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HesperiaStar.com
  • Distinguished scholar is keynote speaker of VESD 'Opening Day'

    Phillips is former VESD student
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  • EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of education stories that will appear in the Daily Press this week, as many local children head back to school.
    VICTORVILLE — Teachers and administrators of the Victor Elementary School District met Tuesday morning inside the High Desert Church auditorium for a welcome-back-to-school ceremony.
    The two-hour event included speeches by the district’s superintendent, board president and outgoing San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Gary Thomas. The keynote address was delivered by Susan Phillips, a former Del Rey Elementary School student who is now a distinguished English professor at Northwestern University.
    “My stepfather was in the military — stationed here at George Air Force Base — and so we moved a lot when I was a child,” Phillips said as she began her 20-minute speech. “I can honestly say that of all those very different schools, in all those places, the two years I spent here at Del Rey Elementary were absolutely the most influential.”
    Phillips became emotional as she recalled the impact of two Victorville teachers in particular: Her sixth-grade teacher Leland Dale and fifth-grade teacher Lynn Maher.
    “The two most powerful teachers, the two who first put me on this path as a teacher and a scholar, and who continue to be the animating spirits of my own teaching, worked right here in the Victor Elementary School District,” Phillips said, “adopting radically different solutions to the same problem: How, with no resources, can you help individual students and the community around them rise?”
    Phillips said Dale disciplined her for laughing at a classmate who couldn’t read, then sent her outside to read with him. It became a practice she continued for the rest of her sixth-grade year.
    From that experience Phillips said she discovered her own “academic privilege” and learned skills of enthusiasm and encouragement that continue to be her “most powerful pedagogical tools.”
    She is the current holder of the Alumnae of Northwestern University Teaching Professorship, the university’s highest award for distinguished teaching. She holds a doctorate degree and master’s degree in English from Harvard University and completed a master’s in philosophy in medieval literature from Cambridge University.
    Superintendent Jan Gonzales welcomed the staff back to school and discussed the district’s new visionary statement. She recognized Thomas and said the County Office of Education has a “strong partnership” with VESD.
    Karen Morgan, president of the VESD Board of Trustees, said 2013-14 was an “outstanding year” in the district with the launching of the new Common Core State Standards, announcing the district’s new “schools of choice” or parent-choice model, and providing expanded technology with the roll-out of hundreds of Google Chromebooks for students.
    Awards were handed out to Steve Dinise of Lomitas Career Academy for teacher of the year and Johnny Felix for classified employee of the year. Staff members Joe Pont and Terrell Reedus were recognized with awards for spirit and humanitarianism.
    Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or BSelf@VVDailyPress.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf or @DPEduNews.
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