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Teachers who came home to Washington County share words of wisdom with 2023 graduates

From entering school as kindergarteners on their first day of school to celebrating their last day of senior year, students of Washington County’s five schools created community.

In May, five Washington County Schools: Millry High School, Fruitdale High School, McIntosh High School, Leroy High School, and Washington County High School, participated in graduation festivities incelebration of the class of 2023.Washington County High School students attend their commencement

As the newest alumni take their first step into adulthood, some will begin college, while others will enlist into the military, and some will begin their careers in the workforce.

A 2023 McIntosh High School graduate, Aja Barnes, reflected on how MHS has prepared her for this transition. “MHS prepared me for college and the real world by providing me with the academic tools I need to succeed, and by development of my soft skills like leadership, time management, and interpersonal skillsthat are needed to go off on my journey.”

Barnes and the rest of the graduates are faced with the decision to move away from their hometown or to stay local. A few alumni from previous classes who have chosen to stay local are now giving back to the community by pursuing a career path in education and working within the school system.

Three graduates of Washington County schools, Ashley Booth, a 2009 graduate, Becky Williams, a 2002 graduate, and Cindy Craig, a 1972 graduate, share their experiences as graduates who decided to return to their community as educators.  

Ashley Booth, a middle School English teacher, joined the alumni of Fruitdale High School after graduating in 2009. After high school, Booth attended college to obtain her undergraduate degree in English and master’s degree in teaching.Former Fruitdale High School student, Ashley Booth, smiles in front of library shelves

In 2018, she began teaching at Leroy High School. Booth said, “The LHS Class of 2023 was my first group of 8th Graders. The feeling of watching these kids grow into young adults makes the challenges of teaching worth it every day.”

Booth said she feels the graduates of Washington County schools can do anything they put their time,effort, and energy into if they believe in themselves. She encourages the graduating class of 2023 “to never take a second for granted.”

Becky Williams, a 2002 graduate of Washington County High School, said, “The bottom line at WCHS is to support our kids so that they can succeed in whatever they choose to do.”

After graduating high school, Williams received a degree in education from the University of Alabama. She then returned to her hometown and has worked at Washington County High School for 13 years. She is currently a Library Media Specialist and serves as an advisor for many extracurricular clubs and activitiesBecky Williams poses for a picture donning graduation attire

Over the years, much has changed in Washington County schools. Williams noted, “A lot of the staff members have retired and been replaced with new faces, but the intention of always looking out for all the students, whether you actually teach them or not, still remains the same.”

Cindy Craig, a retired teacher from Washington County High School, is a 1972 graduate ofWashington County High School. After graduation, Craig moved to Mobile College, now the University ofMobile, to get a degree in education. After obtaining her degree, Craig returned to her hometown and taught in Chatom for 26 years.

Craig reminisced on her time as a student at Washington County High School recounting stories ofchasing pigs and playing tug-of-war during Field Days. She said her favorite memories as a science teacher at Washington County High School were traveling with her students. One of her favorite trips was to the Space Center in Huntsville, where she got to experience a unique trip with students who may have otherwise might never be able to go.

With the changes that have happened since she was a student, Craig said she believes, “Teachers still have a true desire for our students to know more and to be prepared for work or college and their future. That hasn’t changed.”

Craig encourages this year's graduating class to get involved.  If they see a problem, she advisesgraduates to be a solution rather than just see the negative.

While experiences have changed for each of these alumni, they all seem to agree on the same thing:schools build community in each town. Booth credits the people in both Leroy and Fruitdale for molding her into the teacher and person she is today.

Williams said she feels that Chatom is her home and safe place. She added, “That’s why I live here now. I want my children to have that same sense of security and support in their lives.”

Craig said she believes that there is so much to learn outside of the county line, but she will always bring her experiences home.

Many believe that rural schools lack opportunities, but Washington County schools possess a sense of community built by generations who invest in and cultivate student achievement.






Tags: Chatom

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