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Many alumni return as Union County Public Schools teachers

Cory Elvenstar, class of 2009, will begin his first year as a teacher on Monday, at his alma mater, Monroe High School. (Photo by Carolyn Steeves)

For many teachers and staff members at Union County Public Schools, the adage that you can never go home again is simply not true.

Monroe High School has 17 staff members who are alumni.
Cory Elvenstar, class of 2009, will begin his first year as a teacher on Monday, at his alma mater, Monroe High School.

He said the teachers there are a big part of why he decided to go into education. He sought out a job in Union County Public Schools and was a substitute teacher at other schools. However, he said, he felt Monroe was the best fit for him.

He said at first it was a little strange and there are still some teachers that he does not feel comfortable addressing by their first name. He said that he does not feel like the teachers think any less of him, though, and he feels they see him as a colleague and not their former student.

Elvenstar will teach English, primarily to freshmen and sophomores. He said he is overwhelmed, but definitely excited. He said he was excited to have his own classroom and the “freedom” that comes with that.

Elvenstar credited his confidence to the administration at the school, saying they were
the best. “(It is) incredible how much help I’ve gotten,” he said.

Kathryn Bention is another new, old face at the school. This is her first year teaching at Monroe High School. She will teach science to freshmen and sophomores. Bention graduated with the class of 2010.

She said she wanted to be close to home and one night she was volunteering at a
teacher appreciation event and heard about the position. “I jumped on it,” she said.
Bention said at first it was a weird, nostalgic feeling, but added that it has been a good and humbling experience.

“I am so ready,” she said, when asked about school starting Monday. She said she has
been ready for a long time.

“I’m surrounded by people I already know,” she said. “(It is) something special.”
Bention initially thought she would be a doctor. However, she started tutoring in college in Durham. She said there was one student who had been passed over by others and he needed to pass geometry to graduate. She said she worked with him and worked with him and he was able to graduate.

She said it gave her a “high” to see the people you have helped to accomplish more. She said there is always one teacher who impacts your life and you dream of being that teacher.

Bention said being able to come back to teach speaks volumes about the people Monroe produces; people who love where they are from and come back and give back. She said she can now tell students that she has been there and sat where her students sit.

“Coming back has been my greatest honor and joy,” she said.

Chevy Coffey (Hood), is returning for her 13th year. She graduated from Monroe High School with the class of 1997 and now teaches math to freshmen and sophomores.

She taught both Bention and Elvenstar and said it feels really good that they decided to come back. She said a lot of people decide to leave Monroe, so it feels good to see them come back.

Coffey said she had always admired and liked teachers from a young age. When she graduated from college she applied to teach in both Anson and Union counties, but she did not like Anson and came to Monroe.

“It felt like home,” she said. She said she knew the teachers, the community and everyone involved.

This year she is working in a new room with new technology and equipment. She said it will be exciting to teach with the new equipment.

Other Monroe High School alumni include administrator Johnny Sowell, teacher Rodney Wynn, teacher David Presson, teacher Tom Harris, teacher Stewart Spittle, teacher John Threatt, teacher Chris Turk, Tim Harrell in technology support, teacher assistant Janice Wilson, teacher assistant Freddy Smith, teacher assistant Phyllis Covington, custodian Calvin Jones, front office secretary Curley Rogers, security associate Haywood Duncan and school resource officer Dennis Nash.

There are 13 Piedmont High School graduates working at the school this year.
Science teacher Amanda Starnes, Class of 2004, starting teaching at Piedmont in 2010.

She said when she first graduated from college she entertained the idea of teaching at Piedmont, but there were no opportunities. When one emerged, she jumped at it.

Like others, she said she still calls most of her teachers by their proper name “and they get really irritated by that.”

“(The teachers) get to see their work being paid forward,” Starnes said. “I’m the kind of teacher I am because of a lot of them.”

She said it can be stressful sometimes because she still has that student mentality of not wanting to let her teachers down.

Starnes’ love of school led her into teaching.

“I enjoyed school so much, I had such a wonderful school experience,” she said. “I just always had positive experiences in school and it was a place for me to be successful...(It) seemed natural that I return to teaching as a career.”

She enjoys the diversity of students she gets to interact with as a teacher. She said that as a student, she spent most of her time with the same students through high school and today she teaches kids that she did not know existed as a student.

“I find that to be really awesome,” she said. She said she gets to see a life she did not live and understand an entirely different world. “Even more than that, I’m teaching a culture that I didn’t know existed.”

She said she is very excited and very ready for school to start.

“While summer is great, I enjoy the start of the school year, for sure,” she said.

Written by: Carolyn Steeves, The Enquirer Journal education reporter
Posted: Aug 27, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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