Made In CMS

Sonja Gantt

East Mecklenburg High, Class of 1983

When I look back, it’s not hard to see how many of the lessons I learned in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools really shaped me.

My first grade teacher started it off in Hidden Valley Elementary by teaching me a lesson about knowing when to speak. She wrote on my first grade report card “gets her work done but then talks too much to her classmates before they’re finished.” There is some irony in the fact that I would go on to make my living by talking.

My 3rd through 5th grade years were at Irwin Avenue Open Elementary, and I remember the structure of those open classrooms where grade levels were often combined and we did a lot of group work. 

I think those really laid the early foundation for my learning how to work well with others. My middle school years at Piedmont still make me smile. I met lots of lifelong friends and had some great teachers, but I also left there with a deep appreciation for Principal Bettye McLaurin.  After a year of listening to a group of us beg for a cheerleading team, finally, she allowed us to have our squad.

East Mecklenburg was a little intimidating since I hadn’t gone to the middle school that fed into East. I started 10th grade knowing very few people. And, at the time, East was the largest high school in North Carolina. I still remember Principal “Pop” Miller singling me out telling me that he knew I’d been an involved student at Piedmont and he expected the same at East. I didn’t know until several years later that Pop actually singled out lots of people pushing us all to do more than just show up and go to class. I served on the sophomore, junior and senior class councils. And I can still remember all of those campaign speeches in front of my classmates--that’s how I learned to get over my fear of public speaking. And I learned how to plan an event by taking on the Junior/Senior Prom as a project.

When I think about truly the mark of a great educator, I think they are people who push you to do things that you don’t think you can do because they see things in you that you don’t yet see in yourself. I have no doubt that my CMS experience prepared me for my career. I knew how to interact, talk and listen to all kinds of people as a reporter because that’s how I grew up learning in the classes of CMS.

- Sonja Gantt