The Value of Polk County’s Schools

Published 10:00pm Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To the editor:
Recently I was asked to make a statement to Polk County School teachers and administrators.
As an elected official, I know that teachers and administrators are going through some difficult and challenging times right now.
As a parent who has had a daughter and a granddaughter as students in Polk County Schools, and having had all of my education in public schools and a public university here in N.C., I know the value and quality of public education. Indeed, I believe that public education not only provides the foundation for young people to earn a living wage as adults, it also helps guide young people toward being good citizens who will be willing to give back to their communities. In other words, I believe that public education is critical to the continuation of democracy in our nation.
I’m sure all of us have had teachers who played a major role in helping guide us through life challenges and decisions. Mine was Mary Nesbitt, a fifth grade teacher at Haw Creek Elementary School near Asheville. At that time (the 1960s), she was a pioneer in helping students, like myself, who had difficulty reading. I was able to take her special summer school class prior to entering the fifth grade, had her as my fifth grade teacher and took an additional summer class with her before entering sixth grade. I overcame my reading difficulties because of her help and I can’t overstate how important that has been throughout my life.
After Mary Nesbitt retired from teaching, she went on to serve as an elected official in the N.C. House. Upon her death, her son Martin Nesbitt became an elected official serving in the State House and Senate for more than 30 years until his death last year. Mary and Martin both were strong advocates for public education, as am I.
I know that my fifth grade teacher was a direct inspiration for me to be an elected official. I’m very grateful to her and many other inspirational teachers in my past. And I’m very grateful to all the teachers and administrators in Polk County Schools for the inspiration you are providing your students – our students – today. We should all say this more often: Thank you very much.

— Ray Gasperson,
Green Creek

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