March Excellence in Education Winners

The Haywood County Schools Foundation recognized Riverbend Elementary School media specialist Nikki Barker and Jonathan Valley Elementary School Pre-K teacher Elizabeth Reis with Excellence in Education awards for the month of March.

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.

“Teachers contribute so much to our society and the Haywood County community,” Bishop said. “This gift is just a small thank you from our office for preparing our children for success.”

Each month, 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.

“Teachers play such an extraordinary role in the lives of our children, and Ms. Barker and Ms. Reis are no exception,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “Their passionate, motivating, and caring attitudes are what make Haywood County Schools stand out as a top performer in the state year after year.”

NIKKI BARKER
Nikki Barker has taught at Riverbend Elementary School her entire 15-year teaching career. She taught fifth grade for nine years before becoming the school’s media specialist.

Elementary schools’ media centers are more than just libraries. As a media specialist, Barker teaches everything from math to social studies to the school’s entire student body. She often collaboratively plans lessons and projects with teachers that reinforce or teach a key concept that the class is studying.

“I love getting to see that spark in students’ eyes when they understand or comprehend something that they might have been struggling with,” Barker explained. “I feel children learn best when they can experiment and apply their knowledge to see if it works and then try again if it doesn’t.”

Barker is also responsible for teaching media and technology standards, digital citizenship, and best practices to stay safe online.

Not surprisingly, Barker said that her passion for teaching children to love reading is what first drew her to the media specialist position.

“I have really enjoyed introducing different topics, like STEM or cultures from around the world, to my students through literature,” Barker said. “I try to be a facilitator and allow the kids to be hands-on learners who enjoy discovering new information through books.”

ELIZABETH REIS
Before joining Jonathan Valley Elementary School four years ago, Elizabeth Reis was student teaching in New York City where she spent two years in diverse settings in Harlem, the Upper West Side, and the Lower East Side while attending graduate school.

“What I love most about teaching is fostering a classroom community where we become a family that learns together,” Reis said. “I feel joy watching each child grow and reveal themselves at their own pace.”

As a Pre-K teacher, Reis said her main goal is to prepare her four- and five-year-old students to be successful in school and life. Reis spends her days teaching the alphabet, phonics, counting, and number recognition, as well as social and emotional awareness.

“My classroom is a place where students can feel comfortable making mistakes and being themselves; where they work hard to communicate with new people who may have different ideas and styles than they do,” Reis explained. “When you have kids who are excited to be in the classroom community, then they feel ready and committed to do so much more for you, for themselves, and for other people.”


Meadowbrook Receives Money and Books in Memory of Late Principal

Almost five years after her unexpected death, Anna Williams’ presence flooded the Meadowbrook Elementary School media center on Friday, March 2.

Williams was the principal of Meadowbrook when she passed away on October 30, 2013 – just four days after giving birth to her second child, Emily Claire.

Meadowbrook celebrated Williams’ legacy with Anna’s Birthday Book Bash, an event first thought of by Williams’ son John Marshall and his step mother Dana Smith. Students, school staff, and community members donated more than 400 books and $500 in donations at the event to fill classroom libraries at Meadowbrook.

At the book bash, those who knew Williams happily shared memories, laughs, and some tears.

“Anna always loved reading,” Brain Smith, Williams’ husband, said with a smile. “Someone actually told me the other day that Anna would purchase books for each of the classrooms here every month out of her own pocket. That was just the kind of person she was.”

Williams’ father, Joe Williams, recalled that she would read five books each night to her son before tucking him in bed.

“John Marshall is a wonderful reader, and Emily Claire has developed Anna’s love for reading too,” Joe said. “We are grateful that children from Meadowbrook will benefit from this book drive.”

Williams grew up in Haywood County and first worked as a teacher and assistant principal in Wake County. After moving back to her hometown, Williams served as an assistant principal at Jonathan Valley, Clyde Elementary and Waynesville Middle School before serving as the principal at Meadowbrook Elementary beginning in 2011.

Former Clyde Elementary School Principal Jeff Haney hired Williams as the school’s assistant principal in 2008.

“I just remember when I interviewed her that there was something really special about her and all the passion that she showed for children,” Haney said. “She was one of the most special people I have ever had the privilege to work with.”

Smith said he is hoping to make Anna’s Birthday Book Bash an annual event for Meadowbrook but would like to eventually collect enough books to distribute to other elementary schools.

“We would also love to start a scholarship in her memory,” Smith explained. “Some of the kids that Anna was with at Meadowbrook are now in high school, so we thought a scholarship would be a great way to continue honoring her life.”

For more information about donating to a scholarship fund in memory of Williams or donating money to Anna’s Birthday Book Bash, contact Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at 828-456-2400 or visit www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us.


2018 Governor’s School Participants

Two Haywood County rising high school seniors will attend the Governor’s School of North Carolina this summer. Gracelyn Woods from Pisgah High School and Joza Ballance from Tuscola High School were selected for the highly-coveted and competitive summer academic program.

The Governor’s School of North Carolina is a summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students that integrates academic disciplines, the arts and unique coursework. The curriculum focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in English, French, Spanish, mathematics, natural science, social science, art, choral music, instrumental music, theater and dance.

Students were selected to apply for Governor’s School in one of the above disciplines based on their grades. The application, which students submitted last fall, included two essays and two letters of recommendation.

To be eligible, students must be N.C. residents, enrolled in 11th grade, have achievement test scores between the 92 and 99 percentile ranges, and supply their class rank and transcripts.

Once Haywood County submitted their applications to the state, a selection committee with specialists in each academic discipline reviewed and scored each student application. Haywood County’s students were notified of their acceptance in March.

Woods and Ballance were both selected for English. Woods will attend Governor’s School West at Salem College in Winston-Salem and Ballance will attend Governor’s School East at Meredith College in Raleigh.

“English is my love and passion,” Woods said with a smile. “I love my AP English class because it makes me question people, politics, and other current events while helping me develop my own opinion.”

The English curriculum focuses on modern and post-modern fiction, poetry, and drama. During Governor’s School, students will be encouraged to read closely, imaginatively, analytically, and empathetically. Many of the classes will incorporate creative and analytical writing workshops to help students improve their writing.

“I love reading books with quirky characters and analyzing poetry,” Ballance said. “I think the diversity I’ll be immersed in at Governor’s School will help me look at the world from other perspectives.”

During Governor’s School, students complete an intense study of the field they were nominated in and attend classes that encourage group discussion of practical applications of theory. Students have the opportunity to learn from speakers, performances, exhibitions, field trips, demonstrations, seminars and film series. When students are not in class, social and recreational events are offered.

“I’m really hoping Governor’s School will be kind of like a college experience for me,” Woods explained. “It will be nice to be around hundreds of like-minded kids my own age who are excited to learn.”

Woods and Ballance will complete the nearly six-week program from June 17 to July 25 with a three-day midsession break in July.

The cost of the program for the two Haywood County Schools’ students is being paid for by a donation from Dr. Doris Hammett, a local Haywood County Schools supporter and retired pediatrician.

“It’s amazing to me that someone from our community truly wants to help provide these great experiences for kids in Haywood County,” Ballance said.

Woods agreed.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend Governor’s School without Dr. Hammett’s donation,” Woods said.

Governor’s School faculty and staff include teachers and professionals from public and private schools, colleges and universities, and independent artists and scholars.

Governor’s School is the oldest statewide summer residential program for academically and intellectually gifted high school students in the nation. Each year, up to 650 N.C. students are selected to attend Governor’s School.


February Excellence in Education

The Haywood County Schools Foundation recognized Canton Middle School teacher Amy Tiller and Pisgah High School teacher Tim Shephard with Excellence in Education awards for the month of February.

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).

“I’m amazed at the great teachers that are in Haywood County Schools’ classrooms,” Bishop said. “This gift is just a small way that we can recognize and thank teachers for the tremendous job they do in preparing our children for success.”

Each month, 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.

“Teachers like Ms. Tiller and Mr. Shepard are bringing a positive influence into the classroom,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “They truly care about their students and are a big part of Haywood County Schools’ success.”

AMY TILLER
For 14 years, Amy Tiller has been teaching for Haywood County Schools. She has taught at Tuscola, Pisgah, Clyde Elementary, Waynesville Middle, and now at Canton Middle.

Tiller invites her students to ask questions and be active in the classroom while she teaches subjects like meteorology, physics, cellular biology, human anatomy, genetics, and microscopic life.

“My favorite part of teaching is the students, of course, because I love them and want to see them succeed in the classroom and in life,” Tiller said with a smile. “Another thing that makes teaching so much fun is the creative freedom I have when planning and executing lessons. No two days are ever alike.”

Tiller said her ultimate goal as a seventh-grade teacher is to help her students learn the content required by the state while also becoming persevering problem solvers who are passionate about the world around them.

TIM SHEPARD
Pisgah High School teacher Tim Shepard is well known for developing hands-on lesson plans for his students.

Shepard teaches earth and environment science, as well as physical science. His students can often be found outside studying chemical weathering or in the lab creating their own chemical reactions in test tubes.

This is Shepard’s 16th year teaching for Haywood County Schools. He began his career at Waynesville Middle School before going to Canton Middle School where he taught for 13 years. He has been at Pisgah for the past three years.

“I enjoy being with my students and seeing them grow academically and as individuals,” Shepard said. “They know that I expect them to grow and learn through the entire semester.”


David Sherrill Scholarship Open

High school baseball season, a time that the late David Sherrill greeted with anticipation and excitement, is just around the corner.

The news of Sherrill’s death sent shock waves throughout Haywood County when he tragically lost his life in a car accident on March 31, 2006.

Sherrill was a senior at Tuscola High School and an avid baseball player. In addition to being a stand-out athlete, Sherrill was known as a lovable character who touched the lives of many people through his church, school, community, and his family.

When Sherrill’s mother Sherry White was still grieving, the community was determined to find a way to memorialize her son’s life.

In January 2007 through donations from many businesses, individuals, Haywood County Schools, Major League Baseball, and an annual golf tournament, the David Sherrill Diamond Skills Center was built and dedicated in Sherrill’s memory.

In addition to the baseball-training center an endowed memorial scholarship was established to award students at Tuscola High School who exhibit the same traits he lived every day of his life; hard work, over-achieving and love of his family, church and friends.

“I knew he was special, and he was special to a lot of people in the community,” White said. “When he passed, they wanted to do something in his memory.”

White said the fundraising efforts for the training center were initially started by Mackie and David McKay of RCF Construction. Rob and Jeanne Poulan, whose son was friends with Sherrill, were the initial contributors to the scholarship.

Since then, friends and family have hosted golf tournaments, putt-putt competitions, and baseball fundraisers to raise money for the scholarship fund.

Scholarship recipients must be a Tuscola High School senior and preference is given to those who demonstrate a strong work ethic, scholastic achievement, financial need, participation in athletic activities, and involvement in community service.

Since 2007, up to two graduating Tuscola High School seniors have been awarded each year with a $500-1,000 scholarship from the David Sherrill Memorial Scholarship Fund.

This May, the newest David Sherrill Memorial Scholarship recipient will be named at the Haywood County Schools Foundation’s Partners in Education Scholarship Ceremony.

“I’ve asked the scholarship committee to select someone who has overcome hardship because Dave did that,” White explained. “He was just a good-hearted person who liked to help people, so I want the recipient to reflect that same positive attitude.”

White said that she will always remember her son’s contagious smile and likeability that everyone around him recognized.

“I just want everyone to know, especially high school students, that seat belts save lives,” White said. “Dave wasn’t wearing a seat belt the night he was in the car accident, and it could have saved his life.”

Last year, 97 high school seniors from Pisgah, Tuscola, Central Haywood, and Haywood Early College received scholarships from the Haywood County Schools Foundation totaling more than $162,000.

Applications are currently open for all of Haywood County Schools Foundation’s scholarships, including the David Sherrill Memorial Scholarship. High school seniors may pick up an application at their school’s guidance counseling center or download an application at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us. The deadline to apply is March 12.

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 David Sherrill Memorial Scholarship 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.


Mardi Gras Ball February 24

The 10th annual Haywood County Schools Foundation Mardi Gras Ball is Saturday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m. The Mardi Gras Ball, sponsored by Entegra Bank, is the Haywood County Schools Foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year.

Since 2008, the event has raised more than $500,000 for the Haywood County Schools Foundation. Last year’s fundraiser alone brought in more than $65,000 in donations thanks to all Mardi Gras candidates, including the reigning Mardi Gras King Nathan Lowe and Queen Becca Swanger. Each year, dedicated community members volunteer to run as candidates for the Mardi Gras court in an effort to raise money for the students, schools, and employees of the 15 Haywood County Public Schools. The male and female candidates who raise the most money are crowned king and queen of the Mardi Gras Ball. All money raised from the competition and at the Mardi Gras Ball on February 24 is used for student scholarships, teacher recruitment and retention, and to fund grants for Haywood County teachers to purchase classroom supplies and attend training and workshops. Entegra Bank is the lead sponsor of the event. Entegra Bank is committed to meeting the financial needs of Haywood County. To purchase tickets, make a donation to a candidate’s fundraiser, or to make a donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere at jwood@haywood.k12.nc.us or 828.456.2400 ext 2117. You can also make donations online via PayPal at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us. Be sure to enter the name of the candidate you would like to support in the notes section.

THE CANDIDATES

Stephanie Welch-Strickland: Queen candidate Stephanie Welch-Strickland is a native of Haywood County. She is currently the office manager for Sunburst Trout Farm and property manager for Welch Properties. She received her Bachelor’s in European History at WCU. Stephanie serves as treasurer for Hazelwood Elementary PTO, treasurer for the Waynesville Sunrise Rotary Club, and secretary for the WMS Booster Club. She sits on the board of directors for the Carolina Mountain Soccer Club, WCU Catamount Club, and the Town of Waynesville’s Board of Adjustment. She is also a member of the volunteer committee for the Haywood County Special Olympics and a team mom for her children’s many sports teams. Stephanie has been married to her husband Strick (a former King of Mardi Gras) for 20 years, and they have two kids. Scarlett is a 7th grader at WMS and Stonewall is a 4th grader at Hazelwood Elementary. She and her family enjoy volunteering with youth in the school system, travel sports leagues, and other community organizations.

Carla Pressley: Queen candidate Carla Pressley grew up in Waynesville, but has lived in the Bethel community for the last 20 years. She is a Tuscola graduate and also attended HCC. Carla has enjoyed helping keep Haywood County beautiful by being a hair stylist for the last 20 years, and she currently works at Elements Salon. Carla also recently became a Realtor and is working at Keller Williams in Waynesville. Carla has 2 sons, Cayce and Carter. She also has 2 blue heelers, Ellie and Callie, and a goat named Nova. She was cheer coach for Bethel Youth Organization for 6 years and served on the board as well.

Ashley Zande: Queen candidate Ashley Zande was born and raised in Haywood County and attended Haywood County public schools. After that, she attended WCU where she studied pre-pharmacy. She completed her doctorate of pharmacy from South University School of Pharmacy in Georgia in 2009. After graduation, she began practicing at Waynesville Pharmacy on Hazelwood Avenue. She attributes her life accomplishments to the strong educational foundation she received from Haywood County public schools. In July 2015, she married Michael Zande, and they look forward to welcoming their first child in July who will be in the Haywood County Schools Class of 2039! Ashley is an active participant in the Rotary Club of Waynesville-Sunrise. She enjoys singing in the choir at First Baptist Church of Waynesville, staying active, ballroom dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

Travis Bramlett: King candidate Travis Bramlett is the owner of The Hot Tub Store in Waynesville. He graduated from WCU with a major in Business Management. He is very active in the community when it comes to charities and non profits. He donates hot tubs to fundraisers for Disabled Veterans, Sarge’s, and Richie’s Autism Alliance each year. He is also raffling off a hot tub for the Mardi Gras Ball. Travis knows how important it is to make education a top priority in today’s challenging times. Travis’ favorite pastime is spending as much time as possible at Fontana Lake.

Lee Prevost: King candidate Lee Prevost is the co-founder of Dude Solutions, one of the fastest growing software companies in North Carolina. Dude Solutions, based in Cary, serves many school district and government organizations, including Haywood County Schools. He received his bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from NC State University. Lee and his wife Scharme grew up in Western North Carolina (Waynesville and Hickory), and they enjoy skiing and boating with their two children who have recently left the nest. Lee enjoys fly fishing, hunting, and watching great musical artists perform.


January Excellence in Education Winners

Last month, Haywood County Schools’ teachers Susanne Cauley, Nicole Foster, Michele Burris, William Yates, Robert Allison, and Beth Hooper 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).

“This program is a just a small way that we are able to recognize teachers of Haywood County Schools,” Bishop said. “It’s amazing the caliber of talent that is within our school system from elementary level up to high school.”

Each month, 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.

“These teachers are six examples of the great teachers that are working for Haywood County Schools,” Haywood County Schools Foundation Executive Director Jenny Wood Valliere said. “Their instruction in the classroom has a direct and positive effect on their students.”

SUSANNE CAULEY

For 15 years, Susanne Cauley has been an elementary school teacher. She taught for five years after graduating from Western Carolina University and then stayed home with her two children for five years before returning to the classroom in 2007 at Hazelwood Elementary School.

Cauley said many of her students describe her as a calm teacher because she maintains a structured classroom while still allowing students to have a voice.

“I’ve found the best ways for my students to learn everything they need to in third grade are through hands-on exploration and inquiry-based learning,” Cauley said. “In these lessons, students are in charge of deciding which topics to explore and are working collaboratively to solve problems and design creative projects.”

NICOLE FOSTER

Although Nicole Foster has just been teaching for four years, her passion and enthusiasm for teaching earned her the Excellence in Education award for Meadowbrook Elementary School.

“I truly believe that teaching is the most rewarding profession because every day I have the chance to make a positive impact on someone’s life,” Foster said. “My favorite thing about teaching is helping students learn and grow while creating memorable experiences.”

Foster believes in order to help each of her students reach their full potential, her fourth-grade classroom must be a comfortable environment where students feel love and support.

Foster’s students can often be found outside measuring sidewalk squares and basketball courts during math scavenger hunts or having “grand conversations” with their classmates during book club.

MICHELE BURRIS

Just down the road at North Canton Elementary School, 20-year teaching veteran Michele Burris sits down at a table with a student to focus on reading and math skills.

Burris has spent her entire teaching career at North Canton Elementary where she spent many years in general education classrooms before becoming an Exceptional Children’s teacher for grades K-5.

“Each student is unique and comes to school with different strengths and needs,” Burris explained. “I tailor my teaching to each student so that they know it’s OK to make mistakes, have fun, and laugh while we’re learning.”

WILLIAM YATES

Across the county at Waynesville Middle School, William Yates works to weave together concepts from English, math, science, and history into every lesson plan in his AIG class.

It is not uncommon for Yates to incorporate heated debates, investigative research, group-focused challenges, game-based learning, exploratory projects, and eyewitness simulations in his classroom every day.

“I sincerely hope that my students experience genuine belonging and a leap in confidence while in my class,” Yates said with a smile. “I want my classroom to be a place of welcome, of passion for knowledge, of affirmation, of maturity, high expectations, and responsibility, and an atmosphere that reflects a community in microcosm.”

Although Yates said he is typically perceived as a zany, energetic teacher on the first day of class, by the end of the semester, he hopes his students have learned to harness their passions, show empathy, and stay curious.

“Honestly, what I enjoy most about teaching transcends a single, all-encompassing answer. It’s seeing students latch onto questions, theories, topics, and projects that they were convinced they’d loathe at the beginning of the unit/semester,” Yates explained. “I teach because I love working on behalf of young people whom I believe will alter not just our future, but our present as well.”

ROBERT ALLISON

Central Haywood High School (CHHS) teacher Robert Allison is well known for spontaneously changing lesson plans to suit his students’ needs for the day.

“I have a flexible teaching environment, as I alter my lessons on the fly to do what I believe will best suite my students in the moment,” Allison explained. “I do have structured lessons for each day, however I like to feel as though I am ready to cash in on a heightened level of interest when it surfaces in a student’s mind.”

Allison, who has been teaching full time at CHHS for five years, teaches earth science, physical science, and biology. Whether he is teaching how mankind affects the natural world or going over physics formulas, Allison encourages active conversations with his class.

“Conversation is a great medium for learning,” he said. “It gives me a chance to impart good values and ethical thinking toward ideas of both science and society on developing minds.”

BETH HOOPER

Beth Hooper has been teaching for Haywood County Schools for the past 13 years. She spent one year at Bethel Middle, six years at Tuscola High School, and has been at Haywood Early College (HEC) since 2011.

In her English I and III classes at HEC, Hooper focuses on honing students’ analytical writing skills to prepare them for college-level literature classes.

“I love learning, thinking, and questioning with my students. They teach me so much, and they give me so much hope for the future,” Hooper said. “I believe that relationships are key – relationships with other students, relationships with me, relationships with students’ academic selves. When these relationships are nurtured, true learning takes place.”


Meadowbrook Elementary Receives $2,000 Donation

Second and third grade teachers at Meadowbrook Elementary School were surprised with a $2,000 donation from two local churches on Wednesday, January 24.

Congregations at Morningstar United Methodist Church and Plains United Methodist Church raised the money over several weeks.

“Literacy in particular is critical for our children’s growth and success,” Morningstar Rev. Nicole Jones explained. “We love our schools and hope to provide support in whatever ways we can. It’s wonderful to see children get excited about reading and their delight when discovering books they love.”

The $2,000 donation will be split among two second grade and three third grade classrooms at Meadowbrook to purchase books.

“Meadowbrook is surrounded by such a supportive and involved community,” Meadowbrook Principal Stephanie Mancini said. “This donation will go a long way in promoting literacy in some of our youngest learners.”

This is the second year that the two churches have come together to raise funds for Meadowbrook Elementary classrooms. Last year, kindergarten and first grade teachers received money for high-interest, non-fiction books.

Rev. Jones and Rev. Zack Christy said their churches plan to continue giving monetary support to the school and will focus on different grade levels each year.


Dr. Garrett to Retire After 40 Years

After nearly 40 years of serving the students of Haywood County Schools, Superintendent Dr. Anne Garrett is retiring.

Dr. Garrett was hired as superintendent in 2004, going on to lead Haywood County Schools from 40th place among North Carolina school systems to 11th out of 115 districts.

“I’ve had such a fantastic career with Haywood County Schools,” Dr. Garrett said. “From my early days as a teacher at Bethel Junior High until now, I’ve always been surrounded by the best staff, students, and community.”

Dr. Garrett said even as a young girl growing up in Maggie Valley that she loved school.

“I always wanted to be in education,” Dr. Garrett explained. “All the great teachers I had in elementary, middle, and high school inspired me to pursue teaching.”

Upon graduating from Western Carolina University with a B.S. in middle grades education, Dr. Garrett accepted a teaching position at Bethel Junior High in 1978 where she taught pre-algebra, reading, and language arts classes to 150 students each day.

A few years later, she was promoted to lead teacher and then moved to North Canton Elementary School to serve as assistant principal for two years. She became principal at Morningstar Elementary School during its final year before closure.

“When I was a lead teacher, I realized that I really liked the administrative-side of education,” Dr. Garrett said. “I felt like I could positively make a difference for our teachers.”

In 1986, Dr. Garrett made the move to Haywood County Schools’ central office as supervisor of elementary curriculum. Over the next five years at central office, she served as supervisor of math and cultural arts, elementary and cultural arts supervisor, and director of federal programs and cultural arts.

She jumped back into a principal role in 1993 at Jonathan Valley Elementary School where she stayed until 1996. The following year, she was hired as principal of Junaluska Elementary School.

Dr. Garrett returned to central office as associate superintendent in 1997. Seven years later, she was promoted to superintendent.

“I remember one of the questions the board asked Dr. Garrett during her interview for superintendent was ‘Will you be able to make the tough decisions?'” Haywood County Schools’ School Board Chairman Chuck Francis, who has worked with Dr. Garrett for 18 years, said. “After just a few days on the job, she called me and told me everything she had dealt with as a new superintendent. It was then that I knew she would do a great job for our school system.”

When Dr. Garrett began as the superintendent, she set a goal to bring Haywood County Schools up to the top 10 percent of school districts in the state.

“I remember the first obstacle I had as superintendent was to hire several positions at central office,” Dr. Garrett recalls. “It felt like such a challenge at the time, but I was able to hire great employees who helped lead our school system.”

The road to the top was not without its difficulties for Dr. Garrett and her leadership team.

Dr. Garrett points to the closing of Central Elementary School in 2016 and the $2.4 million budget deficit the school system faced last year as some of the most challenging obstacles she faced in her career as superintendent.

“Although those were both certainly trying situations, through a lot of hard work and creative budgeting, we didn’t have to let a single employee go,” Dr. Garrett explained.

That resourcefulness and level-headed thinking has led Dr. Garrett to have one of the longest careers with a single school district in the state.

“Under Dr. Garrett’s leadership, Haywood County Schools has moved the needle academically and been ranked in the top 10 percent of N.C. school systems for the past two years,” Francis said. “Her work ethic, dedication, and total commitment to the students, our employees, and the community are unmatched.”

During her tenure, she has been named the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) Superintendent of the Year, Region 8 Superintendent of the Year, Haywood County’s Person of the Year, Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Peak Performer Hall of Fame, and dozens of other accolades.

“I have worked with Dr. Garrett my entire career, and she is one of the most professional women I know,” Sherri Arrington, Junaluska Elementary School principal, said. “She has always been available to me, if I had questions or needed support. She has pushed me in my career with loyalty and honesty, and she will be greatly missed.”

When asked what her greatest career achievement has been, Dr. Garrett replied, “I feel like just being able to live, work, and be a part of the community in Haywood County has been such an honor.”

Although Dr. Garrett has no concrete plans for life after retirement, she is under contract to write three books. Two are children’s books about bullying and character building, and the third book is about her experiences in education. She has previously published 11 educational books.

“I’m most appreciative of the support I have received,” Dr. Garrett said with a smile. “We have the best teachers, administrators, community, and most importantly students. I’m really going to miss my job.”

Dr. Garrett’s last day is Wednesday, February 28.

The community is invited to celebrate Dr. Garrett’s career at a retirement celebration on Thursday, February 15 from 4:00-6:00p.m. at Tuscola High School.


Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship open

More than 16 years after his death, Master Trooper Calvin Taylor is still making an impact in the community.

On October 3, 2001 Trooper Taylor was killed when his patrol vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer while on a shoulder of I-40 in Haywood County.

“When my family was searching for a way to honor my brother’s life, creating a scholarship in his name just made sense,” Pat Taylor, Trooper Taylor’s sister, said. “Our whole family advocates for higher education, and Calvin loved working with children.”

Trooper Taylor’s family, fellow officers, and friends donated money, held golf tournaments, and hosted fundraisers to establish a scholarship. Pat said that the family was also approached by several people who wanted to commit money to the scholarship fund in their wills. Just one year after his death, they had raised enough money to create the Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

Each year since 2002, one graduating senior from Pisgah High School has been awarded a $1,000 to $1,500 scholarship from the Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Scholarship recipients must be a Pisgah High School student, which is where Trooper Taylor graduated from, and preference is given to applicants seeking to major in a law-enforcement-related field of study.

“It’s really rewarding for my family and my brother to be a part of fulfilling someone’s dreams of going into law enforcement,” Pat said. “Calvin wanted to be a trooper since he was 3 or 4 years old, and he was very dedicated to the N.C. Highway Patrol.”

Along with his passion for law enforcement, Trooper Taylor was an active volunteer in the school system.

“Any time they needed someone to talk to kids at an event or in the classroom, Calvin signed up,” Pat recalled. “It was important for him to be an encourager for them, and let them know that law enforcement truly cares about the future of our children.”

Trooper Taylor had been employed with the North Carolina Highway Patrol for 20 years, and was assigned to Troop G, District 5.

“My brother was very professional in the field and a man of great integrity,” Pat said. “Everyone who knew him, loved him; so, I’m glad that we are able to keep his memory alive through this scholarship.”

This May, the 17th Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship recipient will be named at the Haywood County Schools Foundation’s Partners in Education Scholarship Ceremony.

Last year, 97 high school seniors from Pisgah, Tuscola, Central Haywood, and Haywood Early College received scholarships from the Haywood County Schools Foundation totaling more than $162,000.

Applications are currently open for all of Haywood County Schools Foundation’s scholarships, including the Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship. High school seniors may pick up an application at their school’s guidance counseling center or download an application at www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us.

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 Master Trooper Calvin E. Taylor Memorial Scholarship 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.