Good Hope High School/Cullman Area Technology Academy graduate Breanna Allen, center, with her health science instructors Tracy Smith (L) and Adriann Basch (R) (Photo courtesy CCBOE)
CULLMAN – On Thursday morning, 800 faculty and staff members of Cullman County Schools (CCS) met at Northbrook Baptist Church in Cullman for their 2018 Teacher Institute. Teachers got encouragement and inspiration to give them a kickstart in preparation for the start of school next week. Representatives of numerous community agencies and groups were on hand to share information about anything from teachers’ insurance to charitable opportunities through the United Way and Victoria’s Hope (a charity founded by one of CCS’ own teachers). Cullman Regional came to offer free health screenings. Gerry Brooks, an elementary school principal from Kentucky and online personality well known in education circles for his YouTube videos that address common issues faced by teachers, was the keynote speaker.
CCS Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette shared, “Honestly, I expect this year to be the best year we’ve ever had. Our teachers are here and they’re ready, they’re smiling, they’re encouraged, enthused and just ready to go!”
Former students testify to the impact teachers can have
Near the end of the event, several students came to talk about the effect dedicated teachers have had on their lives. As a powerful example, Good Hope and Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA, also called the Career Center) graduate Breanna Allen, who got her nursing assistant license through CATA and now works in home health, closed out that portion with a moving and very personal account of a troubled youth due to family problems, then told the audience:
“If it wasn’t for my teachers and staff at my Career Center and my home school at Good Hope, I wouldn’t be standing here today, or maybe even graduated. They pushed me very, very hard.
“First off, I want to talk about my health science teachers, Ms. Smith and Ms. Basch. I met them when I was only in 10th grade, and I loved them from the beginning. They were always there for me from day one, and always was there when I needed somebody: a shoulder to cry on, a laugh when I was down.
“And they just didn’t worry about my grades and stuff like that; they worried about my well-being and asked if I was okay. They were my best friends. When I felt lost, I knew I could just go to them, and they would be like, ‘Okay, this is what you need to do…’ They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Allen also commended Good Hope Principal John Hood and Assistant Principal Amy Speegle as she described her senior year as “the hardest year of my life. But my vice principal and my principal, Mr. Hood and Ms. Speegle, helped me and encouraged me to finish the year when I didn’t want to. I was ready to just give up. When I was having a good old breakdown, I knew I could just go to Ms. Speegle’s office and talk to her.
“All these people have made my high school experience a thousand times better, and there’s so many other people I didn’t mention. And for that I am forever grateful. They all pushed me to be the best I could be. Because of them and my hard work, I was the first one in my family to graduate high school. They just showed me the love and compassion I want to show others.”
Holly Pond named High School of Excellence
During the Institute, Holly Pond High School was named the 2018 Cullman County High School of Excellence.
Barnette said, “The Cullman County High School of Excellence Award is awarded to the high school that earns the most combined points from sports accomplishments, academic achievement, teacher and student attendance, dual enrollment and AP classes offered and passed, as well as many other areas. Cold Springs High School has won it the past two years, and this year it was a close competition between Cold Springs, West Point and Holly Pond. I am very proud of the students and faculty of Holly Pond High School for their accomplishments! Once again, great things are happening in Cullman County Schools and I am proud to be a part of this team!”
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