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Former Graduates Continue at ACHS

Dr. Denita Dowell-Reavis/Testing and Accountability/Communications Director

More than half of the staff at Alexander Central High graduated from the school and practically never left. The teachers are reflecting on their work and fun at ACHS as the class of 2024 prepares to walk across the stage.

For many of the teachers and staff, their colleagues and the students make the AC experience. Social studies teacher Adam Walker started his career at WAMS and moved to the high school a couple years ago.

“I definitely think it’s a family atmosphere. I think because we’re so much a small community. Well, first of all, I know about half the people here just because I know them from living and growing up in this community” says Adam Walker.
The nearly 18-year veteran appreciates the students, too.

“I don’t believe that you would find any as compliant, as well-mannered. I know that’s a little bit ignorant because I’ve only taught in Alexander County, but I feel like I know what I’ve got.

Tyler Mitchell has taught for 18 years in Alexander County and more than nine in the western part of the state. For him, he appreciates his coworkers in the agricultural department, Scottie Cook and J.D. Sink.

“You won’t find probably an agriculture department in the state with three Ag teachers who have been there as long as we have and been together. We’re now probably approaching 80 years among the three of us,” says Mitchell.

Mitchell is joined by other veteran staff members who say their colleagues make the difference.

“There is a level of trust here that is not often found in the workplace. My colleagues have seen me through some of the hardest times and have cheered me on through the best of times,” says English teacher Angie Hickerson.

Hickerson has taught for 32 years, all of her time at Alexander Central.

“Here at ACHS, we work hard to meet the students where they are, offer them a balance and help them on to the next phases of life. Staff and students generally have a good rapport, and it’s a safe place to work and learn,” adds Hickerson.

Hickerson is joined by dozens in the district who’ve spent their career in Alexander County Schools. Retiring superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Hefner has been with the district for more than 35 years; she received her degree from Alexander Central in 1986. 
She and Hickerson both once worked with the students in the alternative setting.

“Jennifer had the kindest, most positive attitude, worked well with everyone, and always had a smile on her face. I don't think I ever heard her get angry at any of the students. She treated them with respect and grace, the two things that they needed more than anything, I believe,” says Hickerson.

In a county, where the school system is the largest employer, Hefner appreciates the teachers’ commitment to all the schools.

“The champions throughout my career have been some of my high school teachers and classmates.  When all is said and done, a school building is just four walls.  The people within them are what make the experience special and unique.  My athletic, band, club and academic experiences are what made my time at ACHS even more special.  Once an AC Cougar, always an AC Cougar,” Hefner says enthusiastically.

National statistics show only 11 percent of college graduates became licensed teachers in 2020, a drop of a third over the ten years prior. Despite the shrinking population, Hickerson thinks students will return.

“When I look at the group of people who have chosen to live and teach where they grew up and graduated, it speaks volumes to me. Obviously, we received something here that we found worthwhile; many of the inspirations to become teachers came from people in these very schools in which we now teach. I think that we have each found a way to give back to a place that means so much,” Hickerson believes.

As graduation season nears, the hope is some of the students will return to ACHS to teach just like some of their instructors. For now, Walker has words of wisdom for the near-graduates.

“My thing is that I really want them to find something that they love, enjoy doing it and just be the best that they can be and as long as they’re doing that, they’re not going to have any regrets,” he challenges.

Two-hundred-and-seventy students are expected to cross the stage on the Glen Wilson field on June 7th at Cougar Stadium.

Of the total district-wide workforce, an estimated 56 percent attended Alexander Central High School.