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Column: Final thoughts

Posted: June 14, 2018 12:54 p.m.
Updated: June 15, 2018 1:00 a.m.

One of the groups I have met with on a regular basis throughout my tenure is Student Cabinet, which is comprised of student class presidents and the student body president from each of our three high schools. It’s been a great blessing and help for me to hear how students see things They certainly don’t hold back anything on what they think, which is always very informative, and even pretty entertaining at times.

It’s evolved into a tradition that at the last meeting of each year, I ask the departing seniors to talk about their plans, their favorite teachers and their favorite memories from their K-12 school careers. I thought what they talked about this year was well worth sharing.

Ryann Buckelew from Camden High School (CHS) will be attending Clemson to study veterinary science. She talked about Shane Bagwell, her 1st Grade teacher at Camden Elementary School, as one of her favorite teachers because he made school fun, cared about his students and had Dr. Seuss rhymes for everything. She also talked about Angela Brennan, the student government sponsor at Camden High School and the advisor for the WDOG broadcasts at the school. She described Ms. Brennan as being the “kind of teacher you can go to about anything.” Ryann’s favorite memory (although I don’t think CHS Principal Dan Matthews remembers this fondly) was using the wrong kind of fire extinguisher to create a smoke effect at the pep rally before last fall’s rivalry football game with Lugoff-Elgin.

Another CHS senior, S’bria Steele, who will be attending the University of South Carolina (USC) to study nursing, talked about Jackie Timmons, who taught her Spanish in 9th Grade. S’bria said that Ms. Timmons “opened her eyes in the 9th Grade that she wasn’t going to able to breeze through high school.” S’bria’s favorite memory was having to wash cars all weekend after the Camden “Paint Crew” paint was taken from an unlocked car at a football game and splashed on cars in the parking lot.

Kye Adams from North Central High School (NCHS) will attend Central Carolina to study for a job in the health care field, probably as a surgical tech. (Kye also plans to run for governor, which I truly believe he will do.) Kye identified Amanda Oliver, the career specialist at NCHS as one of his favorite teachers because she was like his “second mother.” He also spoke warmly about Faith Amick, one of his teachers at Midway Elementary School, who he described as “always inspiring” and “always willing to help.” Kye’s favorite memory was a heated discussion he had with a teacher in middle school who ultimately become a friend.

Olivia Walsh, also from NCHS, will be attending USC to study criminal justice. Her favorite teacher is Suzanna Hall, her physics teacher at NCHS, who Olivia said “always took time to explain and re-explain.” Her favorite memory was when the Class of 2017 wrapped the school in toilet paper.

Lugoff - Elgin High School (L-EHS) seniors Caitlin Simon and Zack Koeppen chose to answer together. Caitlin will be attending Clemson in a pre-med program, and Zack will also be at Clemson to study architecture. Both students talked about Keyes Wheeler, who taught both of them South Carolina History at Lugoff-Elgin Middle. They remembered how Ms. Wheeler was so passionate about her subject and how she made her classes both interesting and fun. They also talked about L-EHS English teacher Lauren Boland because she involved students in the learning and led so many memorable school spirit efforts. Caitlin also talked about her basketball coach, Von Duncan, and how she encouraged Caitlin after an ACL injury. Zack praised English teacher Wendy Mullis for helping to make him a much better writer. Both described the time a classmate in English swallowed a scoop of protein powder during their AP Lit class as their favorite memory. (I can’t possibly do this story justice. Suffice to say the whole room was laughing when they told the story.)

I believe every one of our graduates has great, inspiring and unforgettable stories about teachers and memories during their school careers. The common thread in the great majority of such stories is a relationship with a teacher or other adult in the school. (A common thread is certainly not the steady diet of bubble tests over which our state obsesses to a ridiculous level.) Education is about relationships and people. It’s what stimulates real learning and personal growth to occur. I hope this column will cause anyone who reads it to think about that favorite teacher and school memory.

This is my last monthly column as superintendent. Hard to believe that I have written 132 (yes, 132) of them. I sincerely appreciate the Chronicle-Independent giving me the opportunity every month to talk about the district, about education in general, or whatever else I wanted to rant about. It’s been fun and professionally therapeutic. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Mary Anne Byrd from the district staff, who patiently edited each month’s effort and made me look like a much better writer than I actually am. I am also grateful to the many community members who both read my pieces and would take the time to talk with me about something I had written. These were among the best conversations I have had during the past 11 years. On to the next phase ... It’s been fun.

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