Schools honor excellence

April 29, 2011

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Some of the top Henry County high school seniors and the teachers who inspired them were recognized Thursday night at the 10th annual Academic Excellence Awards banquet.

Each of 35 students honored paid tribute to an influential teacher from kindergarten to 12th grade in a video presentation. Their presentations sang the praises of teachers who, many said, got them where they are today.

The criteria for a student to be recognized at the banquet was either having a grade point average of 4.0 or higher, being in the top 5 percent of the graduating class, scoring either a 1,250 composite or higher on any two sections of the SAT or at least 700 on one section, or perfect attendance in high school with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

In his opening address at the program at Forest Park Country Club, Superintendent Anthony Jackson said he learned that “the toughest part” for the students preparing for the banquet was to choose just one teacher to recognize.

The guest speaker was John Pinkard, a 1997 graduate of Bassett High School. He runs Delta Airlines’ marketing and research department, which includes customer loyalty programs.

Pinkard encouraged the seniors to take opportunities to learn about careers and people.

“Make the most of your summers” by doing internships “to help find out what you want to do out of school,” he said.

Pinkard also told the students to “embrace diversity” because they will encounter all sorts of people in college and the work world. However, Henry County students can expect to “have a leg up” on many of the other college students they meet, especially those from private schools, because the student body here is pretty diverse, he said.

Pinkard honored Susan Crafton as his most influential teacher.

Dexter Dodson of Magna Vista High School said Linda Martin, his third-grade teacher from Mt. Olivet Elementary School, had a whole new way of opening up learning for him by making it fun, even with topics he had studied before but didn’t like. Her positive attitude toward lessons showed him that “no matter what the subject was, I could change it in my mind” to find a way to learn better, he said.

Dodson plans to study math at Randolph-Macon College with a minor in physics.

Martin said she wanted her students’ experiences to be different than what she went through in school.

“When I was a student, it was a very severe, stern atmosphere,” she said. She aimed to “teach them to enjoy being in school.”

Although she is retired after 38 years of teaching, Martin continues working as a substitute teacher because otherwise, she would miss the children, she said.

Taylor Robertson of Bassett High School considers English to be “a sanctuary” that enriches her life beyond the classroom. She credited her eighth-grade English teacher, Janet Lewis, for that.

“Mrs. Lewis was the first teacher to tell me that English is more than just rules,” Robertson said. It can be creative, she added.

Lewis said she didn’t recall ever putting it that way to her class, but she could see how her students got that impression from her because “the passion comes through” in teaching.

Robertson aims to become a lawyer and has been awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Roanoke College.

Daniel Watkins, a Magna Vista senior, said he learned as much outside school as in the classroom from Darryl Holland, his agriculture teacher.

Holland’s students get “a lot of hands-on” experiences and “real-world situations,” Watkins said. That includes working with large and small animals in the school’s barn and competing against other students.

Watkins plans to attend Virginia Tech to study either engineering or agriculture.

Holland said the key to a good experience for both the teacher and the students is that “if they enjoy it, I enjoy them.”

In honoring chemistry teacher Michael Portlock, Magna Vista senior April Arthur said, “Unlike other classes, discipline problems didn’t exist in his class because there was never an idle or boring moment.”

Magna Vista senior Nile Asher Knopp got a hearty laugh from the audience when he complimented his French teacher: “She is like a mother to me — oh wait, she is my mother.” He wasn’t alone in his praises for Karen Knopp, though: Three other students also honored Knopp as their best teacher.

Emily Williams of Bassett High School said that Kathryn Ingram, who taught her grammar in seventh and eighth grade, “lit a fire under me to make something of myself.” Williams plans to attend the University of Virginia and become a teacher.

The entire list of students (listed first) who were honored and the teachers they honored were: April Renay Arthur of MVHS honored teacher Michael Portlock; Jessica Brooke Ashworth of BHS, teacher Charles Byrd; Trey Spencer Ashworth of BHS, teacher Nina Huff; Blanca Delia Becerra of MVHS, teacher Karen Knopp; David Joseph Bryant of MVHS, teacher Don Bredamus;

Matthew Allen Bryant of BHS, teacher Luke Flora; Whitley Meagan Craig of BHS, teacher Janet Lewis; Bailey Austin Dalton of MVHS, teacher Carol Nelson; Dexter O’Brien Dodson of MVHS, teacher Linda Martin; Christa Renee Downs of MVHS, teacher Julia Harned;

Christiauna Samaria India Draper of BHS, teacher Sherri Mitchell; Lindsay Nicole Edmonds of BHS, teacher Brook Hankins; Brandon Lee Fretwell of BHS, teacher Linda Sue Wade; Megan McKenzie Hankins of MVHS, teacher Joan Cockram; Kenneth Burton Inman of MVHS, teacher Justin Littrell; Sierra Leigh Jones of BHS, teacher Tom Auker; Nile Asher Knopp of MVHS, teacher Karen Knopp; Christopher Robert Lovern of BHS, teacher Joe Johnson;

Timothy Jordan Luther of BHS, teacher LaDonna Varner; Alexander Murphy Martin of MVHS, teacher Mary Jordan; Mark Tyler Mayhew of MVHS, teacher Deborah Barker; Jasmine Reneé McCain of MVHS, teacher Kathy Jones; Tyler Layton Obenshain of MVHS, teacher Beth Nance;

Taylor Nicole Robertson of BHS, teacher Janet Lewis; Darius O’Shea Saunders of MVHS, teacher Brenda Hypes; Taylor Anne Shelton of BHS, teacher Brook Hankins; Sarah Katlyn Sitler of BHS, teacher Ladonna Varner; Joseph Daniel Taylor of MVHS, teacher Don Bredamus;

Gary Alexander Thompson of MVHS, teacher Julia Harned; Jasmine Darnell Thompson of MVHS, teacher Karen Knopp; Zackery Keith Turman of BHS, teacher Cynthia Cowley; William Daniel Warren of BHS, teacher Willie Martin; Daniel Jackson Watkins of MVHS, teacher Darryl Holland; Emily Elizabeth Williams of BHS, teacher Kathryn Ingram; Staci Layne Williams of MVHS, teacher Karen Knopp.


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