Categories
Teacher Tributes

Teacher Tribute: Vickie Bivens, Guidance Counselor

BCHS guidance counselor Vickie Bivens changed my life. She may even have saved my life. 

My family didn’t have much money. My father worked as a coal miner when he was not laid off, nor hurt in one accident or another. 

Further, my family did not exactly have a grand academic tradition. My father was not the world’s greatest student. He dropped out in junior high school to go to work. His family considered this a smart move. Who needs education, anyway? My mother graduated from high school and this was considered a big achievement. With the exception of one uncle who got a college diploma while in the Navy, I didn’t know anyone in my extended family who had even attended college, let alone graduated.

Because of this tradition and the lack of money, I thought college was something for other people, not people like me. I didn’t apply to any colleges. My only career plan was to enlist in the Army after graduating from high school. Further, I decided I would volunteer to serve in the infantry. This was not exactly the safest plan for a young man during the Vietnam war, but I felt like if my country was in a fight, I wanted to go where the need was greatest.

My patriotic sentiments were not unusual for that part of the country at that time. West Virginians died at a disproportionate rate in Vietnam. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, West Virginia citizens had a death rate of 8.41 per 10,000 residents for the war as a whole compared to the national rate of 5.89.

I never approached Ms. Bivens because I thought it would be a waste of time for somebody from my family. Late in the spring of our senior year she casually asked me which college I would attend, I told her about my career plan. Though it was late in the admissions season, she called people she knew at Concord College and arranged a financial aid package for me.

Vickie Bivens did right by me and many other BCHS students, and we are grateful to her.

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Directions for Teacher Tribute Section

This section consists of “Posts” and “Comments.” The Posts have titles, and the Comments appear underneath them. Only the Posts are visible from this page. To add a Comment, click on the name of the Post. The Post will open in a new separate page, with room to add Comments at the bottom.

To create a new Post (for example, for a teacher not listed below), contact us by visiting the Contact Us page.

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Fred Schrom–Other Views

Fred Schrom (right) accepting National Wrestling Hall of Fame induction plaque

National Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction comments.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph comments.

Register Herald Newspaper comments.

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Fred Schrom

Fred Schrom was my wrestling coach in my sophomore and junior years. It was big to me when Mr. Schrom used me to demonstrate a wrestling move at a school assembly. We had great athletes on that team like Louis Billips and Dave Dillon. Thanks to them, the team had a record of 10-1-1. I was not in their league and I knew it. When Mr. Schrom used me in the demo, it meant a lot to me. I was not as good as my star teammates–but I was good enough to be on the same team.

The confidence I gained through wrestling has helped me all the rest of my life, in everything I’ve done. I might lose, and lose bad, but I’ll compete against anyone.

My parents went through a divorce my senior year. I dropped off the team because I didn’t have the money to buy a pair of sneakers. Fred Schrom offered to buy me a pair of shoes, but I couldn’t take his money.

Fred Schrom was a hero to me and he made a big difference in my life.

Jerry Lawson

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Teacher Tributes

Use the block below to add your memories of your BCHS teachers. We already have tributes to Frieda Riley and Fred Schrom.

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Freida Riley Tribute-1970 Yearbook

Frieda Riley Picture

Excerpt from the 1970 Big Creek High School yearbook, written by Rosemary Carucci Goss:

Big Creek was deeply saddened by the death of Miss Freida Riley August 5, 1969. She had taught math, chemistry, and physics here for ten years. Her life should not be measured in terms of years, however; though brief, her life was one of accomplishment. She strived for and achieved excellence as a student, teacher, and person.

Miss Riley ranked first in the 1955 graduating class of Big Creek and first in the 1959 class of Concord College. She continued her studies in math at Ohio State University and West Virginia University. As a teacher, Miss Riley impressed and inspired her students with continued success.

Former students have much praise for her. “Miss Riley taught because she wanted her students to learn.” “She made people want to learn; she helped one understand the value of education.” “In all my years of education I have met very few teachers her equal in their devotion to their students.”

Her students and co-workers were also touched by the warmth of her personality. “She was a combination of intelligence, wit, compassion, empathy, and love, a rare combination.” One graduate might have expressed the feelings of all those who knew her, “I feel that my life has been greatly enriched by having her as a teacher and as a friend.”

Miss Riley did enrich the lives of many people. These people will long remember the influence of a devoted teacher and an inspiring individual. The greatest tribute that we can give is to emulate the principles by which she lived: a deep faith in God, the courage to face difficulties, a sincere concern for others, the unselfish quality to give of herself, a respect for knowledge, and the desire for excellence

Categories
Teacher Tributes

Frieda Riley

I first learned about the quest for excellence from my high school Geometry teacher, Miss Frieda Riley. On submitting a proof for her approval, her usual reaction would be: “It’s OK. Can you do better?” What she meant was make it simpler, more streamlined, more efficient.

If I applied enough effort and better insights came to me I would sometimes be rewarded by words like: “That’s good, Jerry. That’s what we are looking for.” Miss Riley prized efficiency, what mathematicians call “elegance.” She showed me what Emily Dickinson had in mind when she wrote: “Euclid alone looked on Beauty bare.”

Valedictorian of her high school and college classes. Frieda Riley could have been a star teacher at virtually any school in the country. She chose to return to her home in the southern West Virginia coal fields. She blessed the students of Big Creek High School with new insights, better ways of thinking and approaching problems.

Fried Riley died of Hodgkin’s Disease at age 31. Today she is honored in the National Museum of Education, but her most important legacy is the countless students she inspired–and equipped–to meet challenges.

Homer Hickam was one of these students. He escaped the coal fields to become a NASA engineer. Miss Riley played a prominent role in his memoir, “Rocket Boys.” It was later made into the 1999 movie named “October Sky.” Laura Dern played the Miss Riley role. Dern did a great job, but the real Miss Riley was oh so much better.

Jerry Lawson