Unlike others who are invited, Lakeside English Teacher and Debate Coach Charles Heywood has to earn his way to the Harlem Woman's Club's Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program.
But he has become a regular fixture, as expected as the cheese straws they serve.
Heywood, 60, has been Evans and Lakeside High School STAR Teacher 11 times; Columbia County STAR Teacher seven times; District STAR Teacher five times and State Star Teacher runner-up in 1994.
"I go to the banquet every year and I noticed this year when I pulled up that I was beginning to see some common faces," said School Superintendent Tommy Price. "We know we are there to recognize students who have outstanding success on their SAT, and there are a number of Harlem Woman's Club members I see regularly. But there's one individual who's always there - Charles Heywood. I began to think there is something outstanding here that should be recognized."
At the Board of Education meeting March 12, the board honored Heywood with a resolution recognizing his 21 years as a teacher in the Columbia County School system and his dedication to the job.
"Mr. Heywood is a scholar," said Joe Impink, associate principal for curriculum at Lakeside. "He really turns the kids on to language and literature. It's something he loves and he is able to impart that to students. He is really unique."
His ability to connect with his students won him the title of Lakeside High School's Most Popular Teacher in an Augusta Chronicle poll in December, 2001.
This year Kenneth Kay will compete for the title of STAR Student and Heywood as his STAR Teacher at the state competition April 29 at the Sheraton Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta. Kenneth's sister Kendra also picked Heywood to be her STAR teacher in 1992.
"I think what makes him so endearing is his enthusiasm of the subject which I think comes from his desire to know," said Kenneth. "He is still reading literature, still analyzing poetry. That's what makes it so exciting."
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) Program recognizes Georgia's outstanding students and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development. STAR Students are chosen based on their SAT score and class standing. Each STAR Student is then asked to name his STAR Teacher.
Being selected as a STAR Teacher is an honor, Heywood said.
"It's the reason I came into teaching, to influence the lives of young people," he said. "That is the ultimate acknowledgement that I've had success doing that. When I look back on my high school and college experiences, I can say there are teachers who charted the course for my life and I look back on them with fondness. They set a model for me on what it means to value the life of the mind. It's out of that commitment, that any success that I have had has come."
Heywood has also achieved renown as a debate coach. Last year his debate team qualified for the National Tournament of Champions held annually in May at the University of Kentucky. Teams qualify by reaching a certain level in other national debate tournaments. Only about 40 teams a year qualify. That was the third team in his coaching career that qualified for the Tournament of Champions.
Surprisingly, teaching wasn't Heywood's first career pick. He's sold real estate, been assistant national merchandise manager in the boys wear division of Levi Straus and Co., owned a distributorship for a cosmetic device and twice managed a bookstore. He began his teaching career in 1981 at age 38 when he was hired at Evans High School.
The first year, he taught biology and science, but by his second year he was on track teaching English. He moved to Lakeside High when it opened in 1988, and is now one of 19 original teachers left at the school. He has been a debate coach since 1982.
Heywood's mother was a public school teacher and his father was a physician. Both of them were fervent readers and always encouraged him to read, he said. After going to work with his father and watching a surgery, he decided that he liked book better.
"The lights, the heat, the ether and the blood ended my medical career immediately. I decided reading wasn't so bad after all. I went home and I've been reading ever since," Heywood said.
Heywood said he hasn't watched a network television show in 25 years, instead preferring to read in his spare time. And what he reads sometimes ends up being taught in his classroom.
"Every teacher is herself or himself a very good learner," Heywood said.
Chuck Heywood Age: 60
Family: Married to Mary, and they have two children, Jessica, 29, and Sam, 26. Both are attorneys.
Education: 1964 graduate of Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.
Teaching Experience: Started teaching at Evans High in 1981, moved to Lakeside when it opened in 1988.
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