Henry County Schools: Inspiring Future Educators

By Courtney Kelly, Staff Writer, May 7, 2018


Situated in Metro Atlanta while encompassing miles of rural farmland, Henry County, Georgia is a multifaceted region, home to both urban professionals and individuals whose agricultural heritage spans generations. The robust human and geographical diversity supports a variety of industries, the largest employer of which is its school system. Henry County Schools (HCS) serves 42,000 K-12 students and employs almost 5,000 individuals.


Like most large employers, HCS has a vested interest in cultivating its workforce pipeline. As Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education Coordinator for HCS, Sharon Bonner is familiar with the challenges of attracting and recruiting talent. “There are so many constraints put on educators today,” Bonner explained, “that more needs to be done to show the benefits and rewards of education pathways. Educators, administrators, and the support personnel required to run a good school system are in high demand for our county, and I’m sure we’re not alone in that.”


They aren’t. Across the country, school districts are experiencing teacher shortages, especially in the subject areas of math and science. When VirtualJobShadow.com asked Bonner if she would be interested in featuring HCS employees in a new videos series to promote careers in education, she jumped at the chance. “We need students to consider the field of education. We need for them to understand what all of those careers involve, and we want to provide them with good role models,” states Bonner. 


Four professionals reflecting the diversity and excellence characterizing Henry County Schools were featured in the videos. They include Ms. Ja’net Lovelace- Kindergarten Teacher, Dr. Jocelyn Lakani-Jones- Principal, Mr. Ty Lewis- Athletic Director, and Mr. Karshawn Peterson- Basketball Coach. Driven and passionate, these educators demonstrate how HCS leaders cultivate a climate of excellence in their schools. 



The greater Henry County community reinforces this climate by supporting efforts made by administrators and teachers to prepare students for the future. As Bonner explains, “The parents, businesses, and industries here all feel very connected to the school system. Because of that, you don’t have the disconnect of the school system and the economic wheels. The school system is training students to have a job right here in Henry County.”


The symbiotic relationship among Henry County’s educational, economic and political spheres is promoted by their district leadership team. Of this team’s members, Bonner states, “They encourage teachers and administrators to think outside of the box, to be responsive to student interest and student need, and to engage in innovative practices.” 


It is that commitment to innovation which led to the adoption of VirtualJobShadow.com several years ago. The high-tech, video-based career exploration platform was embraced by district staff as a key career planning solution for students. One of the unique value propositions VirtualJobShadow.com offers is its suite of engaging, day-in-the-life job shadowing videos. “Students are much more in tune with videos, so when VJS goes out and interviews someone at their workplace, students have an opportunity to place themselves in that situation to see if it fits. That has a much greater impact than just reading about careers,” Bonner says.


VirtualJobShadow.com and Henry County Schools share a mission of promoting career exploration, a mission exemplified by a maxim that Bonner impresses upon her students: “Every career that you know about is just a drop in the bucket of all the careers that are out there.” She recognizes the importance of familiarizing students with a broad spectrum of potential careers, and she views VirtualJobShadow.com as a powerful means to that end: “VJS allows teachers to bring richness to their career exploration standards.”


Student success drives Henry County educators and administrators. Bonner relates: “For us, in Henry County, it’s all about meeting with that individual student and saying, ‘What is your dream?’ and then being able to personalize their pathway there.” Across the district, VirtualJobShadow.com helps students discover and give substance to their dreams, allowing teachers to “individualize a student’s plan of education,” as Bonner puts it. 


Sharon Bonner looks forward to her community’s reaction to the educational career videos filmed at Henry County Schools. She believes that “It’s going to be a really exciting piece--it drives home that relationship and personalization of what VirtualJobShadow.com does through the website.” 


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