One of the groups I meet with on a regular basis is Student Cabinet, which is made up of student leaders from each of our three high schools. It’s always energizing and informative for me to hear the insights, opinions and perspectives from this very impressive group of young people.
Traditionally at the last meeting of the year, I ask the departing seniors to talk about their favorite teacher and their favorite memory from their K-12 careers. I thought what they talked about this year was worth sharing. It certainly inspired me and brightened my outlook.
Bryan Williams from Camden High School talked about Kristi McKenzie, a CHS Social Studies instructor, as his favorite teacher. He cited her skills in relating to and communicating with students as well as her willingness to take suggestions and try new things to keep students interested. Bryan also said that Ms. McKenzie “never brings a bad day at home to school.” That’s high praise for anyone. Bryan’s favorite memory was Camden Middle School teacher Jody Lackey making up songs to help her students remember science material. The one he remembered best was about evaporation. Bryan could still sing it.
Kenya Wilson, also from Camden High School, talked about Lori Cooper of Camden Middle School (and the District’s 2010-11 Teacher of the Year) as her favorite teacher. She noted that Ms. Cooper always stayed interested in her students beyond when they were in middle school. Kenya had two favorite memories, including Camden’s football win over Lugoff-Elgin last fall and her selection as the 2010 Homecoming Queen.
Meredith Toole of Lugoff-Elgin High School described Marc Dyer as her favorite teacher because of his work with her both in Social Studies and in Student Government. She said that Mr. Dyer knows how to relate well to high school students, welcomes students who present differing views and question things, and is always trying to make instruction engaging and interesting. Meredith’s favorite memory was raising over $10,000 for the United Way during the week of the Camden versus Lugoff-Elgin football game, a week Meredith called the “busiest of her life.”
Caressa Samuel, also graduating from Lugoff-Elgin High School, talked about LEHS journalism teacher Jenny Proctor as her favorite because Ms. Proctor helped Caressa to find her niche in journalism, a field Caressa now wants to pursue as a career. Caressa particularly described Ms. Proctor’s ability to teach students about the power of words and how words can change lives. Caressa’s favorite memory from school was a little different from the others I heard. Caressa talked about writing an article for the Lugoff-Elgin High School newspaper about teen pregnancy that was not well received in the community, and how she grew and learned from the experience. I was really impressed with that.
Kayla Knight of North Central High School talked about Heather Keith as being her favorite among the many great teachers that she had. Kayla described all that she learned from Ms. Keith in the Teacher Cadet program and how Ms. Keith cares so much about her students that she cried as she handed out certificates at the Teacher Cadet graduation ceremony. Kayla’s favorite memory was the NCHS Marching Band finishing seventh in the state at a competition last fall.
Chad Smith, also of North Central High School, talked about how NCHS Hospitality and Tourism teacher Darron Kirkley relates to students and uses technology in his teaching as well as how he is willing to try new teaching methods. Chad’s favorite memory was traveling to Orlando, Florida, with the North Central Hospitality and Tourism team for the national championship competition.
Nothing here is going to make headlines or be the lead story on the evening news, which is an unfortunate commentary in and of itself. But what struck me about what these seniors had to say is that how their experiences and memories are so very tied to a teacher who challenged them, cared about them and wanted the very best for them. If you asked these same questions to every senior who walked across the stage a couple of weeks ago, I’m sure you’d hear very similar tributes and stories. This is what our profession is about.
I’m always pleased to talk with community members about this topic or anything else concerning our schools. My direct dial phone number is 425-8916 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Citizens can also contact me through the “Ask the Super” link on the homepage of the district Website. I also invite folks to read my “blog” and listen to the podcast I record after each school board meeting with meeting highlights. Both of these, and a whole lot more, can be accessed at www.kershaw.k12.sc.us.
(Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan is a contributing columnist for the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)