Friday, March 10, 2017

TOP STORY >> Retiring teacher roasted

Leader staff writer

Cabot High School chemistry and physics teacher Dwight Daugherty was honored Tuesday during the Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s Roast and Toast dinner at Cabot Junior High North cafeteria.

Daugherty, 62, is retiring at the end of the school year after a 23-year teaching career.

Nearly 600 people attended the 22nd annual Cabot Scholarship Foundation’s Roast and Toast fundraiser. This year, the foundation awarded $124,050 in scholarship money to 119 seniors. The students learned what scholarship they received during the banquet. Scholarships ranged from $500 to $1,500.

Daugherty was a salesman for 17 years until he entered college at Arkansas State University as a 37-year-old.

He graduated in three years from the University of Central Arkansas. He taught at the Mt. Vernon Enola School District for three years where he led the science department.

Administrator Robert Martin convinced him to come teach at Cabot in 1997.

Daugherty was involved with NASA and applied to be an astronaut. He earned finalist status in 2003 and was rejected for medical reasons. He was a guest at two shuttle launches and met most of the Apollo-era astronauts.

Kim Usery also teaches chemistry and physics at the high school.

“Over the past 20 years it has been quite an adventure working with such a talented teacher,” she said.

Usery spoke about the “S” building before the construc tion of the new high school building. They had desks and chairs that were connected with a bar. Over the years, wear and tear caused the bar to fall off. The desk would slant and students would have to slide into their desks.

“I was ending up with a lot of these desks. Mr. D. would come into my room and say Mrs. Usery, I don’t know what you are doing to these desks. Mine are fine. You’ve got to stop letting these kids sit on the desks,” she said.

Three years later after the new building was built, Daugherty confessed to Usery.

“Every day after school he would go into my room, take my good desk and replace it with his broken desk, until I had an entire class set of broken desks,” Usery said.

Daugherty likes practical jokes.

She said during parent-teacher conference nights she took her children home and rushed back to school. She never knew what would be hanging on her door when she got back before parents came to her room.

“One year he put a note on my door that said ‘Mrs. Usery cannot be at open house tonight due to the fact that her ankle monitor does not let her out past 6 p.m.’

“Another year he put a box outside my door that said ‘Mrs. Usery will draw names for a free $25 gift card to Colton’s. Please put your name in the box. Mrs. Usery will draw the names at the end of the night.’”

Usery said she saw parents writing and dropping cards and didn’t realize what was happening until halfway through the night.

“It has been a phenomenal 20 years teaching with him. I will be a lost soul next year. He is one of the most intelligent individuals I have ever met. The students who had him in class have benefited greatly,” Usery said.

Cheyenne Wilson is a 2009 Cabot High School graduate and is now an orthopedic physician’s assistant in Batesville.

During graduation she spoke for her class. Following the ceremony Daugherty approached her and immediately asked her to give a eulogy at his funeral.

“I didn’t know if it was a compliment or his many backhanded ways to say it was a boring, horrible speech. When he asked me to speak tonight I began to panic. I knew he was planning on retiring, but I wasn’t sure if he was planning to retire both from teaching and from this world,” Wilson said.

She said Daugherty was an “awesome dude” because he believes in showing respect to others with a witty phrase on a sticky note stealthily applied on an unsuspecting student’s back.

When Wilson was in high school the place to eat lunch was Daugherty’s classroom.

“He was there and cared to learn about what was happening in our lives. He would listen, laugh and cry with us when we needed it. He was everything we needed during the stressful years of high school,” Wilson said.

“He would stash spare food for students who forgot or could not afford a lunch.

“One year a student ripped a hole in the only pair of pants he owned and Mr. D. went out-of-his-way to supply him with proper clothes. Another year, a pair of sisters who were not going to have a Christmas was provided one by Mr. D.

“He has written hundreds of recommendation letters, eloquently and painstakingly personalized. He tutored students in high school and college without asking for a dime,” Wilson said.

She said every time she visited Daugherty he told her to believe in herself, don’t sell herself short and wished she could see herself through his eyes.

Retired teacher Jana Smith said Daugherty was her true soul mate in teaching.

“He always has an un-quenchable thirst for knowledge combined with a phenomenal vision. When he was a kindergartener moving from state to state with migrant worker parents, he lived in a chicken house with a dirt floor and no electricity in Michigan during winter.

“One might respond with how very sad,” Smith said.

But Dwight recalls how cool he thought it was because he could clean out the coops and have a cubby space for his clothes and belongings,” she said.

“As a third grader he got his parents to buy an encyclopedia set from a door-to-door salesman, affording one volume per month; so he could have a book to read at home. Each month he read each one as best he could from cover-to-cover.

“Perhaps we now know where the foundation of his knowledge began,” she said.

Life and finances would not provide an opportunity for Dwight to go to college until his late 30s. He decided to do something worthwhile and felt teaching was his calling.

“When Mr. D. arrived, one never knew what quotes, memos, charts or pictures might grace the walls of the halls, the teacher’s lounge or the bathroom,” Smith said.

She continued, “The copier was the bane of Dwight’s existence. It rarely worked properly. Signs to the repairmen were frequently left on the copier in hopes to motivate to get the job done.

“One morning we found the machine had been pushed outside with a sign—Copier For Sale,” she said.

To better prepare students for the rigors of college chemistry, advanced placement chemistry was added to the curriculum under the guidance of Daugherty.

“If Dwight conceives a worthwhile idea, he will develop and orchestrate a plan and seldom take no for an answer. He purposed an AP academy be set up to enhance college entrance for the AP students and get them more involved in the community,” she said.

He also had the idea to start up a program of teachers volunteering to contribute to scholarships.

Daugherty said he didn’t expect to make it at Cabot.

“When Dr. Thurman became principal at the high school, he approached me and said, ‘Do you have a résumé?’ I said yes. He said update it and give me a copy and walked off. That doesn’t make you want to invest in real estate in Cabot,” Daugherty said.

“After few years later, I had come back from a chemistry conference and grew my first beard. Dr. Thurman catches my daughter and says your Daddy looks like a tuna boat captain,” he said.

“The greatest thing about teaching is the kids at the tables here tonight. This career satisfies my soul like nothing else has,” Daugherty said.

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization that formed in 1992 by the Cabot Centennial Committee to encourage and recognize academic success in Cabot schools. The foundation held its first Roast and Toast fundraiser in 1996.