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A tribute to teachers
County seniors honor teachers at banquet
Bassett High School Student Buzz James Custer (center) hugs his teacher, Brook Hankins, after presenting her with an award Thursday during Henry County Schools’ Academic Excellence Awards. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thirty-seven top seniors, and teachers who helped shape them, were honored at the Henry County Public Schools Academic Excellence Awards Banquet on Thursday night at Forest Park Country Club.
To receive the award a senior had to meet one of these criteria: 4.0 grade point average (GPA) or higher; be in the top 5 percent of the graduating class; score 1,250 or higher on the SAT (on any two subtests) or 700 on any one subtest; or have perfect attendance in high school with a 3.5 GPA.
Each senior recipient selected one teacher who most influenced the student during his or her years in the school division. Videos of seniors reading their essays about the teachers were shown during the banquet, which was attended by about 200 people.
Bassett High School senior Andrea Nichell Venable said in interview that teacher and coach Melissa Blair “inspired me to be a better basketball player and better person in general.”
“To know that you’ve touched somebody, it means the world,” Blair said.
Bassett High School senior Ellie Lauren Hampton said in an interview and her essay that although she was weak in math, teacher Mark Jones made Algebra II understandable, and also taught her: “‘You only get better with practice and when you finally conquer your weakness, that is one of the greatest rewards you will ever experience.’”
In an interview, Jones said he was honored to be recognized for something he enjoys doing — teaching.
Here are snippets from other seniors’ essays (student’s name is followed by teacher’s name):
• Taylor Nicole Agee honoring Frances Uitto: “As an eighth-grader, I had no idea who I wanted to be. Mrs. Uitto was the one that showed me it was okay to try new things and figure out what I liked.”
• Rocky Zebulon Ankeny honoring Trey Harris: “...Thanks to Mr. Harris, I have become a phenomenal musician and have excelled at everything I have put my mind to.”
• Kaitlin Honora Ashworth honoring Col. David Hann: “You are like another Dad to many of us and most certainly to me.”
• Brittany Leigh Brummitt honoring Deborah Barker: “I hope you know how many lives you have had an impact on.”
• Haley Claire Carter honoring Nina Huff: “When it comes to needing advice about grammar in a paper or just needing a simple smile to brighten your day, this teacher has got it!”
• Kaylee Nicole Crawford honoring Kim Minter: “She made each one of us feel needed and appreciated.”
• Buzz James Custer honoring Brook Hankins: “She was the teacher that inspired my hope, ignited my imagination and instilled my love of learning.”
• Mickie Michelle Doman honoring Lynn Carrico: “That little kindergartner that you inspired is ready to take on the world.”
• Haley Annette Ferguson honoring Lisa Isley: “She was the one adult I felt I could confide in no matter what happened, and she always promised to keep it between us.”
• Morgan Leigh Gravley honoring Cherie Spivey: “She has taught me that no one is perfect and when you make mistakes, you must build from them.
• Jordan Cole Hancock honoring Carla Clark: “Mrs. Clark made me realize that learning can actually be fun, and all it takes is a friendly, enthusiastic instructor to instill a drive for success in students.”
• Jordan Daleá Chandria Ingram honoring Penny Decker: “You were the teacher who inspired me to actually like the subject I despise most.”
• Tate Addison Jones honoring Karen Knopp: “Her involvement in my life as both a teacher and sponsor of extracurricular activities truly allowed her to have a strong impact on my life.”
• Heather Nicole Kelsey honoring Amy Jarrett: “I am more than lucky to be able to call Mrs. Amy Jarrett one of the best teachers and friends I have ever known.”
• Blake Jackson Martin honoring Mervin Brown: “He would always encourage his students to pursue their passion and happiness would follow.”
• Samantha Lilly Koester honoring Nathan Noble: “You are funny, incredibly smart, and you have a wonderfully realistic, yet not pessimistic, view on life.”
• Taylor Grace Kyle honoring Joan Cockram: “When my grandma passed away right before Mother’s Day, my teacher was loving and caring, just as my grandma had been for me.”
• Corbin Patrick Martin honoring Mary Ann Graham: “Mrs. Graham truly has embodied the motto of ‘People, Purpose, Passion... Possibilities’: A person made to be around people, a driven sense of purpose to educate at a high standard, a passion for her students and the endless possibilities that she inspires in her students.”
• Sidney Nicole Martin honoring Frances Uitto: “Whenever I had a problem, whether school related or in my home life, I knew I could go to her and she’d listen. ... ”
• Lindsi Brooke McDaniel honoring Elizabeth Jones: “You are the epitome of the saying, ‘If you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life.’”
• Abigail Elizabeth McGuire honoring Cindy Anderson: “I never felt as if anything was too difficult for me because she believed that I could do it.”
• Claudia Danielle Morris honoring Ashby Pinkard: “Ms. Pinkard valued creativity and imagination.”
• Kayleigh Jo Moss honoring Sharon Lovern: “This teacher has also set an example for me and shown me the value of perseverance and faith through the life she leads.”
• Andrew Seth Mullins honoring Jacquelyn Hunter: “She was one of the first teachers to see something more in me than just the average student, and that has really meant something to me.”
• Ryan Seth Perry honoring Willie Martin: “Yes, he has been much more than a teacher to me; he has been a friend, someone with whom I have always felt comfortable talking to, someone who has given me help both getting into college and in applying for scholarships, someone who has always had time for me no matter how busy he must have been at the time, and someone who has become a major role model in my life.”
• Kaitlyn Alexis Pugh honoring Mary Compson: “You amaze me endlessly with your passion for teaching and for bettering your students.”
• Tanisha Ayanna Ross honoring LaDonna Varner: “She inspires me to not complain about things, but instead to push forward and do my best every single day, and I could never thank her enough for that.”
• Katharyn Anne Seay honoring Jennifer Wade: “...You are not only a great teacher, but you have also inspired me to change my outlook on life situations.”
• Maegan Renee Sutphin honoring Donald Bredamus: “Within 15 minutes he had me laughing and forgetting all about my problems. ”
• Patrick Austin Underwood honoring Annette Carter: “ Mrs. Carter has evolved in to my second mom and I honestly do not know where I would be without her helping hand.”
• Amber Nicole Vaughn honoring Kathy Jones: “Hard work, motivation and a want to be the best are characteristics that will get you there in the future. Kathy Jones has not only taught this concept, but lived it.”
• Daisy Ngocdoan Vu honoring Lindsay Favero: “...My desire to speak English came true with the help of my wonderful ELL (English Language Learners) teacher, Mrs. Lindsay Favero.”
• Tyler Ryan Watts honoring Sgt. John Truini: “Sgt. Truini has brought me out of my shell socially by teaching me that social skills are vital for proper communication and thus success.”
• Anne Elizabeth White honoring Cherie Spivey: “Anyone could tell she knows her subject inside and out just by talking to her.”
• Jennifer Nicole Winn honoring Wille Martin: “Though it was an extremely difficult choice, I chose you, Mr. Martin, for making my junior year one of the most enjoyable and entertaining I have ever had.”
Keynote speaker Yannick Koger posthumously honored teacher Donna Few. Koger — a former valedictorian of Magna Vista High School and now an analytics consultant — gave tips for success during his speech.
Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said: “Student, parents and teachers, on behalf of Henry County Public Schools, thank you for making a habit of going the extra mile.”