The dominant theme at the sixth annual Golden Cavalier & Cavalier Spirit Banquet held on May 17 in the Carroll County High School Media Center was “I wouldn’t be who I am now without you.”
Golden Cavaliers named at the event were Nicholas Burnette, Elizabeth Combs, Whitney Darnell, Isabelle Largen, Keelan Lewis, Aubrey Watson, Kayleigh Webb, Karaline Wheatley, Jade Williams and Benjamin Wood. Cavalier Spirit Award Recipients included Houston Dixon, Breanna Galyean, Dylon Leonard, Skyler Primm and Paige Turman.
Carroll County High School teacher Fredrick “Fred” Mitchell was chosen by Nicholas Burnette and Whitney Darnell.
“Not only has he allowed me the opportunity to become a professional dish washer in my internship, he’s given me a learning environment for intelligent people,” said Burnette. “Unfortunately, public schooling is not a place for those looking to expand their learning beyond the expected. Unlike many teachers who enter in the school system, he challenged me as a student to do my best and achieve things, no matter what it takes. He also promoted critical thinking rather than just regurgitating facts on a sheet of paper. He inspired me to ask the question ‘Why?’ Why does that work. Why can’t we do it that way? Why can’t we make it better?”
Burnette said he plans on studying chemistry at Virginia Tech and hopes he can mean half to another young life as Mitchell meant to him.
“Throughout my 13 years of school I’ve had at least 75 teachers. That’s a lot of you guys. That’s a lot to pick from. Overall, one of them stuck out to me the most,” said Darnell. “Mr. Mitchell is known for being a good teacher. I had Mr. Mitchell for eleventh grade chemistry. He would help me (with physics) through his entire planning. He would crunch numbers with me and figure out equations with me. We worked for the entire 90 minutes of second block. Even though he hasn’t worked on physics since college.”
Senior Elizabeth Combs picked Dr. Kay Schwink. She said in spite of having “so many amazing teachers,” her decision wasn’t difficult.
“School turns you into a statistic. How many absences you have. How many questions you can get right on a test. How many sleepless nights you spent over British Literature projects. This special lady treats me and my classmates as individuals with interests and personalities,” said Combs. “Dr. Schwink is more than a teacher. She is my friend. I email her when I find something I think she will appreciate and she does the same for me. She loans me books on subjects I’m passionate about. One of my particular favorites is Brain Surgery for Beginners. She goes above and beyond to allow me to work towards my dream of being a psychiatrist. Because Dr. Schwink saw that spark in me. The love for neurology and everything about it. She sees things students are passionate about and uses it to fuel our knowledge. It’s amazing.”
Isabelle Largen’s choice was teacher Rachelle Rasco of CCHS. Largen said she had “kinda known since ninth grade” who her choice would be if she won the award.
“(Through the MACC program), after four years of seeing her at least twice a week and a semester seeing her almost every day, she pushed me out of my comfort zone to the person I am now. I have known Ms. Rasco since ninth grade, first as a math coach and now as an intern. She’s become a second mother to me. Through all my ups and downs she’s been there with advice, support and love. She constantly takes time out of her day to help other students, teachers and staff members,” said Largen. “If not for her I wouldn’t be the person I am today and have the opportunities I have. She has been a part of my life for the past four years and will continue to be a second mom to me.”
Keelan Lewis picked Leesa Ayers of St. Paul Elementary.
“The teacher who inspired me to be the best that I can was Ms. Leesa Ayers. It all started in the third grade at St. Paul School. Many things changed that year with everyone in Carroll County Schools talking about the SOL tests which began in third grade. This would be my first time taking the dreaded test. Ms. Ayers made the transition to a standardized test as easy as possible. Her way of teaching and rewarding me helped a lot. She showed that earning something is better than having it handed to you. She instilled confidence in me by telling me I was perfect. Ms. Ayers changed the way I viewed school. I could have fun and learn at the same time. Even though I was stressed about going to school I have enjoyed it since third grade. I have strived to be the perfect student she described me as. What she never knew was she was the perfect teacher for me. “
Aubrey Watson picked CCHS teacher Kim Robinson. He said Robinson he first met Robinson in seventh grade.
”She was my teacher and then she was my coach. Then she became my friend. Now she is my family. I owe almost all of my academic achievement to her. More importantly, I owe her for helping me to grow into a passionate, brilliant and kind individual. Six years ago I decided to take my first honors class. Advanced English 7. School children tend to make exaggerated stories and rumors about teachers they don’t quite understand. I unfortunately listened to those stories and rumors. So I entered my English class believing my teacher was a hideous, vile green hag determined to destroy her students. You could say I had a Kurt Cobain moment when I found out she was not hideous, vile and most certainly not green. She was, in fact, the very embodiment of wonder and fantasy.”
Watson said in Middle School, he had dug himself “into a deep, deep hole. I resorted to self harm.” He said at one point he attempted to take my own life.
”I was unhappy with who I was, who I was pretending to be and I didn’t think there was a single good thing left for me in life. I turned away my closest friends, my family and allowed myself to wallow in my own self loathing,” Watson said. “Ms. Robinson reached out and pulled me out of that hole I believed I would never escape. She brought meaning back into my life and really made me want to learn.”
Kayleigh Webb chose teacher Yvonne Goad of CCHS.
“To me the single most important quality a teacher can have is devotion to students. I can’t think of a better example than Ms. Goad. She always puts our needs in front of her own, making sure she is available during her free time in any way possible. She also genuinely wants her students to understand each topic and excel in class. She explains things in a clear manner and finds different ways to explain topics if it wasn’t coming across right. Many teachers leave you on your own after they explain things once. They expect everyone to learn the same way.“
Karaline Wheatley’s father, Shad Wheatley, presented on her behalf. She chose Teacher Priscilla Otey. Wheatley thanked the other students for the good influence they had on his daughter.
“The impact you have on each other is life changing. The power you have on others is to be commended. Thank each one of your teachers for what you’ve done. This is coming from parents. Thank you sincerely. This is finals week for Karaline in her first semester at BYU,” said Wheatley. “During this stressful time, she took time out to write this note. She writes she (Otey) started out as my homeroom teacher but became a dear friend. She and I enjoy reading in and out of class. She helped me to find meaningful books. Every day for a long time she and I caught up with each other after school and together we would listen to and comment on the other’s day and what was on each other’s minds. We delved into deep questions and lighthearted stories.”
Jade Williams chose Freda Cole of CCHS. She said the two share a Passion for Art.
“She has taught me almost everything I know. She always helps me and pushes me to achieve things I didn’t think I could. When I start a new art piece it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. She is always able to steer me the right way. Ms. Cole can take a piece I think is completely finished and show a million other things that can be done to make it better. After every project I take on I leave with so much new knowledge,” said Williams. “Ms. Cole believes everyone is capable of creating a good art piece. If you’ve had her in class she expects nothing less from her students. She goes the extra mile by staying after class to help me and texts me reminders all the time. All..the..time. When I’m overwhelmed she just calms me down and points me to the candy basket in the corner.”
Benjamin Wood chose Todd Hedrick of Fancy Gap Elementary School.
“When building a house you gotta start with the basics. Mr. (Todd) Hedrick helped me start my basics in education, in my high school career and my life in general. His style of teaching is not conventional in the normal sense of the word but it is what helps everyone learn. His style is excellent, he works hard and he leaves no one out. He might be strict at times but that’s what people need in life. People nowadays don’t have discipline and he helps us with that. He truly wants us to succeed in whatever we do in life. He tries to teach out of the box and wants people to think out of the box. That helps people to be innovative and be problem solvers.”
Houston Dixon chose CCHS Teacher Brandi Cochran-Mitchell.
“When I met Ms. Mitchell on syllabus day, she was my eleventh grade U.S. History teacher. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to drop this class. She’s not like me. She’s quiet, down to business.’ So I thought. Within the first two days I thought when I grow up I want to be Brandi Cochran-Mitchell,” Houston said. “So, as I got to know Ms. Mitchell, I found she wasn’t this weird, quite, awkward person anymore. She was this fun, hysterical, smart character and woman. Brandi Cochran-Mitchell has changed my life for the better. She makes everybody feel like a somebody. I think that’s a really important super power not many people have. I have decided to become an education minor. I’m super excited. I’m scared. She’s told me not to do it. I’m doing it. I’m a better person for having known Mrs. Mitchell and I pray one day I will influence someone half as much as she’s influenced me.”
Breanna Galyean chose Connie Reece. Galyean talked about her early difficulties in math.
“As my eighth grade year moved on I started to understand why math was important. I was catching on to what she was teaching and I was excited when I raised my hand to answer a question on the board. I mean, it was like amazing. I had never dreamed of being able to do that. At the end of the School Year I thought I’d done really well on my SOL test. (She hadn’t). A couple of weeks moved on and I found out I got the match award for most improvement,” said Galyean. “She moved on to teach Algebra my junior year in high school. That year I passed my SOL test. I’m very thankful to have her and hope the kids moving on realize she is a great teacher who gives you ways to understand.”
Dylon Leonard chose Lt. Colonel Mark Carper. He said he felt overwhelmed at being named a Golden Cavalier and expressed gratitude for all the teachers in the audience.
“But when I thought of the teacher who made the greatest difference in my life, it was the man who has been with me every step of the way. He has taught me to work hard and love those you work hard with. He has shown me the meaning of brotherhood and to rely on the man next to you. He has instilled in me a work ethic and values I can rely on the rest of my life – honor, integrity and civil service,” said Leonard. “Values that have stood the test of time and are needed now more than ever. I can safely say I have spent more time with him than my family over the past four years. I hope to some day lead others as he has led me and instill the same work ethic and values and grow the next generation of leaders.”
Skyler Primm chose Teacher Shannon Dalton, who described him as a super efficient teacher’s aide. He participates in the teacher cadet program and has served at CCMS.
“I’ve been with her since eleventh grade. I’ve been her student and her intern. I don’t really want to leave her to be honest. She’s been there for me and helped me with issues I couldn’t face alone. (He dealt with a death in the family.) I’m glad to say she is the best at what she does. I know teachers aren’t supposed to be your friends but I count on her. We talk about everything and I’m going to miss that too. When I graduate, I’m going to miss all the teachers here actually,” said Primm.
Paige Turman chose Teacher Randy Caudill. She admitted being in fear early on of learning mathematics.
“All through my school career, I’d managed to scrape by and pass math. It made zero sense to me. My first day of class I sat in the back with my head down and obeyed the rules. My heart was racing. How was I supposed to make it to eighth grade? The next day I sat panicked, hoping he would not call on me. He had to see my struggle because he left me alone and let me take it in. He saw my potential and helped me to see it as well and pushed me to keep trying,” Turman said. “For the first time in my life I found something I was really good at. He could not stump me. Midway through the semester he pulled me out of class and put me with a girl who normally sat alone. I was not ecstatic about his decision. I noticed she had no understanding at all of math. I was with a girl who was like me when I started. She was not like everyone else. She needed a friend first and foremost and one on one help. I helped through her every step. She had her light bulb moment. Between him and me we taught her math. We had a great time. One of the last things he taught us was to go above and beyond the call of duty and be stronger than we began.”
Caudill afterwards summed up what many educators in the audience apparently agreed with.
“I can remember Paige in the classroom. The tentative nature. Those students sit in the back. They try not to get your attention and do just enough so they don’t get called on. Here’s the beauty of what I heard. When they take ownership of their own learning and they get past their fear and finally take that chance, a transformation begins. A person on the outside would think she’s in seventh grade and has that much fear. Yes they do. The important thing is when they walk into a classroom it’s not how they walk in, it’s they walk out,” said Caudill. “It’s never been about passing SOL tests. It’s never been about making straight As. It’s being willing to do your part. When you see a child make that changes and they are different; you didn’t just help them in your class, you helped them get where they are going.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.