The Brooks Sabbatical: In Search of My Roots

Marilyn Jones and Nannie Haley

By Marilyn Jones, Middle School Teacher 1978-2012

Webster defines families as:

  1. All those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor;
  2. A group of people who are generally not blood-related but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals.

I have been a part of Greensboro Day School since August 1978. From the moment I walked down the corridors, I immediately knew that GDS was a special place. I became a member of a group of people (a family) who had common attitudes, interests, and goals. What a positive teaching environment! The Brooks Sabbatical offered me the opportunity of not only developing my teaching curriculum but also allowed me to trace my German ancestry. My sister was able to accompany me on a three-week sojourn to Germany and to enjoy the experience of finding our family’s roots.

My interest in finding my roots and telling my story started several years prior to my sabbatical. Craig Head, a member of the sixth grade team, suggested that we incorporate Alex Haley’s Roots TV mini-series into our advising curriculum. He shared that his parents and he watched the mini-series together in 1977. Craig explained how the series had made an impact on him. Of course, the team was excited about taking on the challenge. After many months of planning, we launched our new advising program. A valuable component of the program besides watching the edited videos and doing the follow-up activities was Telling Our Stories. Incorporating this into advising, the sixth graders began to investigate their stories.

A few years after the program started, Dr. John King met Nannie Haley, Alex Haley’s widow, in Beaufort during the summer. He shared with her our advising program which focused on Roots. He invited Nannie to visit the class to share her story. The sixth graders enjoyed hearing her story and how Alex wrote Roots. Needless to say Nannie’s visits became an annual event until her health kept her from spending time with us.

Meeting Nannie Haley and incorporating Telling Our Stories into our advising program encouraged me to trace my family’s roots. I was fortunate enough to share my journey with her.

How valuable is the Brooks Sabbatical to Greensboro Day School? I believe that it gives our teachers opportunities to engage in professional growth and to enhance their abilities to help their students learn in more meaningful ways. Recipients of the sabbatical can focus on improving their curriculum, fulfilling a life-long passion, or expanding their knowledge and expertise.  Not only do the teachers benefit but also the students and the school.  It is a win-win situation for all.

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