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Retiring CES teacher remembered as one of the best

By KC Smith

Cooleemee Correspondent

What do you say to a person that is retiring after 29 years of teaching when every adjective has already been used to convey the differences this retiree has made?

I feel compelled to come up with something different to say so to make sure nothing has gone unsaid, but, when talking about a person that exudes admirable character naturally, we know for sure it will follow her wherever she goes while still making a difference in her new journey.

Congratulations Kerry Blackwelder on your much deserved retirement.

The amount of love, expertise, focus, tenacity and genuine attention you have extended to your students and their families during your long career at Cooleemee Elementary School has indeed left an impression that will last infinitely.

Kerry, your National Board Certification in reading, being a certified HillRAP mentor and multiple times received Cooleemee Elementary Teacher of the year is not surprising.

You will be greatly missed but never forgotten.

You’re a giver and not a receiver, but this is all about you, much love and appreciation is coming your way.

Just read some of the things her family, colleagues and families of students said.

“Everything she does is an effort to find new ways to teach and reach a child or help a family or co-worker,” said husband, Chad Blackwelder. “I guarantee you can’t find anyone more committed to their career. There will always be a piece of her heart at CES and with every student she has ever had in her class.”

It all started early, according to her mother, Gwen Booker, who said Kerry didn’t want a play house when she was 9, she wanted a school house in the backyard complete with desks and a blackboard. Two younger neighbor girls were her first “students”.

“From that poing on, teacher was her vocation and her love. She never looked back.”

Her mother remembers talking to Kerry about the pay situation for teachers, and she told her daughter there were two kinds of jobs. “One job you make bunches of money and hate every minute you put into that job. the other job you wake up happy an eager to get to work and your accomplishments are your rewards. We all know what you chose and why.”

“She cares about the staff at our school and our kids more than anyone,” said Rebecca O’Neal.

“I don’t know of anyone who has made a larger impact on my life as a teacher than you,” said Teresa Carter. “You are a guiding light in our building. Your compassion fo rstudents, colleagues and community is ever present throughout everything you do.”

“Her personality lights up the entire school,” said Amanda Emert.

“I wish we could bottle up just a fraction of your knowledge to keep for future students who will never get to come to see Mrs. Blackwelder,” said Amy Stokes. “You have poured more than your whole heart into the children at Cooleemee Elementary.”

“Her students know they are her kids and know she gives them the very best of herself each day,” said Christy Nichols.

“Kerry is an outstanding educator who pous her heart and sould into teaching each day. She is also a true mentor who has guided and inspired so many of us to be better teachers,” said Stephanie Steele.

Those accolades for her peers go on and on.

So does the list from parents of her students.

From the family of Colton O’Neal: “The love and courage you show our children is unreal. You definitely define the true meaning of what a teacher is. You have been a rock for Colton and an outlet to go to when he needed it most. You could put a smile on his face on the days he struggled the most and built his confidence up to succeed.”

From the family of Dallas Simms: “She not only helped him academically but she helped him build his confidence up. She was a teacher that he couldn’t wait to get to her class because no matter what kind of day he was having, good or bad, she always made him feel excited and good about himself.”

And from her daughter, McKenzie: “My mom is one of the most loved people I have ever met. My mom is what every child wants their teacher to be like, but I’m just so blessed and thankful beyond words that I get to call her not only my teacher forever, but also my mom and my best friend.”