Friday, January 29, 2016

Unique Employee Delivers Excellence

Viper Custodian Committed to Delivering the Highest Level of Service to Support Learning Environment

Walk around the 700 building of Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School and you may notice a man with a strong work ethic and quiet, unassuming demeanor wearing a backwards Hurley hat.  

"In general, I'm always running around making sure everybody is taken care of," said Mr. Grant Witters, who is serving in his first full year as a custodian at Space Coast.

While keeping his assigned areas clean is important, he understands the value of maintaining quality relationships with people.

"I try to keep a good relationship with the teachers. I'm really spoiled in the 700s. It's nice how some of the teachers will call me over and say, 'Hey, Grant, I got some food for you!' The teachers take good care of me, just like I try to take good care of them." 

What is it like working at Space Coast? "Everybody has been super friendly," said Mr. Witters. "It's a calm place to work. It's not like I'm burning the candle at both ends. I really enjoy the atmosphere and I like working here." 

How does Mr. Witters approach his work? "At the end of the day, as long as I'm satisfied with what I've done and anyone can come behind me and say, 'He's done a great job!' then I feel like I've done everything I can do."

Grant Witters works hard to take care of the Space Coast campus so students, teachers, and staff can thrive. "I'm just like everyone else. I want to make sure I do my job thoroughly and do it to the best of my ability."

While this is his first position working at a school, Mr. Witters is very familiar with the Brevard school system. "I've lived in Brevard County my whole life. My mother has taught at schools around Brevard county for nearly 30 years." He smiled. "From her, I've heard everything. All the stories."

Having previously worked for a paint company for over 15 years, Mr. Witters appreciates the transition from those stressful, hectic weeks of working 12 hour days to a calmer environment and less demanding work schedule in which he has more time to spend with his family during the week. 

"I was looking for something where I could spend a little more time with my boys." His boys are 9 and 12 years old, respectively. "My last job, by the time I got home, I was mentally and physically exhausted. It was very mind-taxing. This job allows me to leave here after a long day's work, and still have the mental and physical capacity to enjoy time with my boys."

Hobbies and interests? "Music is definitely a passion of mine. I've loved music ever since I was a kid. Now my older son is opening me up to different kinds of music. Everywhere I go, it's music. If it's not the headphones, it's the stereo in my car."

As a hobby, Mr. Wiiters plays drums. "I played in the drumline at Titusville High School. Since then, I've played in several bands just for the fun of it, but nothing serious. I've played anything from heavy metal with my friends to Gospel swing at my church."  

"I got my kids into music, too. My 12 year-old son is learning how to play the guitar. My 9 year-old already plays the drums as well as I did when I was 13." He laughed. "I've got two mini rock monsters."

Playing music also makes for a fun family activity. "My youngest son has a smaller drum set. I'll sit behind him and play a little bit, and my other son will play his guitar, and the three of us will jam together." 

An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Witters used to ride dirt bikes when he was younger. "These days, I just like watching my kids skate at the skate park. They'll go up and down the ramps. I'll inline skate but I don't get as crazy as I used to with the skating. I'm happy watching my kids have fun doing their thing."

It is important for students to understand hardworking custodians like Mr. Witters are not here to pick up after them, but rather to keep the school clean for them. There's a big difference. "The hardest part of the day is lunch duty," he said. "Most kids are great but some students don't do well at picking up after themselves, which makes me wonder if they pick up after themselves at home. Either place, it's the right thing to do to pick up after yourself."

"But I still enjoy working in the cafeteria. It gives me a chance to get more involved with the students. Otherwise, I'm usually behind the scenes, and they don't even know I've been around cleaning classrooms."

What is a fun fact no one around Space Coast may know about Mr. Witters?  "I do security for the home games of the Molly Rogers Rollergirls, a roller derby team based out of Melbourne. It's a lot of fun."

An interesting fact to go along with an interesting person.

Space Coast's head custodian, Mr. Rick Fink, knows what Mr. Witters brings to the table. "I would like to encourage everyone to welcome Mr. Witters to our Viper team. He brings a vast amount of knowledge and skills to the position. It is a pleasure to have him on our team." 

Mr. Fink certainly agrees the modest man with the backwards Hurley hat is committed to doing exceptional work for the students, teachers, and staff he serves.

This story is part of a series of features about the dedicated team that helps keep Space Coast a clean, comfortable environment for students to learn. Stay tuned for related stories throughout the school year.  

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Musical Stars Go County

Exceptional Musical Talents 
Carries Students to All County Status

As anyone in music circles know, being selected as an All County Musician is no small feat.

An All County audition requires students to play 12 major scales, as well as chromatic scales. As they do, students must demonstrate their musical proficiency from the lowest to the highest notes of their instrument.

A sight reading demonstration gives students a mere 30 seconds to finger through a new piece and review it for details such as key signature, time signature, rhythm, and accidentals (sharp and flats in the music that are not in the key signature) before performing it for the first time in front of the panel of judges.

While hundreds of students around the district audition, only a select number of seats are awarded to top performers.

Many students at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High were honored as All County Musicians, only some of whom are pictured above. Not pictured include Middle School Chorus members Brianna Bradley, Paige Jaques, Fausto Piedra, and Jade Robey; High School Chorus members Zachary Atkinson, Ian Cross, Brandon Devoll, Kristina Davis, Sara Flanigan, Allie Hitchcock, Ciera Paul, Kimberly Tyner, Alyssa Updegraff, and Shelby Walker; and Middle School Orchestra member Rachael Dey.

Among the Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School students selected as All County Musicians were Dawson Coleman (junior), Savannah Kurak (junior), Paul Rigolini (senior), and Jacob Dawson (senior).

With so much on the line during auditions, the pressure can be stifling. "You're competing against kids who want to make a career out of it," said Jacob, who plays the trombone. "Nerves play the biggest part in an audition. If you make one mistake or stop playing even for a second, you're done, that's it."

Despite the challenge, a passion for music propels these talented musicians forward. "Music is a great form of expression," said Jacob. "Jazz and writing could rival each other in how expressive they are, but writers get to say what they want using words. In music, especially in jazz, you have to convey what you are feeling with the music you play."

For Jacob, there is more to music than playing notes and performing pieces. "People can use music as an escape. Music can also bring people together."

Jacob made All County Band for the second time this year, and was also was chosen for All County Chorus last year. "It is exciting to play with a different group that is composed of some of the best musicians around," said Jacob. "It's great to sit down and make music, and I love high stakes performances. With All County, you practice together for the weekend and then perform the songs. I love the high expectations of that group."

Dawson, who plays the saxophone, was thrilled to hear the news about his All County selection. "I was pretty excited because I had never made it before," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing with a good group of musicians. Choosing the best musicians out of all of the schools in the district makes it a bigger and better band experience."

For Dawson, music is a cross between a fun hobby and a serious pastime. "I like spending so much time making something perfect and then finally getting to share it with other people. It's rewarding to be able to perform something you've worked so hard to perfect."

"I was ecstatic to be selected for All County," said Savannah, who plays the flute. "It's kind of intimidating because you're going to be playing with the greatest players in the county, but it's great being a part of a group of musicians who all enjoy doing the same thing. I feel like it's going to be a great opportunity to make me a better musician."

Music has had a profound impact on Savannah's life. "Music is my passion and something I really love to do," she said. "It gives me a sense of fulfillment and makes me feel happy. It's like a rush of energy. When I'm focused on a piece I'm playing, it is like accomplishing something.

"It's fun to perform," said Paul. "I'm looking forward to playing good music. They play a lot harder music in the All County Band, which is more exciting and more challenging as a musician."

Each of these Viper All County performers plan on pursuing careers in music.

"I plan on double majoring in music education and performance," said Dawson. "I really want to go to Stetson. While I'm in college, I want to intern at a high school and get some experience. After college, I hope I'll have enough experience to get into a high school."

Dawson isn't the only future music director in the group.

"I want to be a band director," said Savannah. " It feels like I should be doing this for the rest of my life. In college, I'll learn more about the basic notes and fingerings of each instrument, and understand how to help students learn how to play different kinds of instruments."

Paul plans on studying music education at either FSU or Florida Southern. "I'd want to work at a middle school to start out because I feel like it would be easier to do that and to also help out with a high school marching band so I can get a full experience before I become a high school teacher."

In addition to a love of music, these students share a great respect for the teachers that have helped prepare them for brighter futures.

Ms. Christina Cuny is the Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School Band Director. Along with Mr. Michel Avey (who teaches Middle School and High School Chorus, as well as Middle School Orchestra), she leads a strong music program which helps students maximize their musical talents.

"She is full of energy," said Savannah. "I like what she is doing. I can tell she tries hard to help everyone, and that makes me feel better about the future of the band program."

"Ms. Cuny brings a lot of different information and perspective compared to how I view music," said Jacob.

Her students recognize Ms. Cuny is not only focused on developing music skills, but also on forming caring relationships from which everyone can learn and grow together. "I am really impressed with how she is handling the students," said Savannah. "She tries to get to know each individual student."

"Ms. Cuny likes to get to know us individually," said Dawson.

"It's really good how much she cares about us," said Paul. "It's not just about playing music, but about getting to know what we enjoy and what we want to do when we graduate. That's really cool."

Savannah agreed. "She makes an effort to build relationships with her students and that makes me feel like somebody in my life is really trying to make an impact."

With music instructors like Ms. Cuny and Mr. Avey to guide the way, it is no wonder these students have achieved such a great feat as reaching All County.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.