Of the five inductees, three are living retirees: former Upward Elementary principal Don George Bryant, exceptional children teacher Sharon Smith Burlingame, and East Henderson High School teacher and girls’ basketball coach Dorothy Louise Newman Whitmire. Louise is the fifth in the Whitmire family in the hall, joining Boyce, Bill, John and Shirley Whitmire.
Inducted posthumously are Edneyville High School principal Phillip H. Croft and his wife, Hendersonville High (HHS) English teacher Christine McCorckle Croft.
(first time teachers were honored at the HoF banquet.)
They were honored April 21 at Education Celebration, the 14th annual Hall of Fame induction banquet so named and now with Pardee Hospital as chief sponsor. Nearly 260 people attended (at $50 each) in 30-year-old HCEF’s chief fundraiser, in Blue Ridge Community College’s Conference, HCEF Exec. Dir. Paul Knott noted.
In all, 119 local educators have been enshrined since 2003. Knott hailed their “dedication, love and commitment” in scholastic “trenches.”
Peggy Marshall, principal of the year.
In a new HoF banquet tradition, there was recognition of 2015-16 teachers of the year from each of Henderson County Public School’s 23 schools. Also saluted was Peggy Marshall of Sugarloaf Elementary, as top principal in the county and WNC’s District 8 Region. Their Sam’s Club goody bags included an apple, candies, pens and binder clips.
HCEF Board Pres. Dan Poeta credited their helping the county rank eighth best in academic achievement, among 115 districts statewide.
Also, HCEF’s new David L. Jones Fund for Innovation among teachers (with over $6,000 in pledges) was unveiled. Supt. Jones is retiring effective July 1, after six years at the helm.
The first inductee was Don Bryant. He was principal of East Flat Rock Elementary in 1989-93, then the first leader of Upward Elementary (‘93-05). He won principal of the year awards within the county, in 1998 and 2004. He is hailed for getting parents involved in student activities, and acting on teacher and student concerns.
He was HCEF board president, in 2006-08. He has been Mountain Community Public Charter School’s development director. He is president of the Henderson County Association of Retired School Personnel.
Bryant started a quarter-century career in 1980, as a guidance counselor at Rugby Junior High. He became Rugby summer school director, athletic director and assistant principal over nine years. Rugby students dedicated their ‘89 yearbook to him, for how “he graced our lives with quietness and dignity, and we felt as if he was a true friend.”
He said it is critical for students to “learn how to learn, not just how to know.” The native of a small New England town had a stroke a month earlier, on March 6. Yet he spoke for a while, often quoting scripture to express appreciation for life and public service.
Sharon Smith Burlingame made learning more rewarding for foster children, students with disabilities or others with challenges in school. “The sky was the limit for those kids,” she told the crowd.
Balfour Elementary with Corum Smith as principal dared to “mainstream” severely deaf students, she noted. She taught hearing-impaired youths in mornings in Balfour, then in the 13 other county public schools in afternoons, in 1979-2008. Previously, she taught in Huron High in Ann Arbor, Mich., and in Fiji and Nepal.
She helped implement pre-school classes for challenged “exceptional” children at Balfour then other elementaries, when it was first required in 1980. She went to UNC-CH and had master’s level training in teaching deaf students. She taught sign language to teaching colleagues.
The former Local Interagency Coordinating Council leader urged agencies to ask for priority resources for youth. She recalled “joy that we all have looking at our community’s needs, and working together.”
Louise Whitmire created the first school gymnastics program in the county, at East Henderson High School and showcased it to the public in a “Springnastics” with varying themes.
She taught at East for 34 years, starting when it opened in 1960 and after a year of teaching in Virginia. She taught health, physical education, sciences and typing at East.
Springnastics was a “good time,” Louise recalled to The Tribune. Youths liked bouncing off a trampoline and trying uneven bars and other events, she said. She debuted gymnastic shows in 1968, at halftime of basketball games. Her sister-in-law, Jimmie Lynn Whitmire, was her student. She praised resourceful Louise for using tractor inner tube and boxes, for vaulting over.
Patsy Rhodes, who later taught, had Mrs. Whitmire for all four years at East. She called her “leading and encouraging, never pushy or demanding.” Gymnastics was Louise’s “pride and joy” for anyone in co-ed gym to try.
She coached East girls basketball, oversaw cheerleading, was Student Council advisor, and led many school fundraisers. Rhodes cites Louise’s superb preparation and effort, as a coach and teacher. Also, “she was very sensitive to all our needs” and “gave the extra step for all of us.”
Phillip and Christine Croft each “had a special love for what they did,” their daughter Cynthia Godehn told the crowd in accepting their honors. She said her parents met at a USO dance in Hendersonville during WWII; her father entered teasing “I’m here, girls!” Christine called him “Happy.” She was his “Doll Baby.”
Phillip Croft was Edneyville principal for 10 years, starting in 1967. He steered EHS’s expansion in numbers and academic quality. John Whitmire, who would coach boys’ basketball at EHS, recalled as a student how six-foot-four Croft was helpful and funny behind a gruff exterior with a Bronx accent.
Croft taught science for the prior 10 years at East Flat Rock Elementary, then Flat Rock and East Henderson high schools. At East, he taught biology, chemistry and physics. In summers, he was a leader in his alma mater (Class of ’51) Western Carolina University’s prep Summer Demonstration School in science at WCU. He first taught at Christ School, in Arden.
“Edneyville will fight any school anytime, anywhere!” was his battle cry at an area principals’ conference regarding athletic scheduling, Cynthia said. He fought the Nazis as an Army staff sergeant, in the fierce Battle of the Bulge.
The high school drop-out got in gear and placed out of his first two years of college in a post-Army exam, Cynthia said. He earned a master’s in education at Columbia in NYC. He died in 1999; his wife died in 2001.
Christine Croft, an HHS grad in 1935, taught English there in 1955-77. She was ahead of her time in cross-curricular teaching of literature, intertwining academic subjects around a theme and critical thinking.
Tom Orr was her HHS English teaching colleague. Earlier, as her pupil, he relished how she could “make poetry spring to life, as she stood and recited to her class by heart from her ‘memory bank’ of poems and stories.” Cynthia was “mesmerized” by such recitations, in class.
Since 1976, HHS has awarded the Christine Croft Cup to the entire class with most community service. She spurred selling of “victory ribbons” in homerooms ahead of football games, as Student Council faculty sponsor.
Before her HHS stint Mrs. Croft taught in Flat Rock then Fletcher high schools and Rosa Edwards School. She taught 35 years in the county and nearly 40 overall, starting soon after World War II and ahead of her husband.
Christine Croft removed her heels in the hall to silently sneak back into her room, “fling the door open and say ‘ahah, I caught you’ to chatterers, induction M.C. John Bryant noted.
Orr was such a favorite student of her mother, Cynthia revealed, he was the only one she let address her at school as Christine or even “Crafty Croft.”