11/08/12 — Generations of learning

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Generations of learning

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 8, 2012 1:46 PM

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Charles B. Aycock is a school rich in family tradition. The Thomas/Davis family is an example of that tradition with three generations at the school. Front row, Jane Pittman Thomas, Class of 1965, has been treasurer of the school's Booster Club since 1984. Second row, siblings Rhonda Thomas Davis, Class of 1986, and Allen Thomas, Class of 2000, are both math teachers, and their father, Bruce Thomas, Class of 1962, the school's first graduating class, is currently a substitute teacher. On the back row are Rhonda's son, Kyle, vice president of his freshman class, and her husband, Charles Davis, head baseball coach, athletic director and physical education teacher at the school.

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Charles B. Aycock High School, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, also has an extensive family tree with branches that connect students and staff, past and present.

The roots at Charles B. Aycock High School run deep -- much like that of a family tree.

The school, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, is the county's largest high school and continues to grow.

And yet, it still maintains a family feel, says Dr. Earl Moore, principal, who easily rattles off a few statistics to illustrate his claim.

"On staff, there were 38 who graduated from here," he said. "I actually taught 11 of the 38. Of those, right now five of them have children here. Of the ones who graduated from here and the ones I taught, we have some (with) parents who were in the first graduating class.

"It's like a legacy. ... We have always had a family image here at the school."

Al Yelverton recalls coming to the school as a student the first year of integration, 1969-70, and was part of the class that determined the current mascot, the Golden Falcons.

He graduated in 1973 and returned four years later to apply for a job as a teacher.

It was the era of affirmative action, and Yelverton was told there was no opening for him but, if he could find a black DECA (distributive education) teacher, they could hire him.

"That wound up being Earl (Moore). I owe my job to him and he owes his job to me," Yelverton said with a laugh.

The U.S. history teacher retired in 2008 and is now a long-term substitute. He has seen a lot of changes over the years, he says, but CBA has remained a "well-rounded community-based school."

Today, his son, Jackson, is a junior at the school.

"It definitely makes you feel old," he chuckled. "Sometimes I look at the irony of it and at the same time, I look at the consistency of it."

Crystal Sasser Casey, Class of 1988, works in the exceptional children program. Her mom, Linda Gardner, was in the school's first graduating class, in 1962.

"There were actually two (Linda Gardner's) and the other one is now my mother-in-law," she said. Husband, Mark, was also Class of 1988, and his father, Ben Casey, had been a teacher at the school.

Crystal said she desperately wanted to return to the school as a teacher, but wound up being hired at Mount Olive Middle and then Fremont STARS Elementary School, where she worked for 12 years.

"I had always said if I ever get a chance to go to Aycock, I'm going," she said. That call came in 2005.

"I absolutely love my program," she said. "Dr. Moore supports everything that we want to do. All of my kids graduate, usually within three years, with a diploma."

Her son, Landon, is now a CBA freshman and she is hopeful Moore will still be there when her daughter, a sixth-grader, comes to the school.

Ben Casey was a big reason Steven Thorne, director of the school's Engineering Academy, went into education, he says. The Class of 1987 graduate went on to college, but got a job at a company in Wilson.

His former drafting and design teacher called him one day, offering him a teaching position but Thorne didn't have teaching credentials so the interview didn't produce a job.

"I was kind of discouraged," he said. "Teaching had always been in my mind and if I wanted to teach, this is where I wanted to teach."

He returned to school and after obtaining the necessary credentials, wound up getting hired at CBA.

His son, Andrew, is now a junior at the school.

Other family tree branches also intersect at CBA.

Siblings Rhonda Davis and Allen Thomas are math teachers at the school, while dad, Bruce Thomas, a member of the first graduating class, is a substitute teacher and mom, the former Jane Pittman, a member of the first four-year class, is treasurer of the school's Booster Club.

Mrs. Davis, a 1986 graduate, met her husband, Charles Davis, athletic director and baseball coach, when she started working at the school in 2002. Their daughter, Connor, just graduated from the school and son, Kyle, is a freshman.

Jill Suggs Howell, Class of 1995, is in her third year of teaching at the school where she met husband, Jarman, Class of 1996. The former Miss Aycock 1995 is a consumer science teacher who formerly worked at the Cooperative Extension office.

"On days off, I would always stop by, visit Dr. Moore and the school," she said. "It's like you're coming back home. Nothing has changed."

Jamel Jones graduated in 2000 with Allen Thomas. CBA, the special education teacher says, changed his life.

"I was very lively, so it's interesting to come back and face my past," he says. "These people are the same people who were able to pour things into me."

Jones, who was raised by his great-grandmother, didn't have the stable or conventional home that some of his counterparts did. So for him, school took on the role of family.

"For these people to care, I wanted to come back and give to the community and also to the teachers because I really do appreciate them," he said.

Becky Hare, math department chair, was valedictorian of the Class of 1986. Husband Jimmy was also valedictorian, Class of 1984, while her mother was in the first graduating class.

"My cooperating teacher tried very hard to talk me out of coming back here to my home school," she recalls. "But I wanted to come here so bad."

Like others at the school, she has had relatives who taught at the school and has been in the position of teaching family members.

"My daughter came here and I had the opportunity to teach her. She was in the 50th graduating class," she said. "I have taught quite a few who are here now.

"It's special event when they come back. They know that they love the school just as much as we do. They all want to see it thrive and grow and are willing to do what we can to make it."

Betty Jean Limbaugh, Class of 1983, is now a secretary at CBA.

"My son, Derek, graduated with Becky's daughter and daughter, Kristin, here now is a sophomore, and husband (Mike) is a graduate also," she said.

Amanda Pate Barnes, Class of 1985, graduated two years after husband, Ronnie, and their son, Anderson, graduated in 2010. Her parents, Nelson and Judy Pate, were also in the first graduating class.

"When I was in high school here -- I'm gonna start crying -- my role model was Mr. J.K. Thompson and Donald Edwards, both the teachers that came when the school opened up, two of the first business teachers," she said. "My senior year I was planning on a business degree at Wayne Community. Mr. Thomas said, 'You'd make a great business teacher.'"

While now at her alma mater, she has taught elsewhere but admits "there's nothing like this school. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Beyanka Elliott Lewis, Class of 1992, is an English teacher whose husband, Greg Lewis, graduated in 1986.

She recalls Moore "always had a way of bringing out the best in you," prompting her to run for class president her senior year. She has worked twice with her mentor, first at Brogden Middle School and then when she came to CBA in 2008.

"It's just surreal because so many people that are here -- Mrs. Hare was here, I think that was her second year -- to work with people I'm so used to calling Mr. or Mrs., now tell me, 'Call me by my first name,'" she said. "It's been a blessing. I enjoy coming to school. I enjoy the people that I work with.

"Just as Dorothy said in "The Wizard of Oz' -- There's no place like home."