by Cindy McMahon
We all know that top-notch public education is about showing up and doing the hard work, day in and day out. That daily commitment leads to excellent results for our students but is often taken for granted. Now and then, however, our educators get recognized for this daily effort, and it’s a good opportunity for the larger community to stop and recognize how lucky we are in Buncombe County. In December, that moment came in the form of an award for Christy Cheek, Director of Career and Technical
Education (CTE) Programs.
On December 7, Cheek was recognized by the national Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) as one of only five regional finalists from across the United States for the prestigious Carl Perkins Community Service Award. This award recognizes individuals who have used CTE to make a significant impact on their community and have demonstrated leadership in programs and activities that promote student involvement in community service. Cheek has done so in spades.
In her 30 years with Buncombe County Schools, Cheek has created learning as well as employment opportunities for students by building partnerships among schools, employers, and the local community. She and her team coordinate Students@Work Week, a four-day event that exposes more than 800 middle school students to 45 local businesses. Cheek has also provided leadership for the “Virtual Job Shadowing” initiative, which partners with local businesses to film short videos that give students a glimpse into possible careers.
Innovation and Creativity
Superintendent Tony Baldwin pointed to Cheek’s most public labor of love, saying, “A significant criteria for achieving this prestigious national honor is demonstrated evidence relative to innovative programs.” He continue, “Our Nesbitt Discovery Academy is a prime example of innovation and creativity. Christy’s leadership and curriculum expertise were paramount to the successful development and subsequent launch of this STEM-themed high school.”
What’s the source of Cheek’s ongoing commitment to CTE and to Buncombe County Schools? “I see it as a cycle of career awareness and community service,” Cheek said. “Our students need to know what’s out there for them in the future, the business community needs to embrace them, and then the students in turn will stay and work in Buncombe County, giving back to this cycle and helping our community to keep thriving. This cycle keeps us alive as a community,” she added.
Food Lab Coming
And what is she most proud of in the Reynolds district? “I’m very excited that the food lab renovation is underway at Reynolds High School, and will be done by the end of the summer. And the CNA students! They do such good work.”
Cheek is particularly excited about the Playhouse Showdown, offered in partnership with the Asheville Homebuilders Association (AHBA). The theme this year is “Barns,” and while of course Cheek can’t play favorites among the five participating Buncombe high school teams, she raved about the Reynolds entry and its green and gold barn quilt square.
Now in its sixth year, the Playhouse Showdown has already raised over $16,400 for Buncombe CTE programs since the start of the Playhouse Showdown in 2013.
AHBA member companies generously donate all materials for the high schools to design and build playhouses to be raffled on location at the Build & Remodel Expo at the WNC Ag Center February 3rd and 4th. Each school will receive $2 from each raffle ticket sold to utilize within their local construction classrooms. Remaining proceeds will go directly to the schools in the form of scholarships for their local CTE programs. Check it out! You can buy tickets at buildandremodelasheville.com/playhouseshowdown.
Cindy McMahon is the Reynolds District Representative, Buncombe County School Board. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.