Teaching and Learning Hand in Hand

Block Number: 73

“Teaching and Learning Hand in Hand”

By Nora Worthen

“Teaching and Learning Hand in Hand” is the motto at West McDowell Junior High School. The school is host to the latest quilt block, number 73, on the McDowell Quilt Trail, and has chosen to use the motto as the name of its new block.

The school opened its doors to over 900 students in the fall of 1972 under the leadership of principal Wayne Silver, who ushered the students through the adjustment of consolidation. The school, built “in the round,” was considered a model of success during the seventies. Open classrooms divided only by partitions were utilized in order for teachers and students to share the instruction in each classroom. Mr. Silver was dedicated to this model, and remained at West McDowell Junior High until 1986.

Larry Ramsey followed Mr. Silver, and it was during his tenure as principal from 1986 to approximately 2005 that more changes began to take shape. The middle school concept was a dream in progress at that time.

According to Wikipedia, junior high schools were created for the purpose of "bridging the gap between the elementary and the high school." According to a New York Times article, starting in the 1960s, middle schools, sometimes called intermediate schools, were created after educators determined that seventh-through-ninth-grade junior high schools were excessively rigid and unattuned to adolescents’ personal development. This was a major change in education. Thus, during Mr. Ramsey’s tenure at West, the school took on a divided state, and he inherited the job of steering West to true middle school status. Although West is considered a junior high school, the middle school concepts are incorporated into the curriculum, making the transition from elementary school easier.

Coy Gibson, the current principal, followed Mr. Ramsey in 2005. He demands job perfection from the teachers, and wants students to be held accountable for their own education. West has received several awards as a School of Excellence and a School of Distinction from the state.

When approached by Dottie McKesson, student council advisor, about West joining the McDowell Quilt Trail by hosting a quilt block, Mr.Gibson supported the project, and followed its progress from design to installation.

The faculty was informed of the project, and donations for the cost of hosting a quilt block began pouring in from faculty, friends of teachers, parents and others. A committee of eight was formed to see the project through to completion, which included Tammy Comer, Deborah Webb, Lori Poteat, Susan Westall, Willie Mae Ledbetter, Nancy Trollinger, Patricia Brock and Dottie McKesson.

By raising money and taking pledges to sponsor this quilt block, the faculty at West endeavors to teach the students about awareness of cultural history, pride in a community project, and responsibility. The quilt block is also a way to say thanks to Mr. Gibson, who gives so much of himself to the school. It is also a gift to all the teachers, both past and present, for their dedication to education, and a gift to the student body for its hard work and school spirit.

The school’s motto, Teaching and Learning Hand in Hand, was adopted as the name for the block. Bebe Ragaz, who does substitute teaching at West, upon learning of the project immediately began a quilt pattern search. The custom design for the 6’x 6’ quilt block borrows features from a traditional quilt pattern. Committee members wanted their block to represent the school and its traditions, its students, and ethnicity.

At the quilt block’s center is a little red one-room schoolhouse, complete with a belfry and a flagpole flying the North Carolina flag.

As McKesson explained, “We wanted a red antique schoolhouse. Even though technology is the ‘new thing,’ we still have a few teachers holding onto the antique way of reaching students in 2011.”

The nine-patch quilt squares with the gold and blue borders that encircle the schoolhouse is reminiscent of the more traditional quilt patterns, and carries the school colors of blue and white.

The uniqueness of each child is depicted in the outer border of the quilt block, with children of different gender, color, and style standing hand in hand, which is representative of the students at West who enter the classrooms and learn something new every day. Ms. McKesson declares, “Of course, the students are what makes West the best, and they deserve the best we have to offer.”

The blue lamps in the four corners depicts the lamp of knowledge, representing scholarship, merit, pride and loyalty, for which each student should want to strive.

On Monday, January 17, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Mike Lucas, with the help of Wayne Miller and Eddie Bingham, installed the block while testing was going on inside the school, and students were making up a snow day.

Upon entering the school grounds at 346 McDowell High School Road, the first indication you see of school pride is the granite sign proclaiming West McDowell Jr. High School, home of the Spartans. As you turn into the driveway, the expansive South lot wall of the building looms in front of you where you will find “Teaching and Learning Hand in Hand” mounted on the left-hand side of the wall. Counterbalanced on the right-hand side of the wall in large blue lettering is the name, “West McDowell Junior High School.”

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