Staff Photo: Keith Farner Will Searcy, a 2012 graduate of Dacula High School, speaks to nearly 400 new teachers to Gwinnett County Public Schools at an orientation program on Monday at Peachtree Ridge High School. Searcy plans to attend Yale University this fall.
SUWANEE -- When Will Searcy stepped to the podium on Monday morning, his resume spoke for itself. That's why he received a standing ovation from a packed auditorium of new teachers in Gwinnett schools.
Yet Searcy, who graduated from Dacula High School in May -- eighth in his class -- and plans to attend Yale University this fall, gave such a rousing speech that he was honored with another standing ovation as he walked off the stage.
In his inspirational speech to 384 new teachers to Gwinnett County Public Schools, Searcy said, "You have the power to make your students come alive.
"You can give them the power to make them develop every day of their life to be great," Searcy said. "What will you do?"
Searcy was one of eight speakers at the annual event, held this year at Peachtree Ridge High School, where the district outlines its goals and expectations for the teachers, but also boasted that more than 30,000 applications were received for the openings.
"That's a little bit of weight on your shoulders," said Gale Hey, associate superintendent for teaching and learning. "I say that in a good way."
Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks was one of several who said GCPS is the 14th largest school district in the country, and that the district added about 600 students to its enrollment since last year, which brings the total to 162,635.
Wilbanks told the new teachers that they would make a difference in the lives of students, but also their parents and community members.
"If your students learn half as much as you learn, it will be all worth it," Wilbanks said.
Two hundred and five of the teachers are brand new to the district, while the others joined GCPS midway through last school year.
The new teachers were presented with inspirational quotes from people like Willie Mays, William Shakespeare and Maya Angelou. But they also heard from one of their peers, 2011 GCPS Teacher of the Year Steve Kuninsky, a science teacher who applied an analogy he learned from a summer vacation to see retired spaceships in Washington.
Kuninsky compared the tiles on the bottom of the space ship to the teachers in the district, each fulfilling a crucial task to complete the overall goal.
"Each one of us is different, just like those tiles," Kuninsky said. "Our position is irreplaceable and important."
Kuninsky and Searcy both referenced that students in classrooms today may one day become doctors, lawyers or scientists.
"The scientists who built the space shuttle once sat in classrooms with you and me," Kuninsky said.