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Helping shape the world

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Less than two weeks ago Bedford County Public Schools honored the district’s top teachers: Katherine West of Staunton River Middle School as the county’s top teacher overall; Amy Mallow of Huddleston Elementary as the county’s top elementary teacher; and Shawn Marie Horrell of Bedford Science and Technology Center as the top high school teacher. All three are deserving of their awards and they stand as true examples of the great quality of teachers this school system’s 10,500 students find on a daily basis in their classrooms.

    All the teachers in the school system should be commended for helping build into the lives of those who will help shape the future of this county and of this nation. It’s not an easy job, but it’s an important one.

    And you’ve got to admire the philosophy of teaching that those who were honored display.

    Take West’s example:

    • “I had found a career that was challenging, changing, exasperating, broadening and self-sustaining,” West wrote of her first year in teaching. “To live up to its expectations would be my biggest accomplishment, from teaching first grade to middle school.”

    But the work — and long hours — have paid off over the years. Her current and former students gave her a standing ovation at the school assembly in which her award was announced. And like most in the profession, she sees the bigger picture of teaching. “Now more than ever, students need to realize that the most important values in life stay the same,” she said of the importance of helping students build character and the powers of sound reasoning and judgment in an unstable, changing world. “The reward of teaching occurs when I see evidence of more mature judgments, caring and awareness of others’ feelings—something to take forward into life.”

    The words of her students, are the gems she treasures. “Mrs. West, I learned so much this year. Thank you for everything,” is one example. Or a response she received to a congratulatory note sent to a student for scoring 600 on a reading SOL, “Mrs. West, this was for you. Thank you for the two years of learning about who I am.”

    Teachers help shape the world — the individual worlds of their students and the world we all share. This week, as close to 800 students from the county’s three high schools walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, this school system’s 1,700 employees should feel the same pride as those students’ families. Their hard work has paid off. Their long hours have made a difference.

    Most teachers’ efforts go unnoticed to the general public. But their commitment to their craft has been shared with the next generation and the fruits of those efforts will be harvested in the days and years to come.