Thursday’s Golden Cavalier Banquet at Carroll County High School showcased the incredibly talented students, teachers and administrators the Carroll County Public School Division has to offer.
Each year, the Golden Cavalier Banquet gives Carroll County High School’s top 10 students (11 this year due to GPA ties) the chance to recognize the teacher or administrator who made the greatest impact on their life. Carroll County Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship opened the ceremony by explaining how much the recognitions mean to this year’s recipients.
“I am so excited about this evening because it is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work of these students and parents and our staff members,” Blankenship said. “I personally hand deliver the invitations for this evening. I wish you could be with me when I do that. The teachers are visibly honored. Almost every one of them noted the reason it was so special was because it came from a student.”
Madison Burnette began by honoring Larry Williams, her former teacher and now principal at Oakland Elementary School. She said Williams always put education first. He also made learning fun and enjoyable, adding that her experience at Oakland would not have been the same without Williams.
“Not only did Mr. Williams make a difference to me in school, but also outside of school as well. He always came to my basketball and other sports games I was involved in. He would always come out to support me and cheer my team on,” Burnette said. “It meant a great deal to me that he would take the time to see me and my classmates play sports. In conclusion, I am very thankful for Mr. Williams and the effect he has had in my life.”
In an emotional and tearful speech, Maycee Cain said many teachers have made impacts on her life. But one in particular, Talisha Lawson, made class fun and everyone feel welcome at St. Paul School.
“My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Lawson was amazing and I was very blessed to have her. I was neither a kid who went to daycare nor Headstart when I was three. I did not even attend Pre-K when I was four. I very much enjoyed my grandma and grandpa quality time at the beach and Pigeon Forge. Therefore starting school was not easy for me,” Cain said. “I was very shy and not that good at making friends. I would cry and cry as I walked into the classroom and begged for my mom not to leave. After she left, guess who was there for me wiping my tears, hugging me and telling me everything was going to be okay? Mrs. Lawson was like a second mom to me. She would pick me up when I felt like I was failing, comfort me when I was down, stick with me if I didn’t remember my ABCs and 123s during my first 20 times of going through them, keep me safe when we had fire drills, and also help me tie my shoe because it was hard mastering how to stick the bunny ear.”
Andrew Campbell said he’s probably had between 40 and to 50 teachers during grade school, but the one that sticks out to him is retired teacher James Spraker. Campbell said he could tell Spraker was a different teacher from the first time he walked into his Spanish classroom.
“I kind of sat on my desk the first day of class instead of in my desk and he just ignored me. It threw me off. I didn’t know what to do,” Campbell said. “We sort of hit it off a little bit. And throughout my years in his class, he was someone that no other teacher has really been to me. He was someone I could talk to about anything. He was someone that if I didn’t feel like anyone believed in me or if there was problems at home I didn’t feel like I could talk to someone about, he was always there for me.”
After Spraker retired from teaching, he sent his phone number through a mutual friend to Campbell and told him to text him. Campbell texted Spraker and the two met for lunch at Rio Grande.
“We just started talking about everything we could think to talk about. He taught me about religion, about philosophy, about sports, about music, and what I wanted to do,” Campbell said. “And after that we kept going to lunch, we text messaged every probably two weeks. He has taught me more things than any teacher I have ever known. He taught me what life was meant to be and he taught me a lot about myself. And for that I will forever be grateful.”
Gracie Davidson said the person she chose to honor was obvious. While there have been many adults who have inspired her and pushed her to be the best she could be, her choice has pushed her through school, in sporting events and supporting her every decision in life.
“He was not only my elementary school principal, but my father Alvin Davidson. Rabindranath Tagore once said you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. This is similar to my dad’s logic when he is trying to push me to become better,” Davidson said. “He will always say, ‘Do you want to be good or do you want to be great? I always got irked by this remark, but now I appreciate it and understand what he meant. He was not trying to make me mad, just trying to make me better.”
Davidson said her dad was her first softball coach and principal, so not only did he get to boss her around at home, but also at school and on the softball field. But no matter what decision she made, he always supported her. He made sure she was the best should could be in softball and basketball, as well as cosmetology.
“He is my motivation, my support and most importantly my best friend. Those three things have gotten me through school and my everyday life,” Davidson said. “He has impacted my life greatly, and without him I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today. I cannot thank you enough for all you have done and I love you.”
Rylee Haynes said she has had many amazing teachers and supporting staff during her school career. But the one she selected has taught her much on and off the basketball court – CCHS girls’ basketball coach Marc Motley.
“Through the years I have spent with him, there haven’t been many times I have saw him in a bad mood. If anyone knows Coach Motley, they know he is very outgoing and most of the time has a smile on his face,” Haynes said. “Us girls have always said we are pretty sure he could have a conversation with a tree if it would talk back. Every team I have been a part of he has given it 100 percent.”
Haynes said she can’t remember going into a game without knowing the age, weight and height of every player of the opposing team. She joked that she thinks Motley even keeps birth certificates of opponents on file.
“He put in more effort than anyone realizes…I always respected him and I feel he has always respected me. I have always felt like I could talk to Coach Motley whenever and about whatever. He is not only a great coach but a great person also,” Haynes said. “He always reminded me in whatever I chose that I would become successful. Anything Coach Motley told me I took it to heart because he was one person I never wanted to disappoint.”
Madison Hull said many teachers have made her success possible, especially Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Mundy and Mrs. Lora Davidson. But one teacher, Fred Mitchell, has not only impacted her current life, but also her future.
“Mr. Mitchell took chemistry, a subject many people dread, and broke it down to where the material did not overwhelm his students all at once. When there were questions, he explained in full detail,” Hull said. “I believe it was while I was taking this class that I decided what I wanted to do with my life. Even with some other great science teachers I have had in the past, I never felt like that was something I wanted to pursue. However, after having the privilege of having Mr. Mitchell for an entire year of chemistry, I felt confident I could make it through many, many years of science.”
Hull said becoming an orthodontist is at the top of her list, although it requires a lot of science. It will require her to take many difficult chemistry classes, but she feels she can do it because she had such a great high school chemistry teacher.
“I know it will be a tough road but Mr. Mitchell has made that road a lot less dreadful for me. Aside from the chemistry class itself, Mr. Mitchell has went above and beyond for me more times that I can count,” Hull said. “We probably don’t even want to know the number of recommendation letters he has written for me because it was a lot. It means a lot to have somebody like Mr. Mitchell who is willing to do whatever he can do so you can reach your dreams. I will never forget all you have done for me as I pursue my education in science, a field I would not have had the confidence to pursue if it were not for you.”
Aubree Marshall said she had the privilege to know Marion Harris for many years. She originally met him when she and her sister played various sports with his older daughter, Adrienne – Marshall’s best friend. Harris, now the JV girls’ soccer coach at CCHS, has been her soccer coach for many years as well.
“Marion has helped me become the athlete I am today while keeping me levelheaded as well. He knows when to tell me I am not doing the right thing even if he knows he will upset me,” Marshall said. “But I know now as a player that he has always done this for me and all his other players before because he cares about us and he wants to see us grow as players.”
Not only is Harris the JV girls’ soccer coach, he is also founder of the J.H. Soccer Academy and head coach of the Rush travel team, a referee, and has set up fundraisers for the local club volleyball teams.
“When I first came to the high school in 10th grade, I was surprised to find out he was a special education teacher. As time went on, I found that Coach Harris is an amazing teacher. During my senior year at the high school I have had the honor to be more involved with his students,” Marshall said. “Through these experiences I have learned how everyone is different in their own way, but that should not affect how we treat others. Coach Harris has been a huge role model in my life since I was young. He has always been there for me if I needed someone to talk to, whether it was about sports, school, or my own personal life. He has also helped show me through hard work and dedication I can do anything I want to do as long as I set my mind to do it. I just want to say thank you for being such an amazing person.”
Like Hull, Joshua Rasco chose to honor his 11th grade chemistry teacher, Fred Mitchell. Rasco said Mitchell holds probably the largest wealth of practical, interesting knowledge of anyone he’s ever met.
“Prior to his class I had never truly experienced how it full to be fully integrated into a subject. I don’t want to focus solely in Mr. Mitchell in the classroom though. I can’t reiterate enough how important that experience was for me. My first experience with Mr. Mitchell occurred much earlier and shifted the way I planned my future,” Rasco said. “When my sister and I were younger we attended a fun chemistry experience held by Mr. Mitchell. He astounded the audience by the magic of combining chemicals and showing off the interesting reactions with the assistance of his current students. For example, one of the experiments he showed us involved converting a drink into another drink and then converting it back. This astounded me.”
In the classroom, Mitchell has the ability to go as far to explain any subject within the realm of his experience as Rasco has ever seen. He said he took a chemistry class through a summer program that paled in comparison to Mitchell’s class.
“To me the courses were incomparable, furthering Mr. Mitchell’s excellence in teaching,” Rasco said. “I do not think I would be the same person today without the influence of Mr. Mitchell. By teaching and inspiring, Mr. Mitchell has gained my respect and honor, which is the greatest praise I can give anyone.”
Molly Reavis said while she’s had several amazing teachers, Brandon Harner stands out as the best. She wasn’t looking forward to World History. Plus, she said her older sister was the perfect student, setting the bar high for her to follow. Her schedule showed a teacher she had never heard of before, Mr. Harner.
“The atmosphere in Mr. Harner’s classroom is the best I have ever experienced. There is such a fine line between a creative classroom and an out-of-control one. Somehow Mr. Harner found a way to encourage creativity without ever compromising authority,” Reavis said.
Harner brought out the best in Reavis, and she respected him. She said she was never a neat and organized person, but Harner refused to accept anything less than that. She stayed patient with Reavis and pushed her to expect more from herself.
“Little did I know he was encouraging traits that would be beneficial for all of my future classes. After completing my Associate’s Degree in December, I can say without a doubt that organization is an essential to school success,” Reavis said. “Mr. Harner’s patience extended beyond just my schoolwork, but also with everything, attitude, behavior, etc. Most importantly, Mr. Harner made sure we learned and always kept our interest. His knowledge was evident as he incorporated stories and further explanation on every topic we covered.”
Alyssa Snow said from the day she walked into Brandi Cochran Mitchell’s classroom, she knew she was going to be one of her favorite teachers. They are both sassy and outspoken, so she knew they would get along great.
“What I didn’t know at the time is that she is also a great history teacher. Even though on the report card it said history, she taught me much more than that. She was the first person to teach me what a real college class would be like,” Snow said. “She taught me that grades aren’t everything and that one bad grade wasn’t going to ruin my average. In most classes I was just happy to be there and hope that I made a good grade. Mrs. Mitchell showed me that I could do better if I actually put in the effort and quit talking in class.”
Sarah Tensen began her high school career Northern Virginia. Transferring to Carroll County was a big change and many of the programs differed from what we was accustomed to in NOVA. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do and was afraid the vision she had for the future might not work out.
“But Mr. Stanbery entered the picture and he has actually created my own academic program here in getting me enrolled in all of these Virtual Virginia classes and going above and beyond to make sure I could reach the vision I had initially set for myself freshman year. With every challenge I came across from scheduling and registration to converting my GPA and class credits, juggling AP and all the dual registration, Mr. Stanbery was there to help me along the way,” Tensen said. “He had an open door policy and greeted me with a smile and a welcoming atmosphere and even went so far as to meet with me and my mom when I had another issue.”
During her senior year, Tensen said Stanbery went above and beyond to make sure she was on the right path to achieve her college ambitions. In order to give her every advantage available, she said Stanbery nominated her for every scholarship that was applicable and wrote several letters of recommendation for her.
“Whatever he included in those letters and nominations were an enormous aid to my application as I ended up being accepted into every collegiate honor and engineering program I had applied to. It was all I could wish for and more,” Tensen said. “I truly believe a student couldn’t ask for a better or more efficient guidance counselor or role model. Without Mr. Stanbery, I could honestly say I would not have been able to accomplish most of what I have done in high school, nor would I be in the position I am currently in to attend college.”