The recent 2013 Lamplighter Awards Banquet held at Pinecrest Country Club was a great success with 334 people attending. Foremost, the evening gave students an opportunity to express their genuine appreciation to educators whom they respect and admire.
At the 13th annual banquet, Kim Holcomb and Gene Jordan, Jr., emcees, presented each student and honoree with a Lamplighter Award and read an excerpt from the student’s essay about the educator being honored. While each essay was unique, they all paid tribute to the same qualities students think outstanding educators should possess—helping students feel at home at school, helping students who feel lost, encouraging students to do their best and never give up, providing students with a sense of family, having high standards for themselves and their students, and helping students be themselves.
Four students concluded the program by reading their essays, for their essays best embodied the children’s book, My Great- Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, that students read for inspiration for their essays.
Those students were Sarah Rectenwald, fifth grader at Hudson PEP Elementary School; Lacy Stanfill, eighth grader at Judson Middle School; LeGrand Northcutt, senior at Longview High School, and Sam Ponce, senior at L.E.A.D. Academy High School.
Each year the Foundation honors a retired LISD employee who has been instrumental in the tradition of success of Longview ISD. This year at the banquet the Foundation awarded the 11th annual Cornerstone Award to Judy York, retired principal of Bramlette Elementary School and board member of the Longview ISD Foundation, Inc., for her dedicated service to LISD students and to the Foundation.
“I take a great deal of pride in saying that my mother was a teacher. She inspired me,” said York. “I went to work every day with people who inspired me … I love being a part of this family.” Due to the generosity of Heart of the Community, Champion, Sustainer, Advocate, Benefactor and Friend sponsors for the banquet and McCarley’s Jewelry, Lobo Tire and Auto Repair, and Inspire Photography by Hannah Cromer, who donated this year’s raffle items, the Longview ISD Foundation raised $43,000.00 to provide funds for its annual Grants-to-Teachers Program and Campus Initiative Grants Program.
Since 1996, the Foundation has funded 545 grants through the Grants-to-Teachers Program, returning $501,376.00 to Longview ISD teachers, counselors, librarians, and nurses so that they can provide the very best education possible for their students. In addition, the Longview ISD Foundation has funded fifteen Campus Initiative Grants for a total of $40,559.00 to enhance programs that align with campus improvement plans to increase student achievement. In the eighteen year history of the Foundation, it has returned a total of $541,935.00 in support of LISD educators and students and quality education in the Longview Independent School District.
According to board members Tracy Wellborn and Paula Poole, Longview Independent School District was the first to establish a Foundation.
“Our students, teachers and schools are part of the Foundation. The Foundation helps us appreciate our teachers in a very small way,” said Wellborn. Mike Farren another board member mentioned a cogent reason for the existence of the Foundation.
“The Foundation is extremely important. With shrinking school funds, money is needed,” he said. He recounted how understanding the community has been. “From selling T-Shirts, bricks at Longview High School to sponsoring tables at the Lamp Lighters banquet, the community has been very supportive of our schools and we greatly appreciate everyone.”
Kay Ray, executive director of Longview ISD Foundation said it best, “We are grateful to all the sponsors and community at large for what they do for our students and teachers through the Foundation. Thank you very much.”
By Adam Holland and Joycelyne Fadojutimi firstname.lastname@example.org
When I think of Ms. Law, I think of a statue. This is not just any statue but an important solid, beautifully scary statue. This statue, despite its minor flaws or imperfections, is set firmly on its foundation. This statue is not boastful or ostentatious, yet it commands a presence. It can be intimidating, yet people look up to it in admiration. That is what Ms. Law is: solid, humble, and worthy of praise. These attributes made her seem incredibly intimidating, but they also made her an incredibly influential force in my life.
Originally, Ms. Law was simply scary. Ask any group of seventh grade students at Foster Middle School about Ms. Law, and they will probably describe her as just that. Maybe they might even mention this mysterious, disembodied voice that can be heard speaking loudly at students through thin parts of the wall.
My first experience with Ms. Law solidified these perceptions. I was in Ms. Auguste’s Texas history class, and my classmates and I were making a significant amount of noise after lunch and being typical middle school kids. Ms. Law came into our room, guns blazing, and yelled up and down about how we were disrupting her class and keeping her students from learning. She was incredibly menacing. I immediately felt like she had already labeled me as a troublemaker. If I were going to be on Ms. Law’s good side, I had to be a perfect student.
As my seventh grade year continued, Ms. Law’s reputation as a hard-nosed teacher who freely handed out copious amounts of homework became firmly set in my mind. The strong, intimidating nature of the statue was foreboding. I carried this perception all the way to my first day in her class.
The first task she assigned was to create a timeline using a variety of dates on the board. In an attempt to be a dutiful student so as to impress her, I took out my ruler and drew a perfectly straight line, ten-inch line on my paper. I then marked every two inches for the five dates on the board. I ever took the time to start at zero and end at 2008. I felt like I was doing everything right. I was ready to start out in Ms. Law’s good graces and remain there for the rest of the year.
However, instead of receiving praise, I was not recognized at all. Ms. Law chose my friend’s timeline, one that been drawn crookedly and without a ruler, as her example of an exemplary timeline. What I had forgotten to do was scale my dates correctly. On my timeline, there were two inches between 1100 and 1300 and another two inches between 1300 and 1350. I had made my timeline incorrectly because I was so focused on details that did not matter. I was ready for the inevitable chastisement, but instead, she stated that what I had one was the most common mistakes she saw on students’ timelines every year. She then proceeded to turn the timelines into a lesson about perception. It was a lesson about how history is written by victors, how everything has a bias, and how many of her students would draw the United States bigger than Asia when asked to draw a map of the world.
Everything is based on perception.
At that point, I began to see a side of Ms. Law that I had previously never seen. Whether or not Ms. Law planned that lesson on purpose is a mystery to me. Surely she knew of her reputation around the school, and yet it would not surprise me if she had thought of that lesson on the spot. She had a reputation in my mind, but it was based on my perceptions. It was based on what other students had told me. When I realized this, my thoughts about Ms. Law slowly changed. I discovered she was going to be herself, in the same way that history is what it is, and a statue remains the same forever. The only factor that changes is our perceptions.
Throughout the rest of my eighth grade year, I learned an incredible amount about Ms. Law. Just because students from previous years gave foreboding warning about her class did not mean I was doomed to dislike Ms. Law as a teacher. As soon as I made my own judgment of Ms. Law, her class suddenly became incredibly fun. She taught us how to learn, she taught us how to study, and most importantly, she taught us how to be ourselves because that was who she was every day. Yes, that sometimes included being a stickler for the rules, calling parents when we didn’t follow directions, and occasionally going across the hall to yell at the seventh graders, but she never did anything without cause. She was going to be the way she was, and as her student, I could either appreciate this fact and learn from her or spread a negative bias. Either way, Ms. Law was fearless.
Unfortunately, I have failed to keep up with Ms. Law over the years. Ever since I made a perfect score on the history TAKS test because of her teaching, I have not seen her often. However, every year I get to see Ms. Law, if only long enough to say hello, at the musical performance for the eighth graders. Every year I go up to her and give her a hug, and she tells me how wonderful the show was.
As I leave to go backstage, I am tempted to say, “See you next year,” but all I can ever manage is a simple goodbye. Before the show, I knew this year, my senior year, was going to be different because there is not going to be a next year. I feel like Ms. Law knew that as well because she immediately said something I will never forget. She said, “You are fearless, and that is what I love about you.”
She thought I was fearless?
It took a moment for this simple phrase to sink in. Ms. Law, who is fearless in the same way that a statue does not care about a blizzard, honestly thought that I was fearless. The fact that she singled me out among her thousands of former students was amazing enough, but to commend me in such a way was something different altogether. Yet that simple phrase is what makes Ms. Law special: she takes the time to care about each and every student because that is who she is, and she is not changing any time soon. Knowing that she still cares about me is worth more than any amount of knowledge she could have possibly taught me.
As I sat in my eighth period class happily joking around, my telephone buzzed. I knew something wasn’t right because my mom never texts me while I am in school. Quickly I snatched my phone from my pocket. Suddenly I was struck with tears as I read the text message I had just received. I was devastated as I sat there quietly trying to hold back the tears. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to hold them in much longer, I let the tears fall.
Feeling so alone, I had no idea that I had the most encouraging person to talk to right in front on my face–Mrs. Rachel Hooten. She quietly pulled me outside the classroom as I continued to cry. She began to explain that she also had a very tough childhood.
At that moment, I knew she was an angel sent down from God, Well, not exactly. She was also my seventh grade English teacher. Looking back, I now realize what an inspiring teacher she really was and the countless things she did to ensure not only our education but also our joy for learning.
She knew we wanted our voices to be heard, so to help us, we took polls and surveys to present to the district and our principal. To our surprise, we actually made change happen. The district started letting us wear jeans on Fridays. We began having more rewards for making good grades, and we began holding fundraisers that were actually enjoyable. Mrs. Hooten always encouraged us to never give up on something because to get what we want in life, we must always do nothing but our best.
Of course, her class wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Mrs. Hooten made sure we had consequences for every action, especially our misdeeds. Still, she understood that it’s not always easy being a teenager.
Our education was always first with her. I knew this because of the enthusiasm she put into her teaching. If we didn’t understand the way she was teaching a lesson, she was always open for new ideas or suggestions, which showed how much she loved helping our education expand. She genuinely cared about our future.
I want Mrs. Hooten to receive the 2013 Lamplighter Award because of all the teachers at Judson Middle School, I believe she deserves to be recognized for the difference she has made in each and every one of our lives, especially in mine.
Mrs. Hooten has helped me grow into the young lady I am today. I definitely wouldn’t be so fun spirited if it weren’t for her. She showed me that it’s okay to be yourself, even if not everyone likes it.
“Without being yourself, you won’t ever find our your true talents or ambitions!” she told me once.
That statement has stuck in my head ever since, and now I am myself one hundred percent. I always show my true feelings about everything.
Mrs. Hooten, you deserve the 2013 Lamplighter Award. You are the best!
Rachel Hooten, 7th grade language arts teacher, honored by Lacy Stanfill, 8th grader, Judson Middle School
One of a Kind
Growing up without a father and not having much of a mother either, I have had a hard life. I was never a bad child growing up or in my years of school, yet it would have been better if I had had a father. At Longview High School, however, I would meet a man who would be like a father to me.
During my last year of middle school, I decided I wanted to be in Junior ROTC in high school. When it was time for students to create their schedules for high school, my first selection was for JROTC. In my first day in the program, I met a man who was tall, not too big, with no beard and short cut hair. Most of all when he spoke, he had a strong, firm voice that would scare a bird.
I never said much while in the class; instead, I just sat back and absorbed the information that we needed to know. One day all of that changed. Everyone had to stand in front of the other class members and tell about themselves. I dreaded going in front of everyone to talk about myself. I figured nobody cared about me.
Soon it was my turn. One part of me was saying to run for it; my heart felt like it was in my throat. The strong, firm voiced man told me not to worry. He assured me that everything was going to be all right. I proceeded to speak, and as I was telling the story about my life, I began to cry. I walked out of the room because I couldn’t take it anymore. Suddenly I felt a big warm hand touch my shoulder to comfort me. He told me everything was going to be fine. He told me not to worry because God had a plan for me, and with that, weeks turned into four years in JROTC.
He felt just like a father to me, more than just a friend. The instructor never gave up on me, not once. When I did things I knew were wrong, he made sure I was corrected. If I came to class upset, he always found a way to put a smile on my face. He didn’t have to worry about having trouble with me because I knew he wasn’t having it. This man never told me anything wrong.
Sergeant Major Whitford is the one of a kind person I am talking about. He always encourages me to do and be my best, and he always pushes me beyond my comfort zone. I can hear him saying that to be the best, you have to work hard, so that’s what I did.
Sergeant Major Whitford is truly one of a kind. You never find too many people like him. He always tells me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it. Even though he already has a family, I feel like I am a part of his. He has al ways treated me like his child, no different. He has taught me to never give up on something that I love, even if someone tells me I can’t do it. I told him that I wanted to be a physical therapist, but another adult had told me that I would never be a physical therapist. In fact, the adult said I would be nothing. As I told him about this experience, he told me not to listen to that person. Instead, he said for me to put my mind to the task, and by doing so, I could become anything I wanted. Sergeant Major Whitford believes in me.
I want to thank you, Sergeant Major Whitford, for being the father, friend, mentor, one of a kind superhero I never had. I know I will be successful in life with all the knowledge you have given me. No one can come close to being what you have been to me. As long as he keeps helping students like me, I know that there is hope for everyone.
Sgt. Major Mark Whitford, ROTC instructor, honored by Tamesha Polk, senior, Longview High School
Mrs. Miller was my fourth grade teacher at Johnston-McQueen Elementary School. I promise there is absolutely no other teacher like Mrs. Miller. Most students are shy with their teachers. I never had that feeling with Mrs. Miller. From the moment I walked into her room, I knew I was safe and could trust her completely.
Mrs. Miller was a teacher who knew how someone was feeling. I could actually share things with her and be honest. When I was in her class, I felt like I was at home. She was not only there for me but also for everyone. She helped with friendships, bringing us all back together after arguments. Our class liked to make cards for her. All the other fourth graders were jealous because they wanted to be in her class.
Before I had Mrs. Miller, my brother had talked about her. He said she was the best teacher. When I was in Mrs. Miller’s class, I was able to see that his statement was true. Mrs. Miller truly made a difference in all the students she taught. She never gave us that much homework. She knew if she didn’t give us any, however, we would not learn. When Mrs. Miller read books to the class, it was really exciting. She would change her voice to the characters’ personalities to make the books interesting. If I ever had trouble with an assignment, she went through it step by step until I understood.
I miss seeing Mrs. Miller since now she is teaching second grade. I miss her hugs because they made me feel warm and calm. Mrs. Miller treated me like I was part of her family. Sometimes, students even called her “Mom.” I was so lucky to have had Mrs. Miller. She was meant to be my teacher. I know that I will always remember that loving, caring, awesome Mrs. Miller!
Jimmie Miller, former 4th grade teacher, currently 2nd grade teacher, honored by Kaidin Sides, 5th grade student, Johnston-McQueen Elementary School