The highest honor to be bestowed upon a North Carolina citizen, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, was presented in a surprise announcement to Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe during Elkin City Schools’ end-of-year celebration for faculty and staff Monday morning.
Also, during the celebration, service awards were presented, retirees were honored, school-level teachers of the year were acknowledged and volunteers of the year were highlighted.
Alicia Gentry, a kindergarten teacher at Elkin Elementary School, was named the system-wide teacher of the year, with Pam Colbert, principal at Elkin Elementary, being named principal of the year. Bus driver of the year was Earl Mounce.
After Allison Moxley, human resources director for the school system, helped Bledsoe, who is retiring at the end of June, present awards to the other retirees, she introduced a special guest who had been waiting backstage without Bledsoe’s knowledge, Dr. Dennis Carroll, a Surry County native and provost of High Point University, Bledsoe’s alma mater.
Carroll explained he was attending the celebration on behalf of Governor Pat McCrory to present the state’s most distinguished award given, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He said the honor is bestowed on those who have a proven record of extraordinary service to North Carolina.
“It did not go unnoticed by the governor that he has served 38 years,” said Carroll of Bledsoe’s years in the educational field. He continued by noting accolades of the school system, including having one of the highest graduation rates in the state.
“Selfishly I’m glad he’s retiring, because he will begin teaching in our doctoral program,” he said of Bledsoe, who has served as president of HPU’s alumni organization and in the fall will begin teaching in the educational leadership program at the university.
Bledsoe teared up as Carroll presented the framed award to him on stage and he received a standing ovation. Carroll told him he was joining the ranks of Dean Smith, Andy Griffith, Bob Timberlake and many more.
Since its creation in 1963, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine has been presented to honor persons who have a proven record of service to the state of North Carolina or special achievement. Upon being named to The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the honoree receives a certificate by which the governor confers upon the recipient “the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary privileged to enjoy fully all rights granted to members of this exalted order,” included in that right is to propose the North Carolina Toast when in select company.
Bledsoe has spent 38 years as a teacher, coach, school administrator and district superintendent and for the past six years he’s partnered with HPU and its doctoral and master’s programs in educational leadership.
At the end of the celebration, Bledsoe said, “There have been so many memorable moments in the past eight years” since he came to Elkin City Schools.
“I thank each one of you for those positive memorable moments,” he said. “I could not have asked for a better ending to my career.”
Among those memorable moments, Bledsoe said, would be one from that day. “Britt Shaw (chief technology officer) is proud of his Scottish descent, and he told me one day he would wear his kilt. Today is the day.”
Teachers, staff recognized during celebration
A big part of each year’s year-end celebration is the naming of the system-wide teacher of the year, with each of the school-level honorees receiving their plaques as well.
Alicia Gentry, who was earlier named Elkin Elementary School teacher of the year, was announced as the system-wide honoree Monday.
Gentry is a product of Elkin City Schools having graduated from Elkin High School before returning as a teacher. “I’ve sat in this room as a teacher and student. I know how hard you work and those little things you do,” Gentry said to the others gathered. “Some of you were my teachers and some of you are family and friends. I give a round of applause to everyone in this room.”
Amanda Burton, an eighth-grade English teacher, is teacher of the year for Elkin Middle School, and Melva Edmisten, grades seventh through 12th exceptional children’s teacher, is teacher of the year for Elkin High School.
Service awards are presented to employees of the state for each five years of service, and staff members reaching those milestones were recognized.
Reaching five years were Deborah Casey and Joy Mathis. At 10 years were Penny Lloyd, Sandra Macemore, Vanessa Baker, Tammy Coley, Alicia Gentry, Bridget Groce, Julie Reed and Crystal Walker. Fifteen-year honorees were Melinda Burchette, Monica Fernandez, Carla Henstock, Heather Jamieson, Mary Shepherd, Ginger Smith, Maria Torriente and Lisa Pendry.
Honored for 20 years was Angela Adams. For 25 years was Jerry Ann Brown, Pamela Colbert, Djuana Gallion and Jennifer Brown. Thirty-year honorees were Pamela Land and Trish Long.
The teacher assistant of the year for the school system was announced as Crystal Martin.
Volunteers of the year named were Andrew and Samantha Ange at Elkin Elementary, Susan Baker at Elkin Middle and Ginger Isenhoward at Elkin High School.
Retirees were recognized with certificates and awards. They are Robbin Harris, Darlene Love, Margaret Manns, Mary Gentry, Mary Shepherd, Trish Long, Patty Crosswhite and Dr. Randy Bledsoe.
Special awards given were a state Certificate of Appreciation to Mary Shepherd, the Old North State Award to Margaret Manns and Robbin Harris, and the Cardinal Award to Trish Long.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.