A student gives a New Year’s Eve toast to Edgar Rice and Caitlyn Edwards. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Led by teacher Eleana Pate, the staff at Rock Creek Elementary School, hosted the First Annual Amazing Shake at the school on May 9.

The Amazing Shake is the brainchild of Ron Clark, founder of The Ron Clark Academy, who also hosts a National Amazing Shake competition. According to The Ron Clark Academy, The Amazing Shake is a competition that places an emphasis on teaching students manners, discipline, respect and professional conduct.

Prior to the competition, students learn the nuances of professional human interaction as they are taught skills such as how to give a proper handshake, how to “work a room,” how to give a successful interview and how to remain composed under pressure. The goal is to prepare students so that they are able to present themselves exceptionally well for opportunities.

In preparing for the event at Rock Creek, Pate reached out to more than 30 businesses and coworkers to give the students some real-life scenarios to test their skills.

The students were graded on a 10 point scale with a 10 being the top score. Pate was able to set up 32 stations and each student had a minute to make an impression on the judges.

“This is awesome,” Unicoi County Director of Schools John English said. “I’ve had some great arguments both ways.”

English was hosting a station where students had a minute to debate either for or against school uniforms. Among other stations, Town of Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson listened to students explain why Blue Lives Matter. Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey occupied a station where students must explain why it is important to vote.

“The students are doing great,” Bailey said. “We’ve had two 10s and two nines so far.”

At the Erwin Outdoor Supply station, students had to sell an item of their choosing from a backpack, sandals, or T-shirt.

“They have to sell us and explain why,” Erwin Outdoor Supply Owner Brandy Bevins said. “The students have given really good reasons why these products should sale.”

April Simmons was on hand from Clinchfield Federal Credit Union, where students had to write a check.

“We had quite a few 10s,” Simmons said.

Ballad Health Human Resources Director Brooke Graham had a station that asked a tough question,

“Why should I hire you?” Graham said.

Another station that gave the students trouble was the bed making station.

“It’s hard to make a bed from scratch in a minute,” Rock Creek librarian Gina Podvin said.

The scoring was as tough as the challenges themselves for the students.

“I haven’t given out any 10s, because no one is perfect,” Edgar Rice said at his New Year’s Eve toast station.

Some of the other stations included dealing with a disgruntled employee, handshakes, eye contact, small talk, and a Presidential talk.

“We may have some future candidates,” Erwin Kiwanis member and presidential talk host Bill Gaines said.

According to Pate, the students only had two weeks to practice.

“We hope to grow this into an annual event and to see if we can get community support to send these deserving students to nationals,” Pate said.

Coming in first place was Kaley Toney; second place was Emma Desmaris; and finishing third was Sydney Saldana.

Each year The Ron Clark Academy hosts a National Competition. According to The Ron Clark Academy, The Amazing Shake National Competition is open to any student in the fifth-eighth grade during the 2018-19 school year. Schools are encouraged to have local Amazing Shake competitions and to send their top performers to nationals.

Districts are also encouraged to conduct district-level competitions with the winners from local schools. District-level winners of the Amazing Shake receive a bye during the first round competitions in Atlanta. The number of students sent by a school or school district is up to their discretion.

If any businesses or community members wish to sponsor the winners, and help send them to nationals, please contact Rock Creek Elementary at 743-1648 and ask for Pate.