A group of local elementary school students got a chance to learn from a former North Carolina Governor on Wednesday.

Former Governor Bev Perdue visited a group of eager fourth graders at Northside Elementary School.

The visit from the Tar Heel state’s 73rd Governor – and first female to hold that office – came as the class was learning about North Carolina in their Social Studies class.

Perdue told the students about her upbringing in a coal-mining town in Virginia. She stressed the importance of reading and getting an education, sharing that her father had to drop out of school to get a job after the eighth grade. Her mother, meanwhile, dropped out after ninth grade.

Perdue, a former kindergarten teacher, said she gets back into classrooms to speak to children as often as she can.

“It makes me feel good about what’s going on in the public schools of North Carolina and America,” Perdue said after speaking with the fourth graders. “A different kind of learning than I saw as a child is taking place – high tech, hands on. These kids are learning to be independent thinkers.

“And you’ve got teachers who give every ounce of their energy to make sure the kids have a real shot at being somebody in North Carolina. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Perdue said she hoped that her visit would shed a more positive light on politics for the students.

“It’s a really cynical time in which we live,” Perdue said. “And the things they see on TV or on the Internet, sometimes, are pretty harsh for kids.

“So, I think, today, the opportunity to give and take and to talk, to have a conversation, is important to them. And they realize that leaders are real people, and we have good ideas and bad ideas.”

Perdue said she hoped this experience will help propel the students to pursue big goals.

“These kids are going to live in an innovation economy, and they have to learn to go with their dreams.”

During her conversation, Perdue spoke with the students about the possibility of a new law being passed about having to wear life jackets on boats at all times. After one student gave a reason why they felt you should have to and another shared why they felt you should not have to, a vote was held.

A law requiring life jackets for everyone riding on a boat passed the classroom by an unofficial 49-15 margin. Perdue told the students she would pass that message along to legislators.