be math,” Atkinson said. “I really liked all subjects in elementary school, but when I got to high school, my favorite subjects were business courses like accounting and keyboarding.”

“What is the hardest part of your job,” asked another student.

“The hardest part of my job is convincing people who control the money for education to spend that money on students,” she said. “We have a general assembly and they make the decisions about how much money school districts get. They have hard decisions to make because everybody wants money from the General Assembly. It’s a difficult task to convince the General Assembly to put education first when they have so many people pulling at them.”

Western Union principal Rita Webb said Atkinson’s presence helped show students that they could grow up and become successful and an important leader.

“We’re teaching students that they need to have goals in life, that they need to start by making those goals and then work on achieving them one by one,” Webb said. “I think with her coming and what she spoke about, and even the book she read on determination, resilience and empathy, she has shown us how that is accomplished.”

Webb said Atkinson made an impression on students when she spoke about her own goals in life. “Once you get started, you don't stop. You keep going and do what you need to do to accomplish your goals to get where you want to be,” Webb said. “She’s a prime example. Here she is the educational leader in the state speaking to our students. It’s a progressive movement that I hope my kids will take, internalize and then set goals to do the same thing.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Oct 20, 2011 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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