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Kenly, Smithfield students hear world-famous storyteller

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KENLY — After being inspired by a session at Johnston County Public Schools’ summer Ignite workshop, Glendale-Kenly Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Geneva Varnam invited world-renowned storyteller Jim Weiss to Johnston County last week to conduct storytelling assemblies and writing workshops sponsored by both Glendale-Kenly Elementary and Smithfield Middle.

“I loved all the sessions I attended at the workshop, but the one I found most helpful for my classroom was the one called ‘Creating an Effective Literacy Block,’” said Varnam.

Weiss accepted the invitation and spent several days last week in work sessions at each school coupled with storytelling designed to teach.

Varnam said she had first heard Weiss in a storytelling performance about 20 years ago while she was attending a state homeschool convention in Winston-Salem and later invited him to speak at Campbell University when she was a student and manager of Scott Concert Hall.

Glendale-Kenly Principal Cole Yarborough said Varnam recruited community sponsors in order to get Weiss here.

Sponsors include James Hoke of Thrivent Financial in Kenly, Stormin’ Norman’s Barbecue of Kenly, Richardson Trophy and Awards of Smithfield, Charlie Young Farm Bureau Agency of Smithfield and Parrish Cleaning Service of Smithfield.

Among the stories Weiss told during his sessions at Glendale-Kenly media center was an Aesop’s Fables tale about the lion and the mouse that held the undivided attention of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students along with several adults.

“Every student got to experience stories coming to life through Mr. Weiss’ storytelling,” said Varnam.

Weiss, a native of Highland Park, Illinois, and now a resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, has been a professional storyteller, recording artist and author for more than 28 years.

He has traveled the world telling stories and presenting workshops on storytelling, writing and teaching and has released some 60 recordings resulting in more than 100 awards for his work.

“We are very fortunate our kids got to experience Jim Weiss’ workshop and storytelling in person,” said Yarborough. “Our students gained a deeper appreciation of literature and writing and were able to connect classic stories to real-world experiences that Mr. Weiss shared with them.”