Proud to be a Wicker School alumnus

By James French

WEBjamesfrenchI received my elementary education at Lee Elementary School in Jonesboro because my residence was in the Deep River community. After completing the eighth grade in 1963, I started my high school education at W.B.Wicker High School in the fall of 1963 and graduated in 1967.

I am very proud of and grateful for the education that I received at W.B. Wicker. Our teachers were some of the finest that ever taught at Wicker School. They all had the best interest of their students in mind throughout our classroom experience. They cut you no slack, and if we needed to be disciplined, they did it without any repercussions from our parents. They treated us like they were our parents while at the same time preparing us for the future from the classroom.

Our principal, Mr. W.B. Wicker, was one of the greatest. He was a short, stocky man with a voice that carried from one end of the hall to the next. It was in your best interest to be on your best behavior at all times, because you never knew where Mr. Wicker might be. He and the pastor of my church were very good friends, and Mr. Wicker had an open line to him. He did not hesitate to call Rev. Ward if any of us got in trouble. He knew us personally and would many times refer to us as “Rev. Ward’s boys.” If it became necessary for him to make that phone call, the outcome was not good.

Mr. Wicker treated all the students like we were his children, because he cared about our future.

I was proud of the efforts Brick Capital made to bring things back to life at the school location. I am very appreciative of the foresight and wisdom that came from our school board and county commissioners at the time the decision was made to renovate and rebuild W.B.Wicker School.

All the future students who are given the opportunity to attend this school can look forward to a quality education. I am sure that Mr. Wicker is looking at this beautiful structure with a big happy smile.

James French is a Sanford native who graduated from W.B. Wicker High School in 1967. He has served as warden of Central Prison in Raleigh and as director of the North Carolina Division of Prisons, and is currently a member of the CCCC Board of Trustees.

A dream job and a chance to make a difference

WEBlexieFor Lexie Anne Brown, the role of dance teacher at the new W.B. Wicker Elementary School is a dream come true. The Lee County High School and Meredith College graduate got her experience teaching dance at Jordan High School in Durham and, most recently, B.T. Bullock Elementary School. She sees the opportunity at Wicker as her chance to make a difference in children’s lives at a school designed to nurture their talents.

“When I think of things that mean a lot to me, children, Sanford and public education are pretty high on my list,” says Brown. “So I feel extremely lucky that I get to go to work everyday and work at something that I am truly passionate about. I’m ready to get started.”

Brown grew up in Sanford and started dancing at the age of 2. She said her friends always told her “dance teacher” was in her future, but it wasn’t until her time at Meredith where she found out it was a possible career in public education. She observed dance classes in Wake County elementary, middle and high schools, and came away feeling that her hometown was being cheated.

“I witnessed first hand through those observations what a difference dance could make for students’ everyday life in school and started dreaming about the possibility of having dance in Lee County Schools,” she says. “The position at Wicker was a no-brainer for me.”

The says the most rewarding thing about teaching dance in a public school is seeing the way dance can build a child’s confidence and change his or her whole outlook no school. She says during her time at B.T. Bullock, she witnessed children who would stand in a corner and refuse to participate blossom to become the “star of the show.”

“Seeing the pride kids have for themselves and the excitement in their eyes over being a part of something bigger than themselves after a performance is probably my favorite thing in the world.”

She thinks Wicker will be a unique school for students because of the A+ model teachers like her will follow. She says grade level teachers and specialist teachers will work together to plan lessons that integrate subjects like math, science, social studies and ELA with arts classes like hers.

“While students are in classes like dance, art, music and theatre, they will also be meeting standards from their core classes,” she says. “The arts aren’t going to be looked at as an ‘extra.’ I think that the strong connection between arts and other content areas will highly increase student engagement, student participation, student understanding and student discipline.”

She also thinks the staff at Wicker will become its own community, because it will work closely together to meet the needs of their students.

“I get chills thinking about all of the learning experiences and opportunities the children at Wicker are going to have,” she says, “and the talents they will be able to discover that otherwise may have never been realized.”

A passion for integrating arts into everyday life

WEBwendybryantWendy Bryant joins W.B. Wicker Elementary after 20 years of experience teaching art in Lee County — five at Lee County High School and the last 15 at Broadway Elementary.

She will be completing a 10-month, full-time clinical administrative internship through the University of North Carolina-Greensboro’s Principal Preparation of Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools program. Next spring, she’ll receive her Master of School Administration in Educational Leadership and Culture Foundations degree.

She was the 2018 North Carolina Art Educators Association’s Teacher of the Year, and she represented the state at the NAE Conference in Seattle. Outside of the classroom, she’s been active in incorporating the arts into the Sanford community. In 2014, she created the Arts Ambassadors program to bring art students into assisted living facilities, and in 2017, she became involved in Downtown Sanford’s Art in the Alley program at StreetFest. She’s also been heavily involved the Brick City Bees Initiative to increase the number of beehives in the city.

Bryant says she’s excited to be a part of the Wicker staff, calling their recent week of A+ Schools Institute training in Raleigh “phenomenal.”

“The energy and excitement among the staff was contagious,” she says. “We started off as strangers; but over the course of the week, true lifetime friendships were formed. Relationships are the key to a happy and joyful life — when you have genuine, trusting relationships, everything else falls into place.”

She says the students at W.B. Wicker will be entering a school where the staff and administration have the love, passion and dedication it takes to change a student’s life. The school’s integration of art into every content area will “focus on meeting students’ multiple intelligences,” she says.

“Arts integration is a research-based approach that has proven results,” Bryant says. “The arts empower, build critical thinking skills and afford equity. Multiple learning pathways will allow students to take ownership of their own learning and discover talents they never knew they possessed. That’s powerful and unique. Additionally, Wicker will create opportunities at multiple levels for family and community involvement.”

She says being part of an A+/STEAM school in Lee County is a dream come true, professionally. Bryant says her passion lies in arts integration, and she’s excited to share that passion with like-minded educators.

“I am excited to see the smiling faces of our students as they enter their beautiful new school for the first time,” she says. “I am excited about serving the teachers, staff and students at Wicker. But most importantly, I am excited about the lives that will be transformed and changed forever because of the opportunities that W.B. Wicker Elementary School will offer students, families and staff.”