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Excellence at WCHS

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By Ken Begley

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

Teaching is more than an art. It’s extremely hard work when it’s done right.  
It’s easy for teachers to “pretend” to teach while their students “pretend” to learn and then be given a lot of “pretend” grades.  Later, when they flunk out of college or end up in remedial courses for things they should have learned in high school, everyone will know the true answer as to what has happened.  But it will be too late.  We are in an era of extremely high and going higher cost for colleges.  It’s even more costly if your child is sent there unprepared.
So when you see really great teachers that have had a positive influence on your child, you should thank them publicly.  I bleed the blue and white of St. Dominic Elementary School, but today I want to talk about some teachers at Washington County High School.
The first is this guy named Ryan New in the history department.  
I don’t know who made the decision to hire the man, but he should get a bonus.  Mr. New taught my son for two years.  The second year was a college level advanced placement course in American History.  My son came home every night loaded down with work, but seemed to thrive while doing it.  I was stunned by what the man was asking of these kids.
It sure wasn’t rote memorization of dates and events.  
They were required to present complex presentations based on research of historic events.  Mr. New would constantly challenge them in class with questions that required much thought, which developed their analytical ability.  It would all be woven together with debating teams that had a level of competitive spirit that most athletic coaches would envy.  Mr. New topped this off by volunteering many hours of his personal time by setting up training sessions on Saturdays to help his students on the final AP course test, which is administered nationally like the ACT.  My son, along with others, scored high enough on the test to qualify for college credit as a high school sophomore.
Here’s some more proof of Mr. New’s good work.
My son was on the WCHS academic team last year.  He placed first as the social studies champion in district competition.  This involved taking a history test with participants from four different high schools.  He placed third in social studies at region in the academic team JV challenge.  This involved eight schools and about 40 to 50 students taking another test.
Will would not have gone that far without Mr. New.  Other parents have equal or better success stories involving this teacher.
Another area that has impressed me is the WCHS math department and a lady named Rita Messer.  I have to admit I was worried about this area.  Algebra, trigonometry, geometry and so on have always been my weakest point.  I had a prejudice that told me that WCHS would not adequately prepare my children.  
My daughter, Renee, headed off to the Speed School of Engineering at U of L two years ago, and I was terrified.  Speed is supposed to be one of the top engineering schools in several states.  A state engineer told me that they required more of their students than any other engineering school she knew.  
So how did Renee do with her WCHS math education, going for a degree that is nothing but math and routinely wipes out 40 percent of the best and brightest in their freshman class?
She’s the winner of U of L’s W. B. Wendt Engineering Award  for 2011.  It’s given to the student in civil engineering who has the highest scholastic standing after having completed the first three years of the civil engineering program.
So, I have a message for Mrs. Messer and the math department at WCHS.  I apologize for having doubted your level of instruction, and I am grateful for everything that she got out of your classes.
Now here’s a good question about the award Renee received.  How did she get this award as she’s only been at U of L for two years, and the award is for completing three years of the civil engineering program?
A good part of the reason is because of that program of  AP courses that WCHS is pushing.  As I said before, it can possibly translate into college credits.   Renee took those AP courses and entered U of L with 15 college credit hours (one full semester) already completed before her first class took place.  That was worth roughly $10,000 in saved books, fees, tuition, and room and board costs.  Again, other parents in those classes can tell you similar stories.
I’ve run into other teachers at WCHS over the years who seem to connect with this modern generation.
I’m talking about Millie Blandford, who has an incredible ability to make science come alive.  You have Sarah Raikes who runs the largest and most productive FCCLA (Families, Careers and Community Leaders of America) chapter in Kentucky.  Put your kid in that program (two of my daughters were)  for four years and they will grow and make lifelong friends while doing an incredible amount of community service projects.  
Finally, you have a counselor named Lolita Blanton, who has held our hand more than once while leading us through the modern maze of education.
So I end this column by saying your child can get a first-rate education out of WCHS.  No brag, just fact.  The teaching assets to do so are there if your child wants to learn.