Thank You, First Responders!
Nov. 20, 2018: After Tropical Storm Michael struck Pittsylvania County, students at Union Hall Elementary School in Chatham made thank-you cards for first responders, dispatchers, road crews and power crews across the area to recognize their hard work.
"The students were personally affected by the storm so they worked extra hard on these cards because they truly were thankful for all the hard work that you have done and always do," stated a message included with the students' artwork.
"We hope that you enjoy these cards and know how much you're truly appreciated and valued.
Thank you for all that you do to keep us safe and keep our community running smoothly!"
As Jay Craddock, Halifax assistant resident engineer wrote, these pictures are "a little something to put a smile on your face when it seems like you can't get any good news."
VDOT's STEAM Team
Nov. 14, 2018: Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) employees from the Salem District and Central Office attended Roanoke’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Day at the Virginia Museum of Transportation recently.
Students from kindergarten to fourth grade got hands-on experience with STEAM functions used at VDOT.
A heavy equipment simulator offered children the opportunity to learn how operators become familiar with each piece of machinery and how to use it safely.
Children also learned about the road design process through a marble roller coaster demonstration.
It showed the students how the speed of a vehicle on a curve can affect the impact of a turn and its likelihood to crash.
Using toy cars and a magnetic field sensor, VDOT representatives showed them how sensors can detect the presence of a vehicle at a traffic signal, prompting the signal to change and improve traffic flow.
“This was a good experience as the students seemed to be interested in what we were doing and learning about all forms of transportation,” said Alex Vandyke, senior traffic engineer.
About 250 students from the Roanoke area participated.
Quilts For Vets
Nov. 7, 2018: In a ceremony recently, seven Virginia Department of Transportation employees who are veterans received a special quilt from an organization that makes them for those touched by war.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation was formed in 2003.
The organization has awarded close to 200,000 quilts nationwide.
“A lot of people are touched by war and it’s not just physical, but emotional and mental,” said Les Williams, co-coordinator of the Patriots Triangle chapter in Williamsburg.
He adds the quilts are essentially for anyone who’s served in a conflict.
“My mother has been a part of this (organization) and I appreciate the time and energy it takes,” said Cody McLuckie as he received his quilt.
All are employees in the Safety, Security and Emergency Management Division.
Go to the organization’s website to find out how to make or request a Quilt of Valor.
VDOT On The Gridiron
Nov. 6, 2018: On fall Friday nights, you’ll find many members of the Virginia Department of Transportation's Bristol team off the road and on the gridiron.
Some are coaches, others are referees, and one staff member has the job of providing radio play-by-play.
Chase Buchanan, Location and Design engineer, is the defensive coordinator for John Battle High School in Bristol and has been involved with the school's football program for eight years.
Greg Prater, crew leader at the Chilhowie Area Headquarters, is an assistant coach for Northwood High School. This is his 10th year coaching.
Both Chase and Greg played in high school, realize the importance of camps and socializing to instill teamwork, have worked with coaches who inspired, and value the importance of their faith in building a team.
They are also in agreement that coaching enhances their leadership skills, from learning to put people in roles best suited for their skill sets to improving their communication skills.
“Every year you have a new set of kids and you have to learn their communication styles to build your team,” Chase said. “Coaching football and baseball has given me the opportunity to attend leadership classes that have helped to improve my communication skills on the field and at work.”
Three Bristol employees serve as referees for the Appalachian Officials Association and have a combined 65 years of experience: Steve Sheets of Traffic Engineering, Steve Lester of Bridge and Andy Stockner of Location and Design.
Keeping up with the rules takes a lot of preparation.
“Part of the appeal for me is keeping active physically and mentally, and having to always be up on the rules keeps my mind active,” Sheets said. “Although it’s time consuming to attend rules clinics, watch film and attend games, there’s a great sense of comradery among the officials and that’s another big part of why I’ve done this for 44 years.”
Like coaches, the referees have much in common. All three played sports in high school, all rate the comradery among the officials as the best part of the job, and all three have officiated state championships.
And all agree the most important thing is to not take things too personally.
“I had a hard time blocking out the negative comments when I started officiating,” Lester said. “Over time, it's become easier. The fans don’t come to see me, they come to see the kids play so I try my best to let the kids compete as much and as safely as possible.”
Making sure that competition is not only seen, but heard, is the responsibility of the play-by-play announcer. Tony Briggs, Location and Design, does that for Elizabethton High School on WBEJ FM 107.9/AM 1240.
Before last year, Tony did color commentary for the team. But due to the illness of a colleague, he was asked to step into the play-by-play role.
“I’ve always seen myself as a behind-the-scenes guy. I never thought I’d do this but I enjoy it,” he said. “There’s a lot of work each Sunday to break down the film footage, then I have to compile talking points and stats to bring the fans each week.”
Tony’s best memory was this year, when Elizabethton beat Science Hill High School.
Beating a team the size of Science Hill – in the top five in Tennessee – was an accomplishment for a school one-third the size.
Afterwards, he was asked by a former Elizabethton player if it was hard to remain calm during the last play of the game.
That former player was former Dallas Cowboy and ESPN color man Jason Witten.
“I told Jason it was very hard and I failed miserably,” Briggs said. “I also said I was available to give pointers for his Monday Night Football gig.”