Lesson Learned (January 6)

“Stir them up!” urged teacher extraordinaire Helen Reger when I announced my intention to run for election to the Upshur County Board of Education the summer of 2010. She earned our respect when she opened the very first public school kindergarten in West Virginia right here in Upshur County. Her excellence defined teaching for a generation. In 1976 she received long due recognition as West Virginia Teacher of the Year.

Until her death at age 99 on January 12, 2021, I sought her wisdom. She inspired me with ways to “stir up” our mountaineer community to “expect excellence,” as is our motto. What an honor to be asked by the family to give her eulogy at the graveside in Heavner Cemetery. Teacher Helen Reger’s urging has been a primary reason for writing a community column weekly for more than eight years as part of my service to our students and their families. Public service as a nonpartisan elected member of the Upshur County Board of Education can best be done by encouraging creative thinking.

Communication is vital. I do not believe we can have too much communication. In fact, I get excited when we have a crowded Board of Education meeting like we did at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School Tuesday evening November 30, 2021. We are coming down the home stretch toward our School Building Bond Election January 15, 2022. To be stirred up is very appropriate.

Soon and very soon the best education opportunity in the USA for our students will be another pioneering effort, like when we opened the first public kindergarten in West Virginia with Teacher Helen Reger. We are undertaking here in the middle of Appalachia a pioneering Career and Technical Education, not only by building a new Buckhannon-Upshur High School, but also by re-imagining the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. We are fulfilling our Mission to prepare our students for employability in a marvelous manner!

“The Mission for Upshur County Schools is to provide academic preparation, social responsibility, EMPLOYABILITY and a desire for lifelong learning.”

The wise voters of Upshur County will decide the future of our students—as is proper in our republic, decisions are in the hands of our citizens. The West Virginia Constitution allows citizens to determine the future of our public school students. As an elected official serving on the BOE, I see the wisdom of our forefathers. Yes, I am happy to “stir up” the populace. Definitely a Career and Technical Education is the way to go—our citizens already spoke during a series of planning meetings we conducted over the last several years. Now we run toward the finish line.

Our classrooms of the future will allow middle school students beginning in sixth grade to creatively explore learning options. Our students deserve to be first! Just imagine that in four years science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) advances will have humans flying to the Moon. Careers in outer space will be high tech. We can educate our students to be prepared for those future excellent careers.

Our recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught us lessons, too. Supply chains slow down due to illness. Raising more of our food locally is a remedy. Our Future Farmers of America / 4-H leaders will get a head start at our innovative Buckhannon-Upshur campus built on the Hockenberry Farm that the Board of Education purchased more than 10 years ago. I am happy we stirred ourselves up to make that farsighted purchase.

We just renewed our Buccaneer football stadium’s artificial turf. The Buckhannon-Upshur High School enhanced campus will build on that progress, too. Even our Upshur County Commission has improved the county park that wraps around the BOE property. Our cross country tracks and our swimming pool enhance the school campus. Another feature for safety considerations is that the West Virginia State Police have their headquarters right by the school entrance. Good planning began years ago, making more sense every day as we build a new generational high school.

How sweet it is! Thank you, Teacher Helen Reger, who stirred us up in kindergarten and urged us on until her 99th year. Lesson learned this week: many factors are positively coming together for our Upshur County Schools students.


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