Photo by Jeylin White
Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal and State School’s Superintendent John Barge pose with Huie Elementary students Phaith Boyce (left) and Justin Green. Deal and Barge visited the school Tuesday morning and the first lady read to scores of youngsters as part her “Read Across Georgia” tour.
Scores of youngsters at Huie Elementary School in Forest Park waited patiently in the school’s cafeteria for their special guest to arrive Tuesday morning. Some students could hardly sit still, twiddling their thumbs with excitement. The youngsters’ emotions were riding high, anticipating the arrival of Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal.
The first lady stopped by the school to read to kindergarten and first-grade students as part of her “Read Across Georgia” tour. Deal said she has visited more than 62 school districts across the state to bring attention to children, education, and literacy. She chose Huie Elementary because of her longtime friendship with Ethel Lambert, English Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher at Huie Elementary.
“Ethel was my friend from years ago and our daughters were in school together,” said Deal. “We ran into each other during the campaign and she asked if I would come and read to the [students], and I said certainly I would.”
Several Clayton County elected officials and local dignitaries greeted the first lady with warm smiles and hugs. They included State School Superintendent John Barge; Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley and his administrative team; and Huie Elementary Principal Baxter Harper and staff.
The event kicked off with a formal introduction from Harper and Huie Elementary students Phaith Boyce, 9, and Justin Green, 9, who shared their experience about meeting the first lady in November, when they visited to the Governor’s mansion.
Once the introductions were complete, Deal stressed the importance of education and learning how to read. As a special treat, Deal read two stories to the pupils entitled, “Who I’d Like to Be” and “In the Garden With Dr. Carver.”
“I love children, I love to read to them, and I want to read to as many as I can,” she said.
Though this was the second encounter Green and Boyce have had with Deal, both agreed they were nervous. But, in spite being filled with jitters, the youngsters said they learned a lot from the first lady and were both inspired to read more.
“In your life when you grow up and you don’t know how to read how are you going to know how to read the mail and stuff?” said Boyce.
At the conclusion of Deal’s visit, she told the pupils how proud she was of them for being so polite and attentive during the reading.
“You have been a wonderful audience and I hope those of you who do not know how to read that you will learn,” Deal told the students.
Barge also commended the youngsters on their behavior, saying how “incredibly patient” they were and how “cute” they were.
“Reading will be the single most important skill you will ever learn in school,” Barge said to the room full of students. “Education will make your dreams come true.”
After Barge’s comments, local school Superintendent Edmond Heatley instructed the youngsters to read his favorite Dr. Seuss book, “Green Eggs and Ham,” which he mistakenly referred to as “Sam I Am.” Heatley then promised the pupils that he would return to the school next Friday to talk about the book.
Harper said the first lady did a great job keeping the students’ attention. “The students did quite well,” said Harper. “You can tell by the students’ behaviors that she [kept] them engaged.”
He added Deal left a copy of “Who I’d Like to Be” for each classroom at the school. Harper said students and teachers were very appreciative and expressed their gratitude, and commented on how much they enjoyed the firs lady’s company.
It was Deal’s second time visiting a school in Clayton County. She visited KinderCare Learning Center in College Park, where she read to more than 200 youngsters last year.