Andrew Withers: Genuine Student Engagement

The college years are a critical period in the development of our young people. During this time, students often experience many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. He is a very special educator who chooses to work with middle school students and we are so proud and appreciate the great work of our staff and students at Lyman Gilmore Middle School. The engaging and exciting activities that the staff have developed provide our students with real learning opportunities where they thrive and grow.

One example is Lyman Gilmore’s recent production of “Mary Poppins Junior” which ran Thursday, March 31 through Sunday, April 3 at the Don Baggett Theater on the Nevada Union campus. This production was directed by Becky Browning, director and teacher of musical theater at Lyman Gilmore. For the past seven years Lyman Gilmore has supported a musical theater course as part of the student elective and during this time the student growth has been fantastic.

The production of Mary Poppins included over 80 cast, crew and production members and was presented to an audience of over 2,000 community members. In addition to producing, Lyman Gilmore’s musical theater program participates in other theatrical events and competitions and has been invited to present in the state capitol on Youth in Theater Day. Recently, Lyman Gilmore students participated in the 21st Annual Middle Stage Fest. The students performed monologues, scenes and musical numbers against more than 200 other middle schoolers from 13 colleges. In the end, the Lyman Gilmore students walked away with six gold, three silver and ten bronze and their Mary Poppins Musical Duet won the highest of all festivals.

Our entire school district and community were thrilled and impressed with so many aspects of this theatrical production. Teacher Becky Browning said, “We were able to serve so many elementary school students, community members and families during this production. Some participants experienced theater for the first time or attended a field trip for the first time this school year! I’m so excited to be in a full theater again, to watch the audience as the lights begin to dim, to experience the laughter, joy and energy flowing through the aisles and , more importantly, to see students on this stage sharing their gifts with others.”

The Lyman Gilmore team works hard to go above and beyond for our students. Another recent example took place during the April6 Mile Day event. Running “The Mile” is traditionally the conclusion of fitness testing for the school year and several years ago staff gained support from Synergy Timing Company. This allowed them to bring more energy, focus and excitement to the test, as well as high accuracy for the student’s race times. The event is now more like a local 5k or 10k running event with music and people cheering at each run. Over 400 students were able to run in one of four grade level races and even a few teachers chose to run with the students! PE teachers Ben Mills and Missy Bill shared: “We always see our best times of the year on Mile Day and this year has been no different. The fastest time that day was by one of our Grade 8 students with a time of 6:04, and there were plenty of students close to that mark at all levels. We are truly proud of our students at Lyman Gilmore and how hard they strived to achieve their goals.

Spring turns out to be a special time in the Grass Valley School District. We are now able to truly see and experience the growth and progress of our students. As a District team, we continue to appreciate our amazing staff, families, and students for their hard work and dedication. Now that Spring Break is behind us, we only have a few weeks left before summer!

Andrew Withers is superintendent of the Grass Valley School District

The Mary Poppins team backstage before one of their performances.
Photo provided