Memories of the Decade 2000: Polk County Middle School opens in 2005

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After years of planning, a failed bond referendum, and the efforts of some very courageous county and school administrators, Polk County Middle School opened in August 2005. While somewhat controversial in the beginning, it is undeniable that consolidating the middle schools of Polk County was the right thing to do. All you have to do is walk into the building and you can see that it is a perfect environment for learning.

Polk Countys Board of Education and school administrators did something that was quite unique. They had the foresight to name a principal a year before the school was even opened, and they brought together staff from the existing middle schools to form teams and work on curriculum. Under the leadership of principal Hank Utz, the school has become one of the highest performing middle schools in the state. But test scores arent the real story here. The real story is the students and staff, and a facility that makes teachers in other places jealous.

I retired from Saluda School where I taught fourth graders for 23 years. I suppose everyone knew that I couldnt stay retired for long. Teaching is my passion. After a year of retirement, I accepted a position teaching sixth graders at Polk County Middle School. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive. I had been teaching at a small school that integrated the arts into the core curriculum and where the staff was like a family. I didnt know what to expect at a school that served close to 600 students. I couldnt have been more pleasantly surprised.

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First of all, it really isnt a school of 600. It is three small schools of around 200 students each. Each grade level has its own wing, and the teachers work together in two teams of around 100 students. It is these teams that make the school special. Each day our team of four teachers gets together to talk about students that need extra help or have done something extraordinary. Working together, sharing our ideas, and finding better ways to teach our students is what makes the school so successful. Of course, it doesnt hurt that we have great kids to start with!

Polk County Middle School is a state of the art facility with technology that makes access to information and the delivery of that information available to teachers and students. The rooms are equipped with computers and document cameras connected to a projector. Just this week, I connected via web cams with my husband in China, and students were able to talk to him and see photographs that he had just taken in Beijing. Now, thats pretty cool!

Did we need a consolidated middle school? Oh yes! Come hear our band! Watch out kids play sports. Look at our media center and computer labs. Visit the mini courses where kids build and launch rockets or learn how to play chess. Go on line and see the latest newscast produced by our students. Check out the service projects where students raise money for charities and conduct food drives and winter coat drives. Walk up to the school when students are outside, and I guarantee one will hold the door for you. Its a great place to be whether you are a student or a teacher. I may be a little biased, but for me, Polk County Middle School ranks right up there with the greatest accomplishments of the decade.

Editors Note: The TDB has asked for area residents memories of the most significant events and people of the decade just now passing, the 00s. If you would like to share your thoughts on the decades most memorable events, please send them to attn: Memories.