February brings the first recognitions for those graduating from High School. You may have read in the past few weeks that various athletes in our county that have signed grants in aid and letters of intent with various colleges and universities.. You may have read about the outstanding showing at the Griffin RESA Regional Science Fair by students form Newton County. It was at this annual events that all 42 participants from Newton won awards. Half of these were for first place. Also from the Academic side was the annual announcement of our local Star Students and Teachers.
It was a time of great celebration and joy when the Star Students and Teachers for the three Newton County High Schools and the entire county was announced at the February 16 meeting of the Covington Kiwanis Club. Sponsorship of the annual recognition has been, for many years, the local Kiwanis Club joining with the Newton County School System.
You may have read the news online on the day of the event or in the print edition last Sunday. The Star Student for NCSS as well as Newton High School was Kara Gartner, who in turn named as the STAR teacher for NCSS and Newton High, Ebony Green. Others recognized included STAR students from Alcovy High School, Luke Campbell, and from Eastside High School, Mary Schlueter. The STAR teachers named from those two school were Karen Booth from Alcovy and the late Leo Mallard from Eastside.
We have much to be proud of in our Newton County School System. The results come from a very cooperative spirit between the community and the school system. It comes from the excellent leadership among our administrators and our teachers. It comes from those students that seek to do their best as they prepare themselves for their next steps in life.
One of the questions asked of each Star Student was why did you choose the teacher you tapped to be their Star Teacher? Of course, each had their reasons, but there seemed to be a theme. It was the interest that each teacher showed for their students. It was not so much their brilliance in a given academic field, though I am sure it was there. The reasons given seem to have a theme of the teacher being most open to the students to grow. Helping them in their understanding of the subject and of themselves.
The students shared how the teacher took what seemed at first to be so complex and made it easy to understand. The teacher called for the very best of them from the student. The challenge from the teacher to learn and to grow led them to exceed as students. In order to accomplish this, the students said, the teachers gave their best in turn.
The future of our community and our nation is directly dependent on the growth that happens to students in their educational journey led by gifted teachers. Remember the bumper sticker that was popular a few years ago, “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher.” We can all thank our teachers, coaches, counselors, and others that help shape the person we are. Those who empowered and equipped us to find our way. I think you would agree the greatest gift they gave us was an awareness that we could be more than we were.
A very touching example of how the teacher reaches into the future was given by the Star Student from Eastside. Mary Schlueter named as her Star Teacher Leo Mallard, who lost his courageous battle with cancer several months ago. His wife, Dr. Renee Mallard, Principal at Indian Creek Middle School, was there to receive the award for him. Mary said Mallard was the key to her overcoming her shyness. And that in turn build the confidence she needed to work hard and be the student she is today. Dr. Mallard could see the process begun by her husband continuing as Mary plans to study in the field of biomedical engineering.
Are you looking for some good news in our world today? I can’t think of a better place to start than these “stars” or Newton County Schools for 2017. Both the teachers and the students show our schools are doing some great things.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.