HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Nursing instructor Heather Ashley was named Wallace State Community College’s Teacher of the Year and Rayce Cleghorn as the college’s Student of the Year Friday, April 21, during the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of Education program.
“Both of these individuals are deserving of this honor,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics. “Heather Ashley has been an asset to the Department of Nursing Education since her first day on the job and I’ve enjoyed watching Rayce Cleghorn grow and expand his talents since he first started performing with the college’s performing arts programs as a youth volunteer. They are both great ambassadors for Wallace State.”
Ashley has been an instructor at Wallace State for six years and is a graduate of Wallace State’s Nursing program. She acts as the chair for Let’s Pretend Hospital, which helps first graders learn about hospital or emergency room visits as well as personal health and safety measures, and she has coached a successful Department of Nursing Education Alabama SkillsUSA champion team. She also serves her community as a board member of the Good Samaritan Health Clinic in Cullman.
Ashley was chosen after a nomination process where students turned in names of instructors they deemed worthy of the title Teacher of the Year. Many appreciated her positive attitude and kindness and could identify with her own perseverance in earning her degree.
“She goes beyond for her students,” said one student. “Mrs. Ashley is a positive voice in the madness. She is very organized and helps you understand the content with comparisons. She isn’t ashamed to have failed a semester of nursing school and that helps the reinstatement students feel better about the situation.”
“Mrs. Ashley is truly an amazing asset to Wallace State nursing,” another student said. “In the short time I have known her, I have noticed how much she cares and advocates for her students and truly cares about our success. Mrs. Ashley radiates kindness and has such a vibrant personality. She is truly an inspiration to me and my fellow classmates.”
“Mrs. Ashley is a great instructor, very compassionate, caring and knowledgeable. She stands firm and she does it so gracefully, which makes her easy to communicate with,” another student said.
Cleghorn has been a part of the college’s Fine and Performing Arts program since he was 10 years old and is the youngest of four siblings who have attended the college and performed in Wallace State’s vocal and theater ensembles. His first on-stage performance was in 2012 in the ensemble of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with his older sisters Tahauny and McCoy, when Tahauny was a student at the college. His next performance was in “Shrek” with both of his sisters and older brother Duke.
He has been in almost every theater or vocal performance ever since. This year, he added a performance in the Allegro Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” to his resume. He has also performed in other community theater productions and is a first-place winner in solo expressive interpretive movement at the International Youth and Discipleship’s Teen Talent competition.
“Rayce is very deserving of this honor,” said Ricky Burks, director of the Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts programs. “Along with being extremely talented, he’s also a polite, respectful and conscientious young man.”
“We are so blessed to have had Rayce and his siblings perform with our programs for more than a decade,” said Tiffany Richter, director of the Wallace State vocal ensembles. “To watch Rayce’s talents increase over those years has been a pleasure and I see a bright future ahead of him.”
Cleghorn’s last performance in a Wallace State production as a student will be at the April 27 “Spring Under the Stars” event at 6:30 p.m. at the Burrow Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. He will complete his education at Wallace State this semester before transferring to a four-year university and pursuing other opportunities.
“I want to do as much performing as possible,” Cleghorn said. “I’m like a sponge, I want to do anything that comes my way.”
He’s shown particular interest in performing acrobatics and stunts and his dream job would be at Universal Studios and Disney World.
“Really, anything that will let me sing, dance, jump off something high, flip, whatever I’ve got to do, is what I want to do,” he said.
Cleghorn is the son of Derek and Carol Cleghorn of Addison, both of whom are also Wallace State alumni.