Celina Jane Cavett Benere, principal at Rock Creek Elementary School, is featured in this week's “Principal’s Corner.”
Q: How long have you been principal at Rock Creek School and how long altogether have you been working in the educational field?
A: “This is my fifth year as principal at Rock Creek, however, I have had the pleasure of working for Franklin County Schools for the past 11 years. I began my career as a teacher at Franklin County High School.”
Q: What do you like best about your position and what motivates you the most each day to go to your job?
A: “If I had to choose one thing, the best part of my job is the daily interactions I have with my students and the ability to have a positive impact on them. There’s nothing I love more than seeing their smiling faces every day. Whether it’s them giving me a simple wave, a smile, a hug, a high five, or telling me about something they did, it is these daily interactions that make my job so special. I really do have the best job in the world!
“And, without hesitation, it is the relationships I get to build with my students, their families, my faculty and staff and our community members that are the absolute most motivating part of my job. I am a people person; I love talking to people and getting to know them, and I thrive in an environment that allows me to interact with others.
“It’s funny because several years ago I had a conversation with a colleague in which I said 'absolutely not' regarding the possibility of me becoming a principal. I just didn’t think it would be possible to manage an entire school and still be able to develop strong, meaningful relationships with people, especially with my students. I was so wrong, and I am so thankful that I now have an entire school and community of people who I have the pleasure of building relationships with.”
Q: What is the most challenging thing about your job and what is the easiest?
A: “As principals have previously stated, education is constantly evolving, and it is difficult to stay on the cutting edge. The real challenge for me, however, is seeing the daily struggles some of our students and families face and doing our absolute best to ensure their needs’ are met, both at school and at home.
“As I previously mentioned, I love people and getting to know them. I love being a support that our students, faculty, staff, families, and community can rely on. It should come as no surprise that building relationships with the individuals is the easiest part of my job. As an educational leader, these relationships are invaluable to me and is the most important thing I can do. These relationships form the foundation of the ‘Rock Creek Family,’ and as long as we cultivate and continue to grow these relationships, the possibilities for our students’ success are endless.”
Q: Give the community an update on what’s going on at your school (include past events as well as upcoming events).
A: “One of our favorite and most popular events is our annual Fall Festival/Haunted House. This event continues to grow each year, and with that, we ensure that we have something for all ages!
“Each year we host an open house at the beginning of the year for students and families to get to know our school, faculty, and staff better, and in order to continue this culture of openness and community, I personally operate via an open-door policy, meaning if someone comes to see me or calls me, I will drop what I am doing (if possible) to talk to them. I want students and families to know I am there for them at all times no matter what.
“We host a food drive in November and a toy drive in December so that we are able to give back to our less fortunate families. In January, we hosted a V.I.P. Dance for the community in which students were allowed to bring a very important person with them. Not all students have a “mom” or “dad,” and we want to make sure we are mindful to include all students; thus, we titled it a V.I.P. Dance.
“Other events include our annual field day, awards programs and graduations, Veterans Day program, second grade Christmas play, fifth grade performance of “Pirates: The Musical,” fifth grade dance, annual field trips to local organizations (Grandaddy’s Farm, the Oldham Theater, Motlow, etc.), and much more. Programs which we have to involve our students include LEGO League, STAR Team, Good News Club, Junior Cadets, after school tutoring, and the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams. Finally, you can always find me on Monday evenings at 6:30 p.m. via the Rock Creek Facebook page conducting my weekly ‘Storytime with Mrs. Benere.”
Q: What are some of the highpoints thus far this year at the school? What goals do you hope to achieve in the future for the school?
A: “One of the things I am most proud of is that our school has increased enrollment by 49 students since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. If nothing else, I believe this serves as a testimony to how wonderful our school is and how great our teachers are.
“For example, many of my classroom teachers conduct home visits before the beginning of the school year to welcome families and students to the school and into their classrooms. For those that don’t conduct home visits, many of them send postcards and/or letters to their new students.
“Most teachers consistently plan and carry out classroom transformations to achieve maximum student engagement and excitement. Our librarian has reinvented the library to serve as a STREAM center for the school; it is equipped with 41 Storybook STREAM tubs for teachers to use, as well as 13 STEM stations for students to explore.
“We have implemented our House System in which every student is divided into four houses; students ‘spin the wheel’ to determine which house they will be a part of during their time at Rock Creek, and each six weeks we have a House Friday in which several students are recognized for various awards and are taught various soft skills.
“Faculty and staff vote on House Champions, and these students are ‘caped’ each six weeks; the assembly itself is very special and can be quite emotional as these students are celebrated for their unique gifts and contributions to the school. What is more special is how students have learned to be encouragers and supporters of each other. The House System has provided the avenue for students to develop a sense of belonging within the entire school, not just within a classroom.
“At the end of the year, our field day will include competitions between the houses so that one house will be deemed House Cup Champions! We look forward to this being something that excites and motivates students for years to come!
“As far as goals I have for Rock Creek, I want our students to continue to grow academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. I want my faculty and staff to continue to grow professionally.
“I want Rock Creek to continue cultivating relationships with our families and community members, and most importantly, I want every student to know they are loved and appreciated for the wonderful people they are. I know we already do a good job of this, but at the same time, it is not something I ever want to lose sight of.
Q: What are you most proud of at your school? What would you like to see improved?
A: Without a doubt I am most proud of my faculty and staff. My teachers and staff show up every day (and many weekends), put such pride and hard work into their daily practices and continue to make a difference in the lives of our students at every opportunity possible.
“As far as any one thing that I would like to see improved, I would like to host more events to increase our family and community involvement. We want to ensure that our families and community members feel welcome at all times.”
Q: What is your home life like?
A: “I am incredibly energetic and upbeat and have an absolute passion for education. I was born and raised in Estill Springs and am a product of Franklin County Schools. I love being able to give back to the community that shaped me into who I am today.
“When I am not at school, I love spending time with my family! I, along with my husband, Grant and daughter, Savannah, enjoy traveling, especially to Pigeon Forge (Dollywood) and to the beach. We also enjoy spending time outdoors and going to the movies.”