KINGSPORT — Firefighters, police officers, FBI agents, a NASA employee, cowboys, cowgirls, a train engineer, photographers, lawyers, scientists, a helicopter medic, doctors, nurses, a zookeeper, teachers, veterinarians, military members, farmers and others filled the gym at Rock Springs Elementary School Friday morning.
It was part of a Sullivan County Schools systemwide initiative, a Career Day before Monday’s Labor Day break. Students were asked to dress as what they’d like to be when they grow up. The only exception was Holston Elementary, which because of picture day will have its Career Day Tuesday.
Fifth-grader Kiya Wallen was dressed as a flight medic for Ballad Health’s WINGS air helicopter, a job she said she’d really like to have.
At Rock Springs, career technical education supervisor Aaron Flanary, elementary education supervisor Robin McClellan and secondary education supervisor Brent Palmer spoke to students, as did Principal/FBI Agent Alexia Dinsmore.
“The FBI is looking at you. We have agents all over this room,” Dinsmore told the students gathered in the gym at the 430-student school, which included a pre-K class.
Keynote speaker Flanary recalled growing up in Southwest Virginia as the son of a single mom. She later married, but he said he wasn’t the best or hardest-working student and the family struggled financially. He recalled he was ashamed of the family car and later lost a car his mother bought him when she wrecked it in an accident.
He spoke to some students at Central Heights Elementary Friday afternoon.
Friday for him also marked the 20th anniversary of graduating from Marine boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. He said he served six years, 10 month and 22 days in the Marine Reserves, including 10 and a half months as an infantryman on active duty in Iraq. He urged students to follow the acronym KPMO, which stands for knowledge, power, money and opportunity. He said students should have good character and seek help from others when choosing from among 1,600 jobs the U.S. Department of Labor has identified.
Flanary has been a disc jockey, an electrician (which he still does), construction worker, Chuck E. Cheese character, teacher, assistant principal and principal before he became a supervisor in the school system’s central office, but he said the most fun job he ever had was as a Marine. He was on national television in 2005 as a color guard member at a Bristol Motor Speedway race.
In college, he said he initially wanted to study to become an orthodontist, but struggled with chemistry. He also studied video gaming and information technology before settling on a career in education. He worked in IT in 1999-2000 during the Y2K scare. He grew up in rural Lee County, Va., in Dryden before moving to Gate City for middle and high school. Flanary didn’t have his own room until he was in middle school.
McClellan urged students to have two things for their future: hope and education, adding that students should find something they love to do and are good at doing.
“I knew that I was going to be a teacher when I was little,” she said. “Now I’m a teacher to teachers.”
Palmer, who was Sullivan North principal, Sullivan South assistant principal and before that band director before going to the central office, said education is the career for him.
“I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world because I help people,” Palmer said, urging students to “learn as much as you can” and “try as hard as you can.”
Dinsmore told the students that “not always is everything entertaining” and said self-discipline is key.
“Each one of your teachers has a story. They don’t share them often,” Dinsmore said. “They had a journey, too.”