Haywood County Schools names December Excellence in Education winners
Three teachers were recently recognized and given Excellence in Education awards for the month of December — Noal Castater, career and technical education teacher at Waynesville Middle School; Casey Conard, PE teacher at Hazelwood Elementary; and Bronson Gross, health/PE teacher at Central Haywood High School.
The Excellence in Education program recognizes teachers from Haywood County Schools who exemplify a commitment to innovative teaching practices and show dedication to student success.
The program is sponsored by Jack Bishop of Edward Jones and the Haywood County Schools Foundation (HCSF).
"Our Edward Jones office is honored to be able to recognize Haywood County's outstanding teachers," said Bishop. "Mr. Castater, Coach Conard and Coach Gross are prime examples of the great teachers our school system employs."
Castater has been teaching for 16 years, and has spent the last seven years as Waynesville Middle School’s career and technical education (CTE) teacher.
“What I enjoy most about teaching CTE is the hands-on nature of working in a greenhouse and a woodworking shop. I enjoy teaching lifelong skills and working side by side with my students,” Castater said. “When I started at Waynesville Middle School, I had classes with only four students. Now, my classes are at my CTE cap of 25 with a waiting list.”
Castater admits that being a successful teacher requires self-sacrifice, and his duties generally do not end when the final school bell rings each afternoon. In order to teach the most up-to-date information, Castater himself must continually research new discoveries in agriculture, as well as teaching practices.
“As a teacher, I believe you have to try new things, learn from mistakes, make changes for the better, develop a positive rapport with students, and build relationships with your co-workers,” Castater said. “I create a safe haven for my students through empathy, kindness, humor, high expectations, but also being able to individually adapt to each student’s needs and abilities.”
Down the road in Hazelwood Elementary School’s gymnasium, kindergarten students work on building their basic locomotor skills and fifth graders play team-oriented games while building their muscular strength and endurance. Conard, who has been teaching PE for six years, says his teaching style encourages students to learn and explore without fear of failure.
“The thing I enjoy most about teaching PE is the opportunity to build relationships with the students and families in our community,” Conard said. “As a physical education teacher, I have a unique opportunity to see every student at Hazelwood each week and to take part in their education. It is exciting to see each of them grow as individuals.”
Conard hopes his students learn the importance of teamwork and how positive social interaction looks and feels. At the end of the year, students leave his class with a basic knowledge of physical, social, and emotional health.
While PE activities and games may change for high schoolers, Coach Gross is working to instill the same values of teamwork, self-worth, and lifelong fitness in his students at Central Haywood High School.
Gross began his teaching career at Central Haywood five years ago.
“In the beginning, I was really excited to teach PE because sports were my primary passion. When I started teaching health, I realized that I enjoyed educating students about health topics, which was much needed in our area,” Gross said. “I want my students to understand that health and PE are very important in their everyday lives.”
Gross’ gymnasium and classroom are structured environments that mimic life after high school.
“I always tell my students that teaching is just one part of my job,” Gross explained. “I’m also responsible for preparing them to work or go to college after high school. I want them to leave here ready to be successful citizens of Haywood County.”
“The teachers of Haywood County Schools always put their students first, and Mr. Castater, Coach Conard and Coach Gross are no exception,” said Jenny Wood Valliere, Haywood County Schools Foundation executive director. “The Excellence in Education program is a great way to publicly recognize them as outstanding teachers.”
Each month, up to three teachers from the 16 Haywood County Schools are recognized with an Excellence in Education award. Award winners are presented with a certificate and a $100 check sponsored by Bishop.