At the Super Scholars Ceremony Monday evening Superintendent Terrence Beam, left, and Pocahontas County Board of Education vice president Jessica Hefner, right, laugh as Teacher of the Year Laurel Dilley thanks Beam “so much” for starting a tradition this year of having the Teacher of the Year give a speech at the event. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

It was an evening to celebrate education and educators at the annual Pocahontas County Schools Super Scholars ceremony Monday evening at Pocahontas County High School.

Students in grades three through 12 were recognized for their academic achievements and staff members were honored as Service Employee and Teacher of the Year nominees.

Each school principal announced the nominees for Teacher of the Year and recognized them for their achievements this year. Nominees were: Laura Pritt, Hillsboro Elementary School; Dondi Stemple, Marlinton Elementary School; Stephanie Burns, Marlinton Middle School and Rita Kelly, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, and Laurel Dilley, Pocahontas County High School.

The Pocahontas County Teacher of the Year was Pocahontas County High School’s nominee Laurel Dilley.

Principal Joe Riley explained why Dilley was nominated for the award.

“Whenever I think of Laurel, the one thing that I see out of her is she is focused on student achievement because you go to her class, you can see that,” Riley said. “I knew that even before I got here as principal at Pocahontas County High School because I heard what she was doing. In fact, I tried to recruit her three years ago for Marlinton Middle School. I’m really glad that she decided to do what she did because she has definitely been an asset to Pocahontas County High School.”

Riley said Dilley has pushed her students, as well as herself, to make great achievements in math and computer science. In the latter, Dilley sought out training in order to offer computer science to her students in order to give them a leg up in the world of technology.

“She is definitely focused on students,” Riley said. “She pushes herself as well as her students. We needed a computer science class and guess who stepped up to do that? She had admitted that it has pushed her to learn computer science as much as it has the kids, but definitely, both have enjoyed the experience.”

Dilley graciously accepted the award and spoke about her passion for education, which she has had from childhood.

“At the risk of sounding cliché, I really did always want to be a teacher,” she said. “When I was in elementary school, I used to beg my mom to bring home old desks that were being thrown away at the schools each summer so I could make my own little classroom in the basement. Shout out to my sisters and friends that somehow still love me even though I made them take math quizzes and work on reading assignments daily.

“Both of my parents were teachers and even though I saw their daily struggles with the profession, they never discouraged me from doing what I wanted to do,” she continued.

Dilley said it wasn’t until late high school and college that people began telling her she should try a different profession, a concept that was discouraging to her.

“I started hearing remarks such as, ‘oh, Laurel, you don’t want to be a teacher, you should be a doctor and make lots of money,’” she said. Or, ‘oh you’re so smart, don’t be a teacher, be an engineer.’ When you’re young and impressionable, these types of comments really make you reconsider your decisions and passions and doubt yourself.”

Despite peers and even advisors trying to sway Dilley, she stood firm, stuck with her instinct and pursued her dream of being a teacher. Seeing how others treated education majors, Dilley decided that she would be somewhat of an ambassador for teachers and shout it from the rooftops that “I want to be a teacher.” 

“I started pushing myself to be extra vocal and confident when somebody asked about my major,” she said. “I want to be a teacher because I want to make a difference in multiple children’s lives. I want to be a teacher because I love math and what better way to share that love than to expose students to it. I want to be a teacher because I want to be somebody that students depend on. I obviously ended up becoming a teacher and listened to my gut instead of being swayed by others.”

While she admits she doesn’t love her job every day, Dilley loves her job most of the time and said the good always outweighs the bad. It might take her away from other parts of life and make her change plans with loved ones, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I’ve had plenty of teacher’s doubts, late nights of grading with not enough sleep, canceled appointments for dates because of school activities, but to me, it’s all worth it,” she said. “As a teacher, you have the opportunity to affect people’s lives for the better every day. Not many professions can say that.”

Speaking to the students who were honored as Super Scholars, Dilley challenged them to consider becoming teachers and to follow in the footsteps of those who shaped their education.

“You are here tonight because you are outstanding students,” she said. “I have no doubt that your teachers love you and you brighten their days and make their jobs easier. I want to pose a challenge to you that might be something you’ve never considered. That challenge is to consider the field of education as a career choice. Our state and our communities need the best and the brightest to fill our medical and science positions, yes, but we also need you to teach our future generations.”

Principals and central office employees also recognized nominees for Service Employee of the Year. Nominees were: Justin Taylor, bus mechanic; Roy Shearer, custodian; Heather Simmons, aide; Cora Lee Carpenter, secretary; and Doris Sharp, cook.

Service Employee of the Year was presented to Marlinton Middle School custodian Roy Shearer.

MMS principal Dustin Lambert explained Shearer’s dedication to the students and the school which led to his nomination and subsequent award.

“I have never witnessed such devotion to one’s job as Roy has for his,” Lambert said. “In fact, he refused to leave Marlinton Middle School this evening to accept this award because he’s a perfectionist and would never leave work undone. If you have the pleasure of knowing Roy, you’ll know his ego has never been enlarged by flattering words or recognitions of any kind. Yet another reason why he’s not here. Shearer has been employed by Pocahontas County Schools since 1981 and has worked diligently at each assignment he has had over the years. While not boastful or egotistical about his job, Shearer has been known for his care for the schools and the students they serve.

“He has a way of relating to children and it is further testimony of his love for his work and his eagerness to see children succeed,” Lambert said.

Those who know Shearer know that it is impossible to get a picture of him, possibly another reason he did not attend the ceremony. Lambert explained that Shearer has always had an answer for why.

“Roy has been quoted as saying, ‘if you have to have a photo to remember me, then I don’t need to be remembered,’” he said. “He told me that again today – one more time. When I was walking out the door [this evening], Roy shook his finger at me and said, ‘Dustin, I’m just not into that stuff.’ So that’s why he’s not here tonight.”

Despite his absence, the crowd congratulated Shearer with a round of applause.

After honoring the staff, it was time to honor the students, the real reason the school system exists.

Superintendent Terrence Beam first announced the Golden Horseshoe winners, Marlinton Middle School students Silas Riley and Logan Hively.
Next, Beam, board of education vice president Jessica Hefner and the principals honored students who worked hard to achieve the title of Super Scholar.

Hillsboro Elementary School: from left, principal Rebecca Spencer, Devon George, Mallori McCoy, Kaylee Pritt, Andrea Alderman, Clayton Burns, Elijah Evans and Kynlee Wilfong. S. Stewart photos

Hillsboro Elementary School: Ramona Hardy, Aylah Manahan, Hannah Beverage, Devon George, Mallori McCoy, Kaylee Pritt, Trevor Tuskan, Andrea Alderman, Jessica Armstrong, Clayton Burns, Cheyenne Dean, Elijah Evans and Kynlee Wilfong.

Marlinton Elementary School: front row, from left: Hailey Fitzgerald, Kirsten Friel, Eden Smith, Abigail McClure, Carter Vandevander, Haydon Moore, Devon Burgess, Olivia Fernandez, Owen Barb, Luke Gainer, Jordan Faris, Claire Burgess and Brady Carpenter. Second row, from left: Megan Fitzgerald, Ben Withers, Riley Pollack, Kimberly Underwood, Taiylor Hoke, Cameryn Boggs, Dillon  Dunz, Elizabeth Friel, Hannah Burks, Daisy Shuttleworth, Kyalily Barb and principal Philip Anderson.

Marlinton Elementary School: Gavin Malcom, Luke Gainer, Claire Burgess, Brady Carpenter, Olivia Fernandez, Owen Barb, Heidi Jordan, Paul Jordan, Haydon Moore, Carter Vandevander, Abigail McClure, Kirsten Friel, Riley Pollack, Eden Smith, Dillon Dunz, Hailey Fitzgerald, Megan Fitzgerald, Devon Burgess, Jordan Faris, Elizabeth Friel, Taiylor Hoke, Sabina Leyzorek, Daisy Shuttleworth, Lacey Stewart, Kyalily Barb, Cameryn Boggs, Hannah Burks, Timothy Shifflett, Kimberly Underwood and Benjamin Withers.

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School: front row, from left: Loreli Wolfe, Olivia Vandevender, Madeline Ray, Ashely Bussard, Mileya Bircher, Kaydence Waybright, Paigelyn Long, Miranda Gum, Taylor Arnold, Willie O’Ganian, Wade Garber and Cammi Warner. Second row, from left: Mackenna Shinaberry, Emma Riffe, Trenton Brock, Makayla Vandevander, Kelsi Taylor, Makayla Ervine, Priscila Perera, Ty Cochran, Sienna Bircher and Iam Johnson. Third row, from left: principal Ricky Sharp, Austin Morgan, Mason Solliday, Hunter Curran, Max O’Ganian, Alan Gibson, Joey Hajzer, Jennalee Meck and Cheylin Woodruff.

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School: Wade Garber, Cammi Warner, Taylor Arnold, Florian Baudler, Trenton Brock, Miranda Gum, Paigelyn Long, Willie O’Ganian, Kaydence Waybright, Mileya Bircher, Ashley Bussard, Madeline Ray, Mackenna Shinaberry, Olivia Vandevender, Loreli Wolfe, Grace Beverage, Caitlin Mallow, Austin Morgan, Max O’Ganian, Emma Riffe, Emily Rimm, Mason Solliday, Kelsi Taylor, Hunter Curran, Makayla Ervine, Iam Johnston, Priscila Perera, Makayla Vandevander, Sienna Bircher, Ty Cochran, Alan Gibson, Joey Hajzer, Jennalee Meck and Cheylin Woodruff.

Marlinton Middle School: front row, from left: Courtney Buzzard, Kinley Taylor, Makenna McKenney, David Gibb, Michelle Yingling, Christy Casey, Amanda Burns, Jaryd Friel, Jazzlyn Teter and Danielle Yingling. Second Row, from left: Maria Workman, Chloe Hardesty, Tessa Kiner, Cassidy Hardesty, Rayna Smith, Macaden Taylor, Hazel Riley, Sarah Warder, Ben Dunz, Autumn Lane, Haley Spencer, Rachel Burns, Emma Dean, Emily Henderson, Sydney Puffenbarger and Robert Pritt. Third Row, from left:  Savannah McMillion, Josey Duncan, Nathaniel Evans, Max Ervine, Silas Riley, Brandon Burns, Bracie Sheets, Jaylee Doss, Gareth Ryder, Conner Spencer, Jacob Davis and principal Dustin Lambert.

Marlinton Middle School: Amanda Burns, Christy Casey, Jaryd Friel, Robert Pritt, Sydney Puffenbarger, Michelle Yingling, Danielle Yingling, Jazzlyn Teter, Haley Spencer, Ethan Armstrong, Rachel Burns, Jaylee Doss, Benjamin Dunz, Max Ervine, Nathaniel Evans, David Gibb, Makenna McKenney, Hazel Riley, Gareth Ryder, Bracie Sheets, Rayna Smith, Macaden Taylor, Sarah Warder, Johnathan Valido, Brandon Burns, Courtney Buzzard, Jacob Davis, Emmalee Dean, Josey Duncan, Cassidy Hardesty, Chloe Hardesty, Emily Henderson, Tessa Kiner, Autumn Lane, Savannah McMillion, Silas Riley, Conner Spencer, Kinley Taylor and Maria Workman.

Pocahontas County High School: front row, from left: Mathia Solliday, Carlie Ervine, Kayla Gibson, Brianna Morgan, Benjamin Davis, Kira Bircher, Mary Rich, Faith Johnson, Lola Guamis-Sol and Cora Hedrick. Back row, from left: Brady Jones, Logan Woodruff, Jacob Jones, Charity Warder, Alexa Taylor, Jarod Liptrap, Jake Faris, Trevor Jordan, Kevin Thompson, Hunter Tankersley and principal Joe Riley.

Pocahontas County High School: Kira Bircher, Faith Johnson, Alexa Taylor, Charity Warder, Brianna Morgan, Taylor Tegtmeyer, Jacob Jones, Mathias Solliday, Logan Woodruff, Benajmin Davis, Jarod Liptrap, Jake Faris, Jacob Hise, Laura Leyzorek, Katie Gibson, Lola Guamis-Sol, Cora Hedrick, Mary Rich, Hunter Tankersley, Meggan Long, Kayla Gibson, Brady Jones, Carlie Ervine, Trevor Jordan and Kevin Thompson.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@poc ahontastimes.com