Haywood County Schools Grad Returns to Teach

img_0159As Jessalyn Rathbone sat at a table helping her students draw numbers, she recalled that even at their age, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. Although this is her first year of teaching, Rathbone is convinced that she has found her life’s passion.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I even went to kindergarten,” said Rathbone, who is now an Exceptional Children’s teacher at Clyde Elementary School.

Although Rathbone has always had a passion for education, it was not until her younger cousin was diagnosed with a disability that Rathbone knew she wanted to teach special education.

“As I was continuously around people with special needs in school and in my family, my heart grew more than I ever could have imagined,” Rathbone said. “I knew that God had created me to teach special education.”

Each day as her students enter class, Rathbone greets them with a warm smile. She said her goal is to not only help her students learn, but to help them find joy in their lives.

As a recent college graduate from Western Carolina, Rathbone has brought a fresh perspective and enthusiasm for teaching to Clyde Elementary School.

“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members in society because their efforts shape kids’ lives daily,” Clyde Principal Clint Connor said. “Ms. Rathbone is one of the most caring and dedicated beginning teachers in this business. We have recruited a gem here at Clyde Elementary.​”

As a beginning teacher, Rathbone said she has relied heavily on the support from her co-workers at Clyde Elementary.

“I love the sense of community that I feel at Clyde, and I’m thankful to work with such a strong and amazing team,” Rathbone said. “My students are also wonderful, and I can’t wait to watch them grow academically, physically, and emotionally over this school year.”

Rathbone’s class is comprised of 11 students in fourth and fifth grade with varying degrees of special needs.

“My hope is that all my students become valued members of their communities,” Rathbone said with a smile. “I want to show them if they set a goal, they can achieve it; just like I did when I became a teacher.”

Rathbone is a product of Haywood County Schools. She attended Meadowbrook Elementary School, Canton Middle School, and graduated from Pisgah High School in 2012.

Due to her strong academic performance, Rathbone was the recipient of the Altrusa Scholarship from the Haywood County Schools Foundation.

“The financial assistance I received from the Haywood County Schools Foundation helped relieve my family of some of the financial burden from college,” Rathbone said. “I’m so happy to be able to return to Haywood County and serve as a teacher in one of the best ranked school systems in the state.”


Kiwanis Club Distributes Dictionaries

015-1024x768In an effort to promote literacy and learning, the Waynesville Kiwanis Club delivered a dictionary to every third grade student in Haywood County Schools last month.

Throughout the month of September, teams of Kiwanis members visited nine schools to distribute free dictionaries to 569 students. Students were encouraged to use their dictionaries in the classroom and at home.

“The dictionaries are a gift to students that we hope they will use for years to come,” Bob Miles, Kiwanis Club dictionary chair, said. “Educators have told us that they view third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn.”

Since the dictionary program’s inception eight years ago, the Kiwanis Club of Waynesville has distributed 5,780 dictionaries to Haywood County Schools students.

After receiving their dictionaries, Junaluska Elementary School students listened as Kiwanis Club member John Franco explained the basics of using dictionaries.

He stressed to students that dictionaries are not just a list of words with meanings. They are tools that give students greater control over their own learning.

“In modern classrooms, students still enjoy holding a book in their hands where they can turn the pages and feel the cover and pages,” Junaluska Elementary School Principal Sherri Arrington explained. “Technology can assist students in spelling mistakes, but dictionaries provide the pronunciation of words, parts of speech, and great example sentences.”

Arrington said the dictionaries will also be helpful to the school’s bilingual students.

“We are so thankful to the Kiwanis Club for their donation,” Haywood County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anne Garrett said. “Community involvement is what makes our students and schools successful.”

The dictionary program is just one of the projects organized by the Waynesville Kiwanis Club that benefits the children of Haywood County. The annual Kiwanis Spring Fling Family Fun Day, backpacks for schools, the Christmas Parade, and the 5th Grade Spelling Bee all assist local children. In addition, the Kiwanis Club provides grants, mostly to schools, that total in excess of $35,000 annually.

The Kiwanis Club invites anyone who is interested in volunteering their time to better the community to their weekly meetings held every Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at Laurel Ridge Country Club.

Pre-K Provides Valuable Skills to Youngest Learners

img_0129Elijah walked with his thinking buddy, Colton, as their Pre-K class practiced walking in a line on Hazelwood Elementary School’s track in preparation for their first field trip to Barber Orchard scheduled for next week.

“I love all the days at school,” Elijah said with a smile. “I like to play hopscotch with my friends. We have to take turns.”

The Haywood County Pre-K program is a state-funded program that offers free, high-quality education designed to prepare incoming kindergarteners for future learning.

The Pre-K program is made possible through Haywood County Schools’ partnership with The Region A Partnership for Children and the Department of Child Development and Early Education.

“An average day of Pre-K consists of students playing in different centers, which are changed in the classroom frequently so that kids are always exploring and taking part in different activities,” Ron Moss, Haywood County Schools elementary education director, said. “Using exploration and discovery as a way of learning enables children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills.”

The Pre-K program is designed on the premise that to be academically successful, children need to be prepared in all five of the developmental domains: approaches to play and learning, emotional and social development, health and physical development, language development and communication, and cognitive development. These developmental domains are critical to children’s overall well-being and success in reading and math as they enter school.

Results from the 2013-2014 NC Pre-K Evaluation Study indicate children enrolled in NC Pre-K programs made significant gains from Pre-K through kindergarten across all domains of learning. Children showed gains in language and literacy skills (receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, letter-word identification, phonological awareness), math skills (math problem-solving, counting), general knowledge (basic self-knowledge), and behavior skills (social skills).

Haywood County Schools’ Pre-K program began in 1990 with classes at Central Elementary and Hazelwood Elementary. By 2014, four schools offered Pre-K.

As demand increased, North Canton Elementary and Clyde Elementary added Pre-K classes last year. Due to budget restraints, Haywood County Schools was unable to properly equip the new classrooms with needed supplies.

When Dr. Doris Hammett, a retired Haywood County pediatrician, heard about the Pre-K budget shortfall, she took to Facebook. After posting a plea for donations to the program, friends of Dr. Hammett raised $2,305. That money was used to purchase books for the new classrooms.

This school year, Clyde, Hazelwood, Jonathan Valley, Meadowbrook, and North Canton elementary schools all have Pre-K classes.

For more information about making a tax-deductible donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400. Donations can be made to specific schools, causes, or programs such as Pre-K. Contributions may take the form of a cash gift, appreciated securities or real estate, life insurance, charitable remainder, non-profit organization assets, memorials, estate gifts or wills and bequests, or other real or personal property.

More Than Cows, Plows, and Sows

img_0087More than 100 Haywood County middle and high school students walked up and down the gravel road at the Mountain Area Research Station as they learned about agriculture-related careers on Thursday, September 8.

Haywood County Schools hosts Ag Career Day each year to provide students valuable networking opportunities with organizations from all areas of the agriculture industry. An array of career paths was on display – from a district ranger with the N.C. Forest Service to a district soil and water conservationist with the county.

“I think many of our students were surprised at all the different job fields that are a part of agriculture,” Tuscola High School Horticulture Teacher Beth Ross said. “I can tell that they are excited about the opportunities that are available to them after high school.”

Today’s agriculture job market includes anything from an agricultural commodities trader working at the Kansas City Board of Trade to an agricultural engineer designing new farm machinery.

According to a 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Perdue University, an average of nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture related job openings are expected annually in the United States through 2020, with only about 35,000 students in food, ag, or renewable resources graduating each year to fill them.

“Most people look at agriculture as a very narrow job market, and that’s simply not true,” Tony McGaha, Haywood County livestock extension agent, said. “Agriculture today is so much bigger than just production. I think the ag job market will continue to grow.”

Dr. David McCracken, Country Lane Animal Hospital co-owner and veterinarian, gave students insight into his job duties as a large animal vet. Students learned that Dr. McCracken’s work days are anything but typical. He generally arrives at the animal hospital at 9 a.m., but his day may end in a farmer’s pasture treating a horse with colic at 9 p.m.

“This particular career day is so important for the young people in Haywood County,” Dr. McCracken explained. “These students get to see a small portion of the endless opportunities that are available to them right out of high school or after getting their college degree.”

To further foster students’ interest in the veterinarian field, County Lane Animal Hospital offers an internship program to rising high school seniors. Students interested in applying for the internship can contact County Lane Animal Hospital at 828-627-9100

“After talking with everyone here, I’m most interested in veterinary medicine,” Annie, a Tuscola freshman, said. “I’ve got four cats, two dogs, and one bird at home. I love animals, and I think I would enjoy being a small animal vet.”

60 Years of Giving

hammett-doris-my-doctor-is-a-girl-001For more than 60 years, Dr. Doris Hammett has been actively working to improve education for children in Haywood County.

Dr. Hammett, a now retired pediatrician, first became involved with Haywood County Schools when her oldest daughter began first grade at Hazelwood Elementary School in 1958. At the time, Haywood County students entered school in first grade because public kindergarten was not available.

“When Karen started school, I realized that many of the 900 children weren’t prepared to really learn,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I felt that we could change this.”

Meanwhile, many physicians in Haywood County had noticed that their adolescent patients who were having problems in school had developed these issues when they were four to six years old.

In an effort to assist children who faced difficulties in school, Dr. Hammett, with the support of the Haywood Medical Society, began a preschool screening program in 1965 at Clyde Elementary School. By 1968, all of Haywood County’s elementary schools offered preschool screenings.

The preschool screenings helped identify children who suffered from emotional problems, deprivation, lack of socialization, or physical handicaps including speech, hearing, motor coordination, and visual perceptual defect.

Due to school budget restraints, all preschool screening funding came from private donors, and the program had to be developed from available resources in the county. All the medical and professional personnel were qualified volunteers or school staff, including Dr. Hammett, Haywood County Schools Psychologist Dr. Stanley Nale, a public health nurse, a social worker, first grade teachers, principals, and the county’s elementary school supervisor.

Since her pivotal role in starting kindergarten screenings in the county, Dr. Hammet has focused the giving of her time and money to the Science Seminar for capable and interested high school students, Pre-K programs, and Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) training for teachers. This year, her donation will be used for staff development for all Haywood County Schools’ certified teachers.

Dr. Hammett says that her volunteer time and monetary donations are one way she is paying it forward.

“My education made me who I am and enabled me to be successful in life,” Dr. Hammett explained. “I want all children to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

Dr. Hammett believes to see greater change in the education system, the community must get involved and parents must be actively engaged with their children. She encourages everyone to make education a priority and give to the school system.

“Everyone can give something – whether it’s a monetary donation or volunteering in a classroom for a few hours,” she said. “The stock market is going down, so invest in children. You’ll get a better return on investment.”

For more information about making a tax-deductible donation to the Haywood County Schools Foundation, contact Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400. Contributions may take the form of a cash gift, appreciated securities or real estate, life insurance, charitable remainder, non-profit organization assets, memorials, estate gifts or wills and bequests, or other real or personal property. To volunteer with Haywood County Schools, please contact the school nearest you for upcoming opportunities.

Random Acts of Kindness

random-act-of-kindness-768x576In preparation for the start of the school year, Junaluska Elementary School teachers went to Staples to purchase supplies for their classrooms on August 19. When a shopper talked with fourth-grade teachers Hayley Prince, Amy Kilgore, and Shannon Reece and saw them filling shopping carts with school supplies, she made her way to the register and quietly paid for the order.

“When we took our carts to the front to pay, the Staples employee told us it had been taken care of by the woman we talked with in the store earlier,” Prince said. “We live in such a wonderful and generous community. Thank you so much to that special donor.”

Teachers often purchase classroom supplies out of their own pockets. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to a specific school or classroom grant, contact Jenny Wood at the Haywood County Schools Foundation at 828-456-2400.


Day of Caring Events

img_2289-300x225Clyde Elementary School students noticed freshly spread mulch and trimmed shrubbery as they entered the building for the first day of school on Monday, August 20.

Schools across Haywood County, including Clyde Elementary, were flooded with volunteers from churches and community groups during several Day of Caring events. Throughout the month of August, volunteers have worked alongside teachers and staff pressure washing sidewalks, trimming hedges, and cleaning buildings in preparation for the thousands of students returning to school.

“We’re so appreciative for our volunteers giving their time and talent to make our school safe and ready for students,” Clyde Elementary Principal Clint Connor said. “The community’s support is what makes our school great and our students successful.”

Day of Caring events are an annual tradition at nearly every school in Haywood County.

School Supply Drive

school-supplyThe Haywood County chapters of Altrusa and Rotary hosted a school supplies drive on August 6, 2016 at the Waynesville Wal-Mart.

Outside the main entrance of Wal-Mart, volunteers with Altrusa and Rotary filled a school bus with backpacks, folders, notebooks, crayons, and more.

“Rotary is all about service, and this is a way we can help support our local community and children in need,” Rotary member Maurice Phillips said.

Volunteers also collected nearly $750 in monetary donations from shoppers, which will be used to purchase additional supplies for students throughout the school year.

“Promoting literacy is a large part of our community service outreach,” Haywood County Altrusa President Cheryl Myers said. “We hope that these supplies will help our local students achieve their education goals.”

All the items collected will be donated to any Haywood County Schools student in need.

Employees of the Year Celebration

img_0055Haywood County Schools marked the end of the 2015-16 school year with an end-of-year reception for employees on Tuesday, June 14 at Haywood Community College. The ceremony celebrated the school system’s 30 employees who retired during the school year, as well as employees of the year.

“It’s always a great pleasure for us to recognize our retirees and outstanding employees,” Dr. Bill Nolte, Haywood County Schools associate superintendent, said. “We truly appreciate these employees who have done so much for the children of Haywood County.”

2016-2017 Haywood County Schools’ Principal of the Year

Travis Collins, Tuscola High School

2016-2017 Teachers of the Year

Bethel Elementary School – Karen Hopkins

Bethel Middle School – Barclay Taylor

Canton Middle School – Rhonda Wester

Central Haywood High School- Bronson Gross

Clyde Elementary School – Nanette Renegar

Haywood Early College – Doug Hanson

Hazelwood Elementary School – Casey Conard

Jonathan Valley Elementary School – Ashley Caldwell

Junaluska Elementary School – Sharon Cagle

Meadowbrook Elementary School – Kimberly Messer

North Canton Elementary School – Amber Turner

Pisgah High School – Harold Shepard

Riverbend Elementary School – Julia Hernandez

Tuscola High School– Erica Smiley

Waynesville Middle School – Noal Castater

2016-2017 Teacher Assistants of the Year

Bethel Elementary School – Kelly Henson

Clyde Elementary School – Beverly Sisti

Hazelwood Elementary School – Missy Jenkins

Junaluska Elementary School  – Marsh Parris

Jonathan Valley Elementary School – Linda Rathbone

Meadowbrook Elementary School – Heather Mull

North Canton Elementary School – Martha Thorensen

Riverbend Elementary School – Debbi Caldwell

Tuscola High School – Joann Grasty

2015-2016 Employees of the Year

After School Care – Amy Forga

Bus Driver – Carol Harkins

Child Nutrition – Sherrie Kilby

Custodian – Manuel Gamez

Instructional Support – Haley Kerby

ITC  – Ben Early

Maintenance – Heath Stevens

Office Support – Tonya Mintz

Teacher Assistant – Sherrie Tew


VFW Art Show Winners

Tuscola High School art students Ashely Zander, 12th grade, and Rachel Lindsey, 11th grade, were recently recognized by the VFW of Waynesville. The two students competed in the Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW. At a recent VFW meeting, the students were presented with awards, checks, and pins.

Using color pencils, Lindsey drew a collage of the American flag, Statue of Liberty, New York City skyline, and several other famous monuments and landmarks. Her artwork won first place in the contest and will advance to the state competition in June.

Zander, who will attend the Savannah College of Art and Design this fall, placed second in the contest with her artwork that combined watercolor paints and color pencil.