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Posted: April 29, 2009 12:30 a.m.

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From kayaks to the classroom

Photo by Amber Pittman/

Adventurous: Dr. C.C. Bates is a member of the Newton County Board of Education.

If things had been just a little different, C.C. Bates would have never been an educator or served on Newton County's Board of Education. She might have been your guide if you decided to take a river trip down the Rio Grande.

For all her educational accomplishments, Bates says she floundered her senior year of college at the University of South Carolina, and a whitewater kayaking class with a roommate turned out to be something she adored.

After graduation she became a river tour guide and through that realized how much she enjoyed teaching. After working her way to Alaska, Bates decided to call her parents from a pay phone and inform them of her decision to go back to school to study education, her main motivation being that as a teacher she would have summers off to continue to guide in California.

"What I realized," she said, "was that my love of working with people in the outdoors quickly translated into a love of teaching young children in the classroom. Eventually my interest in education, specifically the teaching of reading, became my passion and the river a hobby."

Since then Bates has earned her Ph.D in language and literacy and been a teacher in elementary grades as well as a reading/literacy coach, she was named teacher of the year for an individual school twice, and for a county once and was a finalist in the state competition for Newton County and was elected to the Newton County Board of Education in 2007.

Bates decided to become involved in the BOE when her daughter was preparing to start her school career, something she said she knew she would do when her children came of age.

"Education is so instrumental to success," she said. "Certainly, there are people, that are successful that did not complete their education, but by in large education gives children an advantage and helps them become productive citizens. My own education has provided endless opportunities and perhaps this is why I believe so strongly in it. I think the hardest things for students to realize is how what they do today can affect their tomorrow."

As for the future of education in Newton County, Bates said she is excited about the different things the system is beginning to offer, including theme schools and the Academy of Liberal arts at Newton High School.

"As with anything, change can be difficult," she said. "But if we keep doing the same thing, we get the same results. But, as the world changes and as children change, so should the way we educate them."

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