There has been a lot of attention on teachers in the last week, with those who educate our children asking for what they deserve: Better pay, better benefits and, most importantly, more resources for their students. It makes me think of some of my own educators and one who recently left us in Harnett County. They can never be paid enough for the impact they made in my life.
If memory serves, it was approximately August of 1985 when I met Dan Honeycutt for the first time. He was then an assistant principal at the new Triton High School after moving from Coats school. I was at the school, lost in the haze of adolescence, as I left the comfortable confines of Dunn High School for the long, clean halls of Triton.
Mr. Honeycutt had the unenviable task trying to keep students in the new school, consolidated from three communities, from killing each other. Fights in the commons nearly every day for that first month of school showed that was not an easy task.
While Principal Leonard Arnold had the task of daily leading the school, Mr. Honeycutt and other assistants went about the task of being the enforcers of discipline. He did an outstanding job.
I next encountered Mr. Honeycutt 20 years later when I was still in the education profession. He offered me a chance to return to my high school alma mater and change careers from journalism to English and journalism teaching, but I rejected the offer. I still appreciated the confidence he had in me.
Though my now 20-year career writing stories for publication has been rewarding, I may always wonder what would have happened if I had taken the path Mr. Honeycutt offered.
Mr. Honeycutt’s love of education was evident throughout his career. I realized that when we ran into each other again when he led Triton High School and then moved to the school system’s central office and I was assigned to cover the schools in my new job at The Daily Record.
I clearly saw how much Mr. Honeycutt loved children and how he wanted to help anyone willing to work with him. That included the media trying to let the public know what was going on in our school system. He was never less than gracious.
I never sat in an agriculture class under Mr. Honeycutt or played on his softball team, but I clearly saw that this professional educator made a difference.
Mr. Honeycutt tragically died last week and it was a blow to the entire community. Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats said it better than I can. His words, not mine, “Harnett County was a better place with Dan Honeycutt in it.”
The same could be said of other teachers in my life. I remember the sweet and firm fifth-grade education under Tense Eldridge. There was also eighth grade under Opal Colville and Worth Utley.
In high school, Veronica Surles was without a doubt the hardest teacher I had, and maybe the best. She somehow pounded algebra into my hard head for two years.
Jim Currin shaped my career choice. He is the reason I obtained a teaching certificate in social studies. He stirred interest in government and politics that is still with me today.
Pete Hernandez began making me somewhat bilingual during two years of Spanish. I could name many others.
The point of my pondering is that despite what is said at times, Harnett County has done a good job educating citizens. I like to think I turned out OK.
Mr. Honeycutt’s passing has reminded me how important teachers were in my life. He and the other teachers mentioned above are just examples of educators who cared. There are thousands more like them around the state and I hope the voices of their latest protests are heard in Raleigh.
Tom Woerner is a reporter with The Daily Record. Reach him at 910-230-2038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.