Meet Justin Stagner: 4th Grade Teacher and Bucket Man

The first time I encountered Justin Stagner was in Fry Hall on a rain-drenched morning at the beginning of the school year. He was carrying a couple of five-gallon buckets and pulling off a reasonably good rendition of Elton John singing, “Bucket Man…I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…” I still don’t know what was up with the buckets, but he struck me that day as someone who was likely a fun teacher.

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin Stagner, 4th Grade Teacher

Justin and his wife have lived in Greensboro for several years. Eight months ago, they welcomed their son, Henry, to the family. Justin grew up near Raleigh, attended Fuquay-Varina High School, then Appalachian State University. For the past seven years, he taught at Oak Ridge Elementary where he and Academic Dean Kevin Brenner were colleagues.

How does Justin describe his teaching? “I’m a pretty active guy and I like to have fun. We move around a lot (including the occasional dance break) and we definitely enjoy ourselves.

“Academically, I’m trying to work on the questions I ask, focusing on higher level thinking. I try to focus on skills that will last throughout their lives. For that reason, we do a lot of collaborating and exploring. I like to give kids a lot of responsibility; it helps them learn about the consequences of not keeping up with their jobs but also the satisfaction of a job well done.”

What have Justin’s students been doing lately? “One student redesigned our city flag and sent a letter to the mayor to explain why it should be changed. Another raised donations for a local animal charity. We even had a student filling backpacks with essentials for low income kiddos in our area. Although I think it is important for kids to be kids, I also think it’s great to give them the opportunity to make a difference in our world and watch them rise to the occasion.”

As the father of a boy, I appreciate that our kids in the lower school have the chance to learn from both men and women. I asked Justin for his take on that. One of the Episcopal values that resonates with me most is not just tolerating differences but embracing differences. I think it is important for students to see diversity in their teachers. This would include different perspectives and teaching styles but also should extend to gender, ethnicity and religious background. You may never know which student really needs a male role model in his/her life or which student needs to feel like they have something in common with their teacher. It can be a very powerful for student to see a teacher as a learner, too, and that teachers were kids at some point, just like them!”

What does he like about teaching at Canterbury? “The freedom to venture out into new territory: a new lesson, a new app, or a new project.” As Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus) says, ‘Take chances, get messy and make mistakes!’

by David Whitehead

DavidDavid Whitehead is the Distance Education Coordinator at Davidson County Community College and father to a kindergartner. The latter gives him an excuse to play baseball and ride bikes a lot.


CANterbury CAN! Annual Fund Challenge is Making an Impact


Canterbury students do their part to support the Annual Fund Campaign.

Canterbury does so much for our children. The school’s whole-child approach to education helps our sons and daughters to learn, to love, to serve: to live. But take a moment to think about what else Canterbury can do? Working together, what kind of an impact could we make toward advancing the learning environment?

Efforts like the Canterbury School Annual Fund Campaign seek to answer just that. The 2014-15 campaign – “CANterbury CAN!” – is well under way. Thanks to some great ideas, this year’s drive is especially meaningful, effective and fun.

For instance, at Open House, Annual Fund Coordinator Meghan Davis announced a canned food drive: for every pledge received, Canterbury would donate a can of food to Greensboro Urban Ministry. To date, more than 160 cans have been donated, showcasing Canterbury’s dedication to school and community.

Also, every successful campaign needs an engaging challenge to raise awareness and participation. In October, Canterbury announced a competition between the middle and lower schools. The division that had the highest percentage of pledges would win casual dress days and bragging rights.

Just Zappia declares lower school the champions!

Justin Zappia declares lower school the champions!

Talented parent Wendy Riley captured some great images from the challenge. Justin Zappia in a referee’s uniform. Kindergarteners proudly proclaiming the lower school’s victory. Can’t you just see the Canterbury spirit in the photos?

So far, total family participation is at 61 percent. Faculty, staff, and board members are at 100 percent!

The goal for 2014-15 year is $400,000. As of Dec. 1, the school has raised $200,000.  Together, we CAN reach our goal! If you have not had a chance to submit your pledge, remember that payments are not due until the end of May and may be made in convenient installments – even right online. What a great way to say “thank you” to Canterbury this holiday season.

Speaking of saying thanks, read the interview below and get to know Meghan Davis as well as our wonderful Annual Fund chairs, Matt and Rhonda Wakefield. On behalf of your fellow Canterbury parents, we appreciate your outstanding leadership and service, Matt and Rhonda!

Matt and Rhonda, describe your experience so far serving as Annual Fund chairs.

Meghan has gotten us acclimated to our roles, and we have been excited to support the school this way ever since!  So far, we have spoken about the Annual Fund (AF) at the Lower School and Middle School Back-to-School Nights as a way to introduce ourselves and the role we play for the AF Campaign. Most recently, an AF Committee meeting was held to get the group energized about the AF Campaign, explain the help needed from committee members and most importantly, thank everyone for being a part of this important effort.

Why is it important to you to serve in this capacity?

Canterbury School has given our children, Libby (5th) and Will (2nd) so much in terms of educational, emotional and physical development. We realize that the Annual Fund provides so many additional resources beyond what tuition covers.

What do you want to make sure parents know – more than anything – about the AF?  

The Annual Fund is vital to the success of our school. It is a reality at all independent schools, not just Canterbury, that tuition alone cannot cover the entire cost associated with a private school education. The Annual Fund helps to keep tuition as low as possible and provide innovative programs and resources.  Everyone, in whatever capacity they can, should support Canterbury with a gift to the Annual Fund.

If you could choose any famous person to help you achieve your CANterbury CAN! fundraising goals, who would it be and why?

Will Farrell would bring an interesting dynamic to the campaign!

What is your favorite hobby?

Matt loves to go mountain-biking and jogging. Rhonda likes to go to the gym or be in the woods for a hike.

What is something you’ve always wanted to try, but have yet to pursue?

Rhonda would like to go on a hot air balloon ride.  Matt would like to watch Rhonda go on a hot air balloon ride because he’s scared to do it.

Meghan, share some of your favorite “fast facts” about the Annual Fund.

The Annual Fund is a source of tremendous pride at Canterbury School. Our level of parent participation far exceeds the national average for independent schools. Each year, more than 92 percent of parents, along with grandparents, alumni, alumni parents and friends, support Canterbury with a gift to the Annual Fund. High participation rates among members of our Canterbury community are a strong vote of confidence, a sign that our community invests in their children’s well being and supports the school’s mission.

“Whether it is through time, knowledge, care or financial support, Canterbury parents are truly committed and involved. It is a joy to raise funds and support for something that you believe in.” Meghan Davis, Annual Fund & Alumni Relations Coordinator

As Annual Fund Coordinator, please describe what kinds of things the AF helps to provide. 

Everything!  The Annual Fund provides the excellence that we enjoy each day at Canterbury School.  Tuition alone does not cover the cost of providing a Canterbury education. In fact, this year, it costs approximately $1,700 more than tuition per student to operate our school. The Annual Fund supplements our budget so that we can provide everything from competitive teacher salaries to technology, performing arts, sports equipment, field trips and light bulbs! We are thankful that so many parents are able to do their part in bridging the gap between tuition and the actual cost of operating our school.

Why do you love fundraising for Canterbury? Why is it a meaningful position for you?  I have loved Canterbury School from the minute I first walked on campus for a tour. I cannot imagine my boys or our family at any other school and I truly feel blessed by the opportunities open to them here. Being a part of the school now as a staff member is really icing on the cake! I am overwhelmed by the large and small gifts Canterbury parents offer everyday. Whether it is through time, knowledge, care or financial support, Canterbury parents are truly committed and involved. It is a joy to raise funds and support for something that you believe in. I believe in this school. Personally, my family chooses to support Canterbury’s annual and capital campaigns because we know it matters, we watch it make a difference, and we are confident it is an investment in excellence.

Tell us about the theme “CANterbury CAN!”

Each year we create a fun and engaging campaign theme and this year it is CANterbury CAN!  There are countless experiences and achievements that CAN happen at Canterbury.  We believe there is nothing our community can’t do.10177509_10152228252046910_1607523032320263946_n

Describe the ways that parents can give to the AF.

Gifts may be made by cash, check, Mastercard and Visa.  Many choose to give gifts of stock or securities. Pledges are payable between now and May 2015. Many parents choose to pay their gift in monthly installments. For instance, a pledge of $1,000 made today could be paid in eight installments of just $125 per month. Gifts may be made online by visiting our website and clicking on the giving tab or by contacting Meghan Davis directly at or 288-2007.

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Spencer_2014_073Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (4th – Hoover), a freelance writer, and a creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, chocolate peanut butter shakes and listening to all kinds of music, from Harry Connick, Jr. to David Gray.

Behind the scenes at BackPack Beginnings

The office space was buzzing with activity as I walked into BackPack Beginnings (BPB) on Alliance Drive. Justin McCollum’s 3rd graders were starting their first service learning field trip of the school year. Boxes were cut open. Food items checked and put in plastic bags. Everything was counted, repacked, and stacked, all the while children’s voices echoed down the hallways.

The students stated their purpose clearly: “We are packing food for kids who do not have enough on the weekends.” And they learned the ropes quickly. “Pack two juices, two proteins. Nothing smushed.”

They also got the point. “This is fun,” a child said. “I feel like I am helping someone!”

Canterbury third graders helping at BackPack Beginnings.

Canterbury 3rd graders help at BackPack Beginnings.

Canterbury’s 3rd graders head out to the BackPack Beginnings distribution center once a trimester to perform many different duties. Packing up food bags. Sorting books, clothing, or school supplies. Checking donated food for damage before going out for delivery.

An organization run entirely by volunteers, BackPack Beginnings provides local children in need with nutritious food, comfort items, or basic necessities. Canterbury supports the mission not only through 3rd grade service learning time, but also through food deliveries conducted by the Canterbury Parents Association.

This year, the CPA volunteers are led by Julie Pyrtle (Emma, Kindergarten and Fenton, Pre-K). Every Thursday, a pair of volunteers picks up the prepared food bags from the distribution center, checks though their school list for any food allergies, and then delivers the food packs to Poplar Grove Head Start on Summit Avenue. According to Julie, the last delivery served 44 children at the school.

Canterbury third graders helping at BackPack Beginnings.

Canterbury 3rd graders help at BackPack Beginnings.

Parker White is the founder of BackPack Beginnings. A mother of two, Parker began the organization in January 2010, initially feeding 50 children in one school. Utilizing Feeding America’s national BackPack Program and partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, BPB partners with Guilford County Title 1 schools and Head Start agencies to identify children in need of food on weekends. Now, BPB has expanded to include three programs beyond the food backpacks (comfort backpacks, food pantries, and a clothing pantry). This fall, the organization will feed more than 1,300 children in 26 schools.

The need in Guilford County may shock you. More than 43,000 children (58 percent) in Guilford County schools are at risk of going hungry each week. Just five dollars can feed a hungry child for the weekend.

BackPack Beginnings is the story of how Parker, one person, took the first step to make a huge impact in the lives of many helpless children. Recently, she answered a few questions for me:

What keeps you going? You are a mom of two and this is a big undertaking; do you ever feel like you are in survival mode and just can’t fit it all in?

Absolutely. I feel overwhelmed all the time and only get to about 60 percent of my daily BPB goals each day.  When I started this, I planned to devoted a few hours a week. But it is now 40-50 hours a week. However, we have found ten amazing core volunteer “staff,” 150 food delivery volunteers, and 50-100 office volunteers. Without them and our supporters, it would not be possible. What keeps me going is their support and the thought of the many helpless children in Guilford County who are in need of food, clothing, comfort, and more. When I get stressed, all I need to do is read some of the feedback from the children we serve and I get that motivation again.

How did you come up with this idea of backpacks?

When living in Washington D.C., I had heard of food backpack programs and that it was such a wonderful idea. When I moved to Greensboro, I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. And, once I saw that this organization was really taking off, I knew that I wanted it to be more than food. I wanted to create other backpack programs that helped all subsets of children in need.

Do you feel like this is your purpose or calling in life?

Definitely. Looking back on it all, I feel like God had this plan for me, and it was the reason I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I believe this is what I was meant to do with my life. Only God could have made it grow so quickly, provided the right people at the right time, etc. I could not have done this on my own.

What’s your advice to someone who has an idea to help or start something new, but just can’t seem to figure out where to start?

Some advice: Do your research and talk to as many people as you can. If you are passionate about something, make yourself knowledgeable about that field and how you can play a role in it. Collaborate with others. Not many people excel when isolating themselves from others who are doing similar things. And believe in yourself when others may not. We were told that a group of stay-at-home-moms couldn’t pull off a 100 percent volunteer nonprofit, but that only lit a fire under us. Push back against the naysayers if you believe this is what you are meant to do.

What’s next for BackPack Beginnings?

BPB is continuing to find ways to grow all four of its programs and our next step, in order to do that, is to find new office space. We have been blessed with 3,300 square feet of donated space, but we have quickly outgrown it and hope to move this summer. A move to a larger space, although it may be costly, will allow us to expand to serve more children.


by Katie Hu

huKatie Hu is the parent of Brady (4th-Hoover), Maggie (2nd-McIlwain) and Mason (2025). Her favorite part of Canterbury is the chapel and the teachers. She loves a quiet walk in the woods, yoga, and a tall glass of kale afterwards.