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Comedian Jim Zarling entertains.Wanting to show appreciation for the people who educate their children, Tenaska invited Fluvanna teachers for a night of good food and laughter.
The 72 teachers who instruct the 20 children of Tenaska employees had their choice of nights to have a meal at the Ashlawn Grille and be entertained by a comedian: Jan. 26 or Feb. 2, said plant manager Robert Mayfield.
About 40 chose Saturday (Jan. 26) for their night out.
Mayfield said it’s important to let people know they are on the right track.
“I look at it this way, you need to appreciate people for doing a good job,” Mayfield said. “They are highly trained professionals and I think over the years we’ve lost a little of that in how we view them. I wanted to congratulate them on a job well done. And to encourage them.”
High school English teacher Vicki Zavadsky said it’s not often she gets to see other teachers outside of school.
“It is nice to get out and socialize with my colleagues,” she said.
Sherry Esch, another high school English teacher, said it was meaningful to know others saw her as human.
“It’s interesting for someone to realize teachers are people and do things outside of schools,” Esch said. “It was important to me that they (Tenaska) thought of me as a person.”
Lori Hoffman teaches high school math. She spent the afternoon before the party grading papers.
“It’s nice when people take time to notice the job we do,” she said.
Other teachers at Hoffman’s table started talking about the unusual places they’ve graded papers.
Esch said she sometimes grades them in her closet at night so the light won’t keep her husband awake.
Hoffman said she takes her papers folder with her everywhere she goes in case she gets a free moment. “I grade them in the waiting room at the doctor’s office,” she said.
Mayfield spoke to the group before Charlottesville comedian Jim Zarling took the microphone.
Mayfield said he wouldn’t be where he was without teachers.
“You aren’t part of the problem, you are the answer to the problem,” Mayfield said.
As he spoke, Sam Graham, maintenance manager at Tenaska, helped pass out a gift to all the teachers. It was a Rubik’s Cube with the Tenaska logo covering each of the squares.
Mayfield introduced Zarling as the teachers examined their gift. Mayfield said he told the comedian to keep his set “PG-13.”
Zarling got up and admitted he was nervous talking to a group of teachers. He said it was like getting up to do a book report when all he knew was the book’s title.
“Would you please put the Rubik’s Cubes away?” Zarling said. “You know what it’s like to have people playing with something while you’re talking.”
He praised Tenaska for having providing dinner and entertainment for teachers.
“What a great idea,” Zarling said. “What better way to bribe the schools to give their kids a better grade?”
Zarling held up the flyer Tenaska used to promote the Teachers Night Out. He noted whoever made it up must have wanted to get in on the act because there was a joke printed across the bottom.
Zarling read it. “What does a rabbit wear on his head? A hare piece.”
Everyone chuckled.
“The problem is, the word wear is spelled wrong. It’s spelled ware. Come on! This is for teachers. I hope you all got a copy and underlined it in red and gave it back to them.”
Later, Horace Scruggs, who teaches high school music, said it was a great night out.
“I really appreciate someone in the community giving us a tangible appreciation of what we do and what we do for our children,” Scruggs said.
Mayfield is also the chairman of Virginia Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Education for the State Board of Education. He is interested in getting a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy in Fluvanna Schools.
STEM academies focus on how to use those areas of study in careers, Mayfield said.
“There are 18 STEM academies now in Virginia. It’s taking what you already have, what you already teach and applying it to real life situations. For example, how you would use math in nursing,” he said. “It takes a real commitment from the community, the teachers, the School Board and the Board of Supervisors.”
He said studies show most potential engineers are lost as early as 4th grade.
“Career and Technical Education will go to middle school and then to as young as 4th grade,” Mayfield said. “This is being pushed from the governor on down.”