Return to Headlines

Back to School Rally Stresses the Value of Words

Back to School Rally Stresses the Value of Words

Teachers encouraged to “Change your words, change your world”

 better rally 2016

WFISD's 1,800 staff members fill the First Baptist Church sanctuary for the Back to School Assembly, held Aug. 11, 2016. 

Words matter – in Super Bowl commercials and in the classroom.


The 1,800 WFISD employees attending Thursday’s Back to School Assembly contemplated through videos, group discussions and special messages the far-reaching effects that their words can have.


The annual Back to School assembly embraces the entire WFISD staff team – teachers and support workers alike – as a rallying cry for a productive new school year.


“You could be a brain surgeon”

Six words -- “You could be a brain surgeon” – were the focus of a kick-off video presented to staff members.


The video featured the story of a brain surgeon who saved the life of a patient, who then urged him to call and thank the one person who had most influenced him to develop his surgical talents.


Immediately, the brain surgeon recalled his middle school science teacher. The teacher had praised him when he removed a frog’s brain and spinal cord in a classroom lab exercise. The teacher observed the boy’s work as the most precise “surgery” he had ever seen and said, “You could be a brain surgeon.”


“This wasn’t in his TEKS,” said Gary Cunningham a few minutes later in his Secondary Teacher of the Year address to the crowd about the importance of a teacher’s comments.  “Many of you have success stories that you could share.”


Mr. Cunningham, who is also the Region 9 Secondary Teacher of the Year, suggested everyone should have a special device that measured the positivity of his words the way a Fit Bit measures one’s steps. “Would we watch what we say?” he asked the crowd.


“Be committed”

Elementary Teacher of the Year Amy Simmons reminded staff members that commitment to their teaching craft requires standing up for one another, believing the best, telling the hard truths when necessary, being transparent to build trust and support, and holding one another accountable.


“My challenge to you is to be committed,” said the Jefferson Elementary teacher.


The crowd was also treated to several visitors, one by First Baptist Church Pastor Bob McCartney, whose church played host to the assembly. As the parent of a West Elementary second grader, he said he wanted to lodge a “thank you” into teachers’ minds so they could pull it out later in the year when they were running ragged or serving a parent who neglected to say it.


WFISD staff members shoot a selfie using a selfie stick as teachers catch up with one another before the Back to School Assembly begins. First Baptist Church hosted the meeting for the district's 1,800 WFISD employees, as the church has done for many years. The sanctuary becomes T-shirt heaven, with each school staff wearing its own special shirt.
 Here's the photo taken with the selfie stick. It features WFISD curriculum specialists.
Promoting Moby Dick live opera simulcast

Another visitor, advertiser Jackie Hoegger, alerted the crowd to the presentation of a free live opera simulcast of Moby Dick, coming soon to Wichita Falls. The free offering will air Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. on an enormous indoor screen at Kay Yeager Coliseum, a free event courtesy of The Dallas Opera and The Priddy Foundation.


She urged teachers to promote the free cultural event to every Wichita Falls student and family and to use the free curriculum  written to tie the performance into classrooms. More information, she said, was available at


Board member Bob Payton also addressed the crowd. He introduced the newest board member, Tom Bursey, and thanked the board’s most recent retiring member, Trey Sralla. Mr. Payton’s message to teachers: “Don’t give up on those kids.”


“Most Likely to Succeed” documentary

The crowd also watched portions of a lengthy documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed.” It analyzed the fitness of today’s school delivery system, which originated in 1892, for today’s technology-driven generation and found it unsuitable.


According to the documentary, the nation’s school curriculum originated with decisions made by The Committee of Ten at the dawn of the industrial revolution in 1892 “and for the most part has not changed.”


Superintendent Michael Kuhrt warned that “WFISD as we know it will be obsolete in 10 to 15 years” and must embrace change. The district is already embarking on new practices, such as having students publish their work to worldwide audiences and participating in career-based education. “We need to capture kids’ hearts like never before,” he said.


Kuhrt: “It’s time to weed the garden”

Mr. Kuhrt directed the crowd to analyze WFISD’s programs in small group discussions, pinpointing which ones should be continued or discontinued.  “It’s time to weed the garden,” he said. “The time is now, and this is the team.”


The technology-championing superintendent urged the crowd to share their successes this year on Facebook and Twitter and to tag them with #iamwfisd.


WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt, a technology lover, had a little fun with the Back to School Assembly crowd. He stopped his presentation at the podium to take a selfie with them, then posted the photo on Twitter.
He also briefly updated staff on several new initiatives for the 2016-2017 school year:


·      A new teacher and principal evaluation system

·      The district’s intention to become a District of Innovation, as proposed by House Bill 1842 in June 2015.

·      The expanded curriculum of career-based classes that will be offered this year in preparation for the opening of the Career and Technical Education Center next fall

·      The ramping up of technology in WFISD classrooms

·      The state’s new mandated endorsement plan for graduation

·      The value to the district of investing $1 apiece each month in the WFISD Foundation, which invests its funds in WFISD students. The WFISD Foundation will award an Apple watch to two winners in September.