District connects life and art in powerful object lesson

NEWBERRY – “Think of your favorite story, one that inspires or makes you laugh and carry that with you, for it will serve you well,” said guest speaker Sam Glenn as he spoke to teachers, faculty and staff in the Newberry County School District (NCSD) on Wednesday, August 14.

He shared several funny anecdotes. He also shared his story, of how his life was transformed from a transient homeless person doing odd jobs into a life filled with purpose, career, family and art — all because a caring friend gave him “a kick in the attitude.”

Kick or not, Glenn did not come to move educators or inspire them with his feet. Rather, he used his paintbrush and connected life to art. The Minnesota native painted as he talked until his canvas became an Eagle. Glenn chose this symbol of an observant animal with keen eyes who responds to trouble by changing altitude. He reminded, as NCSD Superintendent Jim Suber often does, of how, “your attitude determines your altitude.”

Glenn gave the keynote speech as teachers, faculty and staff gathered at Newberry Middle School for annual professional development and a school year kick off pep rally. That day the Teacher and Support Staff of the Year were announced for the 2019-20 school year. The NCSD Teacher of the Year, is Oleva Irvin from Newberry Elementary School. Support staff of the year is Deanna Wilbanks, Newberry County Sheriff’s Deputy and School Resource Officer at Newberry High School. Newberry Middle School teacher Jennifer Lathrop becomes the district’s first Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Within that context of district kick off day, Sam Glenn used painting as an object lesson to remind teachers of life’s inherent messiness.

“Look for the masterpiece within the mess,” he said. “And the mess can become a message.”

To Glenn, author of numerous books on attitude, the most difficult part of his job is not the public speaking. The most difficult part of his job is once he walks off the stage and, as a father and husband and speaker, must live the life of which he speaks.

“Every day is a gift to choose the attitude that will best work for us to elevate our lives. Don’t be clueless to the great power you have via you attitude,” he said.

The gist is that, there is a tug-of-war where one’s attitude is not positive or negative. Rather the attitude hangs in the balance.

“If you leave attitude to chance, that puts you in a dangerous place,” Glenn said.

He spoke of his friend and mentor Zig Ziglar. Ziglar helped Glenn overcome “stinking thinking” to learn to take a time out to do a check up from the neck up and make his attitude an asset, not a liability.

Glenn gave three pieces of advice: One) Complain less, and compliment more. Two) Learn to lighten up and laugh daily. Laughter massages the heart. Three) Connect to what inspires you daily and moves you to be better. Through art, story, humor and frank conversation, he asked, “How do we put that Eagle spirit within our attitude to keep rising higher and make a difference in the lives of young people?”

The art and the takeaway of the day said this: Welcome back, students.