Justin Carver Kiwanis

Justin Carver, principal of Banner Elk Elementary, updates stakeholders in the Banner Elk community of the newest aspects of the high-performing school.

BANNER ELK – Banner Elk Kiwanis Club held its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at Holston Presbyterian Camp and welcomed special guest speaker Justin Carver, principal of Banner Elk Elementary School.

Banner Elk Kiwanis, which proactively takes part in multiple aspects of High Country life, had members and guests alike from business owners, Chamber of Commerce, WAMY, Banner Elk Presbyterian and the Avery Co. Sheriff’s Office.

Carver provided a presentation on recent components and updates to Banner Elk Elementary, which plays a vital role in the development of Banner Elk youth. The school, which serves 179 students, is currently working with a company on a new logo design. BE Elementary is an original A-plus school in North Carolina for arts integration and coordinates by way of infusing academics and progressive collaboration.

“It separates us and what we do from the pack,” Carver said of the instructional arts integration.

BES has demonstrated time and again that it is competitive in all academic areas. Carver said the school always has a theme or a motto. The theme that has been a driving force in the attitude of everyone involved is “Be the change.” The faculty and staff has also been utilizing the word “presence” with respect to student and staff involvement and attitude.

BE Elementary also is proud of a recent addition to the staff, Gidget the therapy dog. Gidget is the school’s resident service dog and helps students and staff by providing the kind and loving nature only man’s best friend could give.

“She has changed my life and our student’s lives,” Carver said about Gidget’s impact. Carver also noted that word has traveled quickly, and other schools are reaching out to ask about the positive aspects that the canine brings to the education experience. Students can give and receive a hug anytime with Gidget and use their stored up attention and adulation.

Banner Elk Elementary is also in the process of creating a full community garden with the anticipation of acquiring a full greenhouse. Carver noted that the school has partnered with the Williams YMCA for the afterschool program, and lauded the positive impact of the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival in integrative learning. Carver reported also that a grant is in progress to improve the library and the school is prepping for its annual winter musical, where all the students will be involved and will be performing a stage production of “Frozen.”

Carver and the school have established the ‘“Cool Clothes Closet.” Carver mentioned that students in Avery County routinely receive hand-me-down clothes. The CCC is about offering brand new, sometimes brand name clothing for kids in need. The school has partnered with Old Navy with respect to the clothing closet. Carver noted that all of the clothing involved in this program have tags or boxes. “There is nothing wrong with secondhand clothing, but these kids deserve the best and I’m going to bring the magic,” Carver said, utilizing one of his favorite mottos (“Bring the magic.”) The program lets the kids “shop” for clothes instead of getting a bag of clothes they did not select. The aim is to give the students the ability to pick their own new clothing like they would at a store, yet this is all through donations and charitable endeavors.

Carver also updated a recent addition to the integrated learning environment for the school: a simulated cafe. The cafe is used to give students real world experience and to practice life skills. Students participate in mock food service where faculty and staff orders are placed and students greet visitors, help peers, host, serve, take orders, clean and perform all the traditional roles of the food service industry.

“We want our kids ready to leave and (prepared to) go to middle school,” Carver said.

The cafe offers explicit efforts to aid in the life skill learning of exceptional children and speech language learners, however it incorporates all students to introduce and practice tangible abilities.

“I’m so proud of our staff and we have top notch kids. It is all for the kids, worth the work and the community here is unmatched,” Carver concluded.

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