It’s hot out here. A warm breeze is slowly wandering off the Appomattox River giving me some relief. Still, all in all, it’s a sultry late summer evening. I’ve been here before to walk around and photograph Weston Manor’s lovely surroundings but right now I’m standing where a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse once stood next to the large Georgian-style house. How fitting it is that a large group of folks from Hopewell City Public Schools (HCPS) is streaming towards me. They’re here to enjoy an event for new teachers and administrators hosted by HCPS and Historic Hopewell Foundation (HHF), the organization that cares for Weston Plantation.
Weston Manor, an 18th-century plantation house on the southern shore of the Appomattox River in Hopewell.
Caring for the property is no small task for HHF’s single staff member and dedicated volunteers. Since 2015, their efforts have been bolstered by John Randolph Foundation’s Ursula M. Gibbs Endowment for the benefit of Weston Manor – the roof, the bricks, the electrical and more are kept in good shape through JRF’s grant funding. As I look across the crowd, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Gibbs would be proud. A long-time John Randolph Foundation benefactor, Mrs. Gibbs was a strong supporter of programs that engage and educate local citizens – like these teachers who have a huge positive impact on our youth.
New teachers pictured from left to right: Sarah Seyler, Anna Sturrup, Amber Underhill, and Hannah Barton.
Today, Hopewell City Public Schools is welcoming 74 new teachers and administrators and all the excitement, anticipation, plans, and goals they bring with them! Missy Shores, Director of Personnel for the school system sees it like this, “Our purpose in this event, and others that we schedule for new teachers throughout the year, is to help them form connections with one another and the community. Our hope is to increase/improve teacher retention.”
Looking around I see the new teachers enjoying themselves while getting to know one another a little better. Luckily, there’s a huge tent for shade. Under the tent, there’s a buzz of excitement, story-telling, and laughter. Several attendees are strolling around the beautiful grounds, and some are even touring the historic Manor House. Perhaps in the upcoming school year, these teachers will come back to share this experience with their students. Weston Plantation’s tours and experiential learning programs are perfect for kids who can be immersed in centuries-old tales of the values, lifestyles, hardships, and personal victories of our forebears.
Seasoned Hopewell administrators, Schneria Valentine, Brookie Fowler, Tracy Wilson, and Kelly Stock, join the fun.
Throughout the year, Weston Plantation hosts field trips for kids in Hopewell, Prince George, and surrounding schools and daycare centers. They also offer community events like their Summer Concert Series and work with community organizations like the Hopewell Recreation and Parks, Appomattox Garden Club, Nathaniel Cawsey Garden Club, Wonder City Garden Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Shriners, and local churches to share the local history and culture.
As the sun sets and the breeze blows a little bit cooler, I’m reminded of all the beauty, history, and diverse culture Hopewell has to offer. And I’m thankful – thankful for this amazing group of educators who will be sharing all of it with our youth in the upcoming years.
Yep, Mrs. Gibbs would be proud.Tags: Appomattox River, Education, Historic Hopewell Foundation, historic preservation, Hopewell City Public Schools, teachers, Ursula M. Gibbs Endowment for the benefit of Weston Manor, Weston Manor, Youth Development
This post was written by Ken Newman