Barwell Elementary Honors Sandy Hook with Golden Tribute
by Keally Miller, Editor Garner News
For the second year in a row, Barwell Road Renaissance Elementary School has made it into one of the coveted 29 spots for Wake County schools to participate in Pieces of Gold, an annual art showcase where singers, dancers and other artists come together to display the best of the best in Wake County.
Barwell Elementary is a Title I, year round school located in Raleigh, yet most of the students yield from Garner. The school is one of four Renaissance schools in Raleigh that receives federal money because of low performance on standardized testing. Barwell also has a strong focus on promoting technology and boasts a lot of it in the classroom. In addition, class sizes at Barwell remain low to promote a better learning environment for students; on average fifth grade classes have about 17 students per teacher.
The Pieces of Gold show celebrates its 30th year showcasing talent from the very best in Wake County. The annual performance is hosted by the Wake Education Partnership and this year was held at the Progress Energy Center for Performing Arts. The ticket sales for the event went to benefit the Wake Education Partnership’s Teacher Leadership Grants program and building leaders intiative.
On March 13, Barwell performed a tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary using six Michael Jackson hits. Fifth grade students sang, danced and even rapped to “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “ABC,” “Man in the Mirror,” “We are the World” and “Heal the World.”
Students for the musical number were chosen based on a choral audition held in August. Areas evaluated were musical ability and preparedness, as well as behavior and leadership skills. In addition, five art students painted a portrait of Michael Jackson onto multiple canvases that were assembled during the performance. Those students were Joselin Linares-Romero, Selina Ifidon, Nivo Fnu, Kyra Davis and Jim A.
The Sandy Hook portion of the performance was not added until after the school’s winter break when the tragedy occurred. Principal Sandy Barefoot asked what could Barwell do to heal the community after Sandy Hook. This is the first year Barwell’s performance included teachers. In the finale of the performance teachers walked out behind the students to form a chorus line – they even donned long royal blue robes. The students and teachers joined together to sing “Heal the World,” while a screen listed the Sandy Hook victims’ names in the shape of a heart and inside were lyrics from Jackson’s song.
First grade teacher Hannah Stover has taught at Barwell for six years and stated, “It makes me very proud to see students I taught in first grade [now in fifth grade] in such a prestigious program.” She also spoke of the performance coordinator, Amanda Watson Bailey, and her profound difference in the students’ lives. “Without the arts I don’t think the kids would be where they are today,” said Stover.
Bailey has taught at Barwell for two years as a music specialist and is probably better known for once being Miss Garner 2008 and Miss North Carolina 2008. Bailey also won the Diane Kent Parker First Year Teaching Award, given to teachers who demonstrate significant professional success during their first year teaching. “Being chosen to be part of Pieces of Gold for our second year in a row is extremely exciting and humbling for me as a beginning music teacher. Last year was Barwell’s first time being chosen for this event and to be selected again this year was extremely rewarding for our students and school community,” said Bailey. She also commented on why it is so special that Barwell made the showcase. “Most of our students do not have the opportunity to participate in outside activities in the arts so being able to perform on such a prestigious stage was a huge honor for every student who performed Wednesday night,” said Bailey.
Second grade teacher LeAnn Roelofs thought it was important to remember, “Not just the teachers were affected; the students were affected too [by the Sandy Hook tragedy].”
Ten year old Carlos Cortes was one of Barwell’s performers this year. He sported a flashy jewel-encrusted tie with his ensemble and was quick to show off his MJ dance moves after the dress rehearsal Tuesday. After asked if he could dance like Michael Jackson, Cortes quickly popped his body up on the toes of his shoes with one hand on the brim of an imaginary hat and one hand on his belt he yelled out, “Hee-Hee!” in a familiar Jackson style. Cortes found time to answer a few questions between dance moves. “[The performance] was fun. I get to sing a lot of songs,” said Cortes. He also boasted that he has been a Michael Jackson fan for as long as he can remember. Cortes added that he “feels sad for all of the families” affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Janeva Williams, 10, sings, dances and raps in this years’ performance. Williams said she did feel a bit of nerves, because “I’m right in front.” Williams also remarked on the recent Sandy Hook tragedy, “It makes me feel good [that we honored them], because they were wonderful students. I hope nothing bad happens like that again.”
Bailey said the crowd at Wednesday night’s performance cheered loudly for the student’s tribute to Sandy Hook. “The students did a phenomenal job with their pitch, volume, choreography and stage presence. We received a roaring applause from the audience even before the production was over,” said Bailey.