Do you remember your fourth grade teacher? Mine was Mrs. Gross. She was a petite older lady, not any taller than the biggest of the fourth grade boys. She had a quiet voice but I honestly do not remember her having problems with any of the kids. Of course, that was a different time. 54 years ago to be exact.
Last evening I attended the fourth grade graduation of the John Johnson Elementary School in Bainbridge. My grandson, Henry Vanstone, was the third from the last graduate since it was based on alphabetical order. I could have been 30 minutes late and still seen the ceremony.
What a ceremony it was! Graduation was held at the Kirbo Center. It was a dignified and impressive program that recognized the top achievers in each of the fourth grade classes. It was then that I realized how much things have changed since 1963 and 1964.
Henry made his Granddaddy proud with his various honors. He received the Woodmen of the World Award for having the highest GPA in History for the entire fourth grade. His Granny, a retired History teacher, was particularly pleased with that award.
He received an award for being on the “A” Honor Roll for the entire year. It was interesting the award that he was proudest of was having perfect attendance for the year. That is an award I did not receive too often during my academic career.
Henry, along with 16 others, received a Presidential Award from President Donald J. Trump. At least that is what it said. You could not determine who it was from with the wild signature the President uses on documents.
Along with 32 other fourth graders, Henry received the Presidential Youth Fitness Award, which recognizes students who have passed tests in a variety of health and fitness areas. In my day, I think this was called PE.
Along with a number of other fourth graders, Henry was recognized for participating in Chorus. I went to every one of John Johnson Elementary’s Chorus programs that Henry participated in during his time in school. The Chorus was actually very good and it is my hope that this will foster a love of music that these kids will enjoy for the rest of their lives.
Henry received awards for excelling in four different areas: Science, Language, Social Studies and Mathematics. I am not sure I could have spelled mathematics in the fourth grade, but I could do my multiplication tables up to 12. Believe me when I say their science projects are far beyond any knowledge I had at that time in my life.
Finally, Henry received the score of 4, which is excellent, on the two Georgia Milestone Achievement Tests. This is a comprehensive assessment program that Georgia students will take each year through high school.
There are three wonderful teachers in the fourth grade at John Johnson – Hildy Conder, Layne Edwards, and Marianne Wells. Mrs. Wells is retiring after this year and we wish her a well deserved rest. Hopefully, Henry and his friends did not run her off.
While I am very proud of my oldest grandchild, Henry, I realize there are other parents and grandparents that experienced the same joy I did in watching their young one cross the stage. They learn together and from each other. It is why some of our closest friends come from these learning years.
Well done, Henry, and all of the other fourth grade graduates at John Johnson Elementary. Hopefully, it is just the completion of the first of many steps of a life long journey of learning that can be fun and exciting. Keep it up.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org