Legacy lives on in scholarship

The impact of Clara “Lee” McLean’s life did not end on January 27, 2017 when she passed away.

McLean’s infectious laugh, glowing smile, and generous spirit live on in the Tuscola Class of ’73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In 2013 at Tuscola High School’s (THS) class of 1973 40th reunion, the group of alumni, including McLean, decided they wanted to do something to give back to their old high school and its students.

“In planning the 40th reunion, the idea to create a scholarship came about and we decided to promote it to our fellow classmates,” Rick Webb, THS ’73 class president and scholarship co-chair, said. “Coming out of the reunion, the scholarship was launched and there was immediate acceptance and excitement.”

McLean, along with Webb, served on the scholarship steering committee since its creation three years ago.

The first year, the committee raised enough money amongst their classmates to give $1,000 to one graduating female and male from THS.

Webb said each year since, they have continued to raise money to offer the two scholarships every spring at the Haywood County Schools Foundation Partners in Education Scholarship Celebration.

Over the course of three years, the Tuscola Class of ’73 Scholarship Fund has assisted six THS seniors attend college. The scholarship fund continues to grow, and Webb said the committee is considering increasing or expanding the scholarships.

Last December, Webb received a call from McLean.

“I thought she was calling me to tell me that she was sending in her annual donation to the scholarship,” Webb said. “Unfortunately, she was calling to tell me that she was gravely ill.”

Webb immediately contacted other members of the scholarship steering committee to share the sad news. The group decided it wanted to honor McLean’s life and contributions by renaming the scholarship in her honor.

“It was clear to all of us that Lee’s involvement in the creation of the scholarship was deserving of special recognition,” Webb said.

Webb drove from his home in Cary, N.C. to visit with McLean the following weekend.

“During my visit with her, I was able to ask her for her blessing on renaming the scholarship in her honor and ultimate memory,” Webb said. “The scholarship has always been close to her, and she was very happy with our decision to rename it.”

Applications for the Tuscola Class of ’73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund are now open through the Haywood County Schools Foundation. Tuscola seniors can download an application online at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us or pick up an application from the guidance center. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 13.

“I think that the class of ‘73 has done a great job to make this scholarship available, and I know that Lee would be so proud,” Webb said. “We want to give young people a chance to continue their education, and the scholarship is a way for all of us to give back in Lee’s honor.”

In May 2016 at the Foundation’s Partners in Education awards ceremony, 97 high school seniors from Pisgah, Tuscola, Central Haywood, and the Haywood Early College received scholarships totaling $176,450.

The Haywood County Schools Foundation currently manages more than 60 scholarships that have been established by businesses and individuals in the community. Scholarships may be endowed or funded annually. Criteria for awarding the scholarship are designed by the donors and the Foundation Board of Directors. Endowed scholarships are generated through the investment of permanently-held principals, so that only the income from the principal is used for scholarship awards.

For more information about donating to the Tuscola Class of ’73 Lee McLean Memorial Scholarship Fund or setting up a scholarship through the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or visit www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us.

Media centers create maker stations

School libraries are no longer simply a holding area for books, they now serve as a learning hub for schools. More often than not, the time it takes to teach curriculum in the classroom leaves little extra time for teachers to plan lessons that fuse their students’ creativity and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

In many of Haywood County Schools’ media centers, including North Canton Elementary School, media specialists are working with teachers to create maker stations for students. Maker stations are areas set up in the library that provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in STEM-related activities.

“Our maker stations gives students a place to explore STEM-related projects while also being creative,” North Canton Media Specialist Valerie Guyer explained. “The students love the independent activities and using the technology.”

Through the Haywood County Schools Foundation, Guyer applied for and received one grant from Duke Energy and one grant from Evergreen Packaging last fall. She used the money to purchase materials for two maker stations.

One maker station is centered around virtual reality (VR). Using VR headsets, students can ride through the eye of a tornado, explore systems of the human body, and tour Egyptian pyramids. Teachers use the VR station to connect the subjects students are learning about in the classroom with interactive 3D experiences.

“The VR headsets give our students a chance to experience things they would never have access to normally,” Guyer explained. “It’s been a great tool to get students excited about working together, conducting investigations, and learning about subjects that are typically hard to teach.”

The other maker station Guyer received funding for is home to the school’s Dash and Dot Robot duo.

The robots present students with hundreds of projects, challenges, puzzles, and freeform play while making computer science education fun and effective. Students learn to code while they make the robots sing, dance, and navigate the media center.

“Without the Foundation grants from Duke Energy and Evergreen, these maker stations would not be possible for our school,” Guyer said. “These maker stations will give our students even more exposure to STEM, which is so important in education and beyond in today’s world.”

Each fall, the Haywood County Schools Foundation offers teacher and faculty grants from First Citizens Bank, Evergreen Packaging, Duke Energy, HomeTrust Bank, and QuickDraw. Last November, the Haywood County Schools Foundation awarded more than 170 grants to teachers and faculty totaling more than $35,000 for the 2016-17 school year. Grants will open for the 2017-18 school year in the fall.

February Excellence in Education

This month, veteran teachers Harold Shepard and Rhonda Wester were recognized with Excellence in Education awards.

The Excellence in Education program recognizes teachers from Haywood County Schools who exemplify a commitment to innovative teaching practices and show dedication to student success. The program is sponsored by Jack Bishop of Edward Jones and the Haywood County Schools Foundation (HCSF).

“Our Edward Jones office is honored to be able to recognize Haywood County’s outstanding teachers,” Bishop said. “Our students are receiving a world-class education from some of the most talented teachers in the state.”

Over the course of 16 years, Shepard has taught Haywood County Schools students everything from middle school English to high school biology. He currently teaches science and history courses at Pisgah High School, where he has worked the past nine years.

Shepard’s teaching approach is hands-on, and his students have become accustomed to walking in the classroom and hearing Shepard say “let’s take a field trip.”

“On any given day, we may go outside to get into revolutionary war skirmish lines or to the river to test water or spend time conducting junior archaeology to discover pottery in local fields,” Shepard explained. “I am constantly looking for ways to help my students relate to the subject matter better.”

Shepard said one of the best learning experiences he planned for his students was retracing the Rutherford Trace Trail, the 1776 campaign of Gen. Griffith Rutherford whose army marched from Old Fort through the Bethel community, burning 52 Cherokee towns.

“Because of my ‘drop-what-we-are-doing-and-lets-go-look’ style, to the untrained eye my room looks like an unstructured mess, but I have been very lucky to have principals and administration to allow me to develop and grow as a teacher,” Shepard said. “More importantly, it has made students enjoy coming to class and learning something new.”

Just across the river at Canton Middle School, sixth grade students are learning reading and English skills and solving math problems in Wester’s class. Wester, who has been teaching for 18 years, challenges her Exceptional Children (EC) students to become better students and community members.

“I love teaching because my work has a purpose,” Wester said with a smile. “I get the opportunity to touch the lives of students and contribute to making their future one that is bright and productive.”

Although Wester has been teaching for a long time, she says that each day is different and never boring with her students.

“When you love what you do, not only will you make a difference in your students’ lives, but you will make a difference in your own as well,” Wester said.

Wester said she works tirelessly to ensure that her classroom is a safe harbor for students and that they are loved and accepted.

“Mr. Shepard and Ms. Wester are two examples of the great teachers that are working for Haywood County Schools,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “We are so happy to publicly recognize their efforts with the Excellence in Education program.”

Each month, up to three teachers from the 15 Haywood County Schools are recognized with an Excellence in Education award. Award winners are presented with a certificate and a $100 check sponsored by Bishop.


HEC student attends leadership summit

Among the thousands of people who were in Washington D.C. for the 58th Presidential Inauguration was Abi Bleakley, a first-year student at Haywood Early College.

As political activists and advocates from both parties flooded the streets of the nation’s capital, Bleakley’s attention was focused on immersing herself in leadership talks and getting to know students from across the country at the Envision Leadership Summit.

“Politics seems to get messy, but I believe in educating myself,” Bleakley explained. “This was a good opportunity for me to gain leadership skills and learn about the political process in general.”

During her five-night trip, Bleakley took in all the sights before diving into leadership-based seminars.

Bleakley, along with the hundreds other students in attendance, got to hear from two former presidential candidates, Governor Martin O’Malley and Carly Fiorina. They shared stories from the campaign trail, insights on what it is like to run for president, and even debated a few current issues facing the United States.

“They really set a good example for how a debate should be,” Bleakley said. “They kept their arguments respectable, and I really admired them both for that.”

Governor O’Malley and Fiorini were just a few of the famous and influential speakers Bleakley heard from. She attended lectures delivered by General Colin Powell, film maker Spike Lee, soccer star Abby Wambach, and human rights activist Ziauddin Yousafzai.

“All the speakers made good points,” Bleakley said. “The overall theme from each of them was that you have to know who you are and what you stand for to be a good leader.”

Bleakley also worked in a group with other students in a breakout delegation about access to clean drinking water. Her group generated solutions and presented their findings at a final presentation in front of judges.

“Our students learn how to build relationships and become successful in college and outside of school,” Haywood Early College Principal Jeff Haney said. “Abi, like many of our other students here, is out doing great things and seeing herself as someone in this world who can bring about change.”

Although the focus of Bleakley’s trip was about the political process, she says she has not determined her career path yet.

“I’ve gone back and forth about my political aspirations,” Bleakley said with a smile. “I think I might be interested in majoring in political science, but I know I’ve got some time to figure it out.”

Pisgah seniors sign for the future

Four Pisgah High School seniors signed letters Friday, February 3 to pursue machining apprenticeships with GE Aviation in Asheville and Baldor Electric Company in Weaverville.

Riley Haney, Cody West, and Riley Marcus started their apprenticeships with GE Aviation in January. Riley James will begin his apprenticeship with Baldor this month.

The apprenticeship signing was the first event of its kind at Pisgah. Friends, family, school board members, county commissioners, and central office employees packed the Pisgah library to show their support for the students.

“We wanted to hold a signing day similar to that of athletes because these students have worked just as hard as anyone else,” Pisgah machining teacher Chip Singleton said. “Most of these guys have had their eyes on this apprenticeship program since they were freshmen.”

Since 2005, the machining program at Pisgah has partnered with local businesses to place seniors in apprenticeships. Singleton has worked to increase the rigor of his classroom curriculum and to teach skills needed in today’s precision machining industry.

“The CTE (Career and Technical Education) Program is growing in Haywood County,” Singleton explained. “Our students, as well as the community, are seeing the value in career/technical training.”

Apprenticeships integrate school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in employability and occupational skills, such as machining, needed by local industries. The Pisgah seniors attend classes in the morning to meet high school graduation requirements and then work at their apprenticeship from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“Baldor employs a lot of successful Haywood County Schools graduates who have received top-notch training from the machining programs here,” Ryan Walters, Baldor training supervisor, said. “This is the first year of our apprenticeship program, and we’re happy to have Riley join our team.”

Baldor is an international supplier of industrial electric motors, mechanical power transmission products, drives, and generators.

Riley James, like several of the other apprentices, has been enrolled in machining classes at Pisgah since he was a freshman.

“My favorite thing I’ve made in class was a chess board and pieces for the Chess Club here at school,” James said. “I’m really grateful for this apprenticeship program because I know I have a great job with Baldor, and I don’t have to worry so much about what the future holds.”

Many manufacturing companies in the surrounding areas are faced with the difficult task of hiring highly-skilled workers to build in-demand products. The machining program at Pisgah is working to build a pipeline of qualified and dedicated young workers who are excited about manufacturing and eager to launch a successful career.

GE Aviation currently has 15 students from across Western North Carolina completing apprenticeships at its two Asheville locations. The plant the Pisgah students are working at makes component parts for helicopters and jet engines.

“Pisgah is providing a great resource of qualified students who already possess the needed skills to be successful,” Sarah Dunn, GE Aviation senior employee HR manager, said. “We’re a growing company, and we’re always looking to hire qualified candidates.”

At the end of the school year, the Pisgah seniors will begin working full-time. All the students said they plan to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs at each company by completing coursework to receive their associate degree in Computer-Integrated Machining from Haywood Community College or AB-Tech Community College.

January Excellence in Education

Haywood Early College Teacher Doug Hanson and Meadowbrook Elementary School Teacher Kimberly Messer were recognized with Excellence in Education awards for the month of January.

The Excellence in Education program recognizes teachers from Haywood County Schools who exemplify a commitment to innovative teaching practices and show dedication to student success. The program is sponsored by Jack Bishop of Edward Jones and the Haywood County Schools Foundation (HCSF).

“Our Edward Jones office is honored to recognize Haywood County’s outstanding teachers,” Bishop said. “Our children have a brighter future thanks to the hard work and dedication of Mr. Hanson and Mrs. Messer.”

For the past 19 years, Hanson has been teaching Haywood County students. He taught at Tuscola High School for 12 years before moving to Haywood Early College (HEC). At HEC, Hanson teaches English II and IV and also works as the school’s lead teacher.

“I am fortunate to be able to do a lot of one-on-one writing instruction with my students, which is always time well spent,” Hanson explained. “Working closely with students and seeing their writing improve over the course of a semester feels gratifying.”

Hanson pushes his students to think and write on a college level. His analytical writing assignments prepare the Early College students to seamlessly transition to junior-level English classes at four-year colleges and universities.

Although first grade curriculum might not seem as rigorous as high school English, Messer is laying the foundation for math and reading in her classroom. Messer, who has been teaching for 16 years, says her teaching style encourages students to feel successful no matter where they are academically or what is going on in their lives.

“In first grade, I am given the opportunity to watch my students grow and learn,” Messer explained. “I may not be able to control what happens to children outside of my classroom, but while they are in my room, I am able to make them feel successful, important, and loved.”

Messer said that many of her students enter first grade as beginning or non-readers, but by the end of the year, she helps them leave her classroom as confident readers.

“It’s because of teachers like Mr. Hanson and Mrs. Messer that Haywood County Schools is ranked in the top 10 percent of public schools in the state,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “The Excellence in Education program is a great way to publicly recognize them as outstanding teachers.”

Each month, up to three teachers from the 15 Haywood County Schools are recognized with an Excellence in Education award. Award winners are presented with a certificate and a $100 check sponsored by Bishop.

Foundation scholarships now open

Beginning January 9, more than 65 scholarships will be available for high school seniors of Haywood County Schools to apply for through the Haywood County Schools Foundation. Applications will be available at each high school’s counseling center and on the Haywood County Schools Foundation website at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us.

Last year, more than 100 high school seniors received $176,000 in scholarships from the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

“We encourage all seniors to apply for scholarships,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “The Foundation offers a wide array of scholarships with values ranging from $300 to $40,000.”

To be eligible, a student must be a Haywood County resident, currently enrolled in a Haywood County high school, and be a graduating senior. The student must be planning to attend an approved secondary program (technical/community college, junior college, or four-year institution) and have a 2.5 or better GPA.

Along with completing the application, students must include copies of SAT/ACT scores; three letters of reference, one of which must be from a community member; and a copy of their FAFSA application.

Completed application packets must be submitted to the student’s high school counseling center by Monday, March 13.

Scholarship winners will be notified by May 1. A Partners in Education celebration for scholarship winners will be held May 22 at Haywood Community College.

The Haywood County Schools Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization whose purpose is to make available to students and faculty members of Haywood County Public Schools educational opportunities not normally available through regular public funding sources. The funding for scholarships is provided by generous donors.

For more information about scholarships or help with filling out a FAFSA, contact Wood Valliere at jwood@haywood.k12.nc.us or 828.456.2400 ext 2117.

Excellence in Education – December

Noal Castater, career and technical education teacher at Waynesville Middle School; Casey Conard, PE teacher at Hazelwood Elementary; and Bronson Gross, health/PE teacher at Central Haywood High School, were recognized with Excellence in Education awards for the month of December.

The Excellence in Education program recognizes teachers from Haywood County Schools who exemplify a commitment to innovative teaching practices and show dedication to student success. The program is sponsored by Jack Bishop of Edward Jones and the Haywood County Schools Foundation (HCSF).

“Our Edward Jones office is honored to be able to recognize Haywood County’s outstanding teachers,” Bishop said. “Mr. Castater, Coach Conard, and Coach Gross are prime examples of the great teachers our school system employs.”


Noal Castater, WMS

Castater has been teaching for 16 years, and has spent the last seven years as Waynesville Middle School’s career and technical education (CTE) teacher.

“What I enjoy most about teaching CTE is the hands-on nature of working in a greenhouse and a woodworking shop.  I enjoy teaching lifelong skills and working side by side with my students,” Castater explained. “When I started at WMS, I had classes with only four students. Now, my classes are at my CTE cap of 25 with a waiting list.”

Castater admits that being a successful teacher requires self-sacrifice, and his duties generally do not end when the final school bell rings each afternoon. In order to teach the most up-to-date information, Castater himself must continually research new discoveries in agriculture, as well as teaching practices.

“As a teacher, I believe you have to try new things, learn from mistakes, make changes for the better, develop a positive rapport with students, and build relationships with your co-workers,” Castater said. “I create a safe haven for my students through empathy, kindness, humor, high expectations, but also being able to individually adapt to each student’s needs and abilities.”

JANUARY RECIPIENT Casey Conard, Hazelwood

Casey Conard, Hazelwood

Down the road in Hazelwood Elementary School’s gymnasium, kindergarten students work on building their basic locomotor skills and fifth graders play team-oriented games while building their muscular strength and endurance. Conard, who has been teaching PE for six years, says his teaching style encourages students to learn and explore without fear of failure.

“The thing I enjoy most about teaching PE is the opportunity to build relationships with the students and families in our community,” Conard explained. “As a physical education teacher, I have a unique opportunity to see every student at Hazelwood each week and to take part in their education.  It is exciting to see each of them grow as individuals.”

Conard hopes his students learn the importance of teamwork and how positive social interaction looks and feels. At the end of the year, students leave his class with a basic knowledge of physical, social, and emotional health.


Bronson Gross, CHHS

While PE activities and games may change for high schoolers, Coach Gross is working to instill the same values of teamwork, self-worth, and lifelong fitness in his students at Central Haywood High School.

Gross began his teaching career at Central Haywood five years ago.

“In the beginning, I was really excited to teach PE because sports were my primary passion. When I started teaching health, I realized that I enjoyed educating students about health topics, which was much needed in our area,” Gross explained. “I want my students to understand that health and PE are very important in their everyday lives.”

Gross’ gymnasium and classroom are structured environments that mimic life after high school.

“I always tell my students that teaching is just one part of my job,” Gross explained. “I’m also responsible for preparing them to work or go to college after high school. I want them to leave here ready to be successful citizens of Haywood County.”

“The teachers of Haywood County Schools always put their students first, and Mr. Castater, Coach Conard, and Coach Gross are no exception,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “The Excellence in Education program is a great way to publicly recognize them as outstanding teachers.”

Each month, up to three teachers from the 16 Haywood County Schools are recognized with an Excellence in Education award. Award winners are presented with a certificate and a $100 check sponsored by Bishop.

Haywood County Schools celebrates employees’ years of service

The Haywood County Schools Foundation recently recognized employees celebrating 5, 10, 15, and 20 years of service to Haywood County Schools with a $100 gift card.

“The Foundation is proud to honor the integral role our employees play in making Haywood County Schools one of the top performing districts in the state,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “Our students’ success is directly related to these employees, and we are grateful that they choose to work for Haywood County Schools.”

This year, Wood Valliere, along with Superintendent Dr. Anne Garrett and other members of Haywood County Schools Central Office, surprised 120 employees with gift cards.

Employee recognition and retention is one of the main focuses of the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

Each December, the Foundation recognizes employees who have reached certain career milestones with no break in service with gift cards. The money for the gift cards is raised by employees. At the beginning of the school year, employees have the option to donate to the Foundation through an annual pledge.

The spirit of Christmas – Sugar Plum Project

aIMG_0393Christmas morning should be filled with excitement, anticipation, and joy as children race to see what’s under the tree. For many children, this is their favorite time of year, as they anticipate Santa’s arrival and look forward to receiving new toys and clothing.

Unfortunately, many families in our area cannot afford to purchase presents for their children and pay their rent or utility bill. Thanks to generous donations from local businesses and community members, Haywood County Schools students in need will experience the joy of the holiday season.

For the past 30 years, the Haywood County Schools Foundation’s Sugar Plum Project has provided clothing and gifts to students in need during the holiday season. The Sugar Plum Project provides Christmas for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade students enrolled in Haywood County Schools. Most of these children come from low-income families.

“The Sugar Plum Project is a great event that our community has embraced for the past three decades,” Jenny Wood Valliere, Haywood County Schools Foundation executive director, said. “Buying one child a gift is such a small way to make a huge difference in that child’s life.”

From November 22 through December 10, children’s names were available on trees at United Community Bank, HomeTrust Bank, Hometown Hardware, and Champion Credit Union. Generous community members picked out a name, bought items included on the child’s wish list, and returned it to the respective business on December 11. The Sugar Plum Project also accepted monetary donations to sponsor children.

This year, through monetary and gift donations, 95 students received an early Christmas on December 13 at a Christmas celebration at the old Hazelwood gym.

Students from the county’s eight elementary schools were treated to lunch, opened their gifts, and were then surprised with a visit from Santa. The children got the chance to talk with Santa and tell him about their Christmas lists.

“Christmas is my favorite day of the whole year,” Sarah, a kindergartner, excitedly said. “I’m so excited to tell Santa what I want for Christmas.”

Along with the Sugar Plum Project, Haywood County Schools has worked with several other local agencies to ensure all students have a memorable holiday season.

For nearly 50 years, employees at Evergreen Packaging have raised money to purchase clothing for students in need. The Santa Pals program provides clothing for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade at all 16 Haywood County Schools. This year, contributions from Evergreen employees, along with a donation from the company, totaled $65,000.

“The shopping day at K-mart is focused on clothing because unfortunately, there are many children in our area who don’t have the things that most of us consider basic necessities,” Thad McCracken, Santa Pals coordinator and retired Evergreen employee, said. “This time of year, it’s essential for children to have clothing to keep them warm.”

Cops and Kids brought students together with 50 law enforcement officers at Walmart. Police officers from Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Canton, and Clyde, Haywood County Sheriff’s officers, Highway Patrol, and Haywood County EMS all participated in the event. Through private, business, and community donations, 36 students from elementary through high school received presents from the Cops with Kids program.

“Of course we all love being able to support the local community and our children through the Cops with Kids program, but one of my favorite parts of the day is seeing how much fun the officers have with the kids,” Matt Shell, Haywood County Sheriff’s Officer sergeant and president of the Fraternal Order of Police – Haywood County Lodge 16, said. “One officer was riding a bicycle down the aisle.”

“The generosity of our community is so abundant, and the holiday season brings out the best in everyone,” Wood Valliere said. “Haywood County Schools is grateful for the donations of money, gifts, and time given to our students.”