Trio of Educators Join Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame

By Pete Zamplas

Shati Kuvda
Shati Kuvda

Hendersonville – Taking a sentimental journey amidst the COVID-19 quarantine, the Henderson County Education Foundation in a virtual ceremony online inducted into its Hall of Fame three longtime educators who served in much more normal times health-wise.

Hazel Griffin Ashburn, Martha Ann Hill, and Shanti Kudva are in the Class of 2020 — the 18th Hall of Fame class. The virtual Education Celebration inductions and recognition of 23 teachers of the year and principal of the year Dr. John Shepard of North Henderson High School were Thursday, May 14. This is amidst a quarantine-induced remote finish to the academic year.
Local 2020 graduates will drive up to receive diplomas at each of the four local high schools on Friday, June 5. Schools Supt. Bo Caldwell noted toward the end of Education Celebration that more than 13,400 students finished the school year earning from home, using a total of about 7,000 Google Chrome books.

The school system “weathered the 2020 COVID schools closure” well, HCEF Executive Director Summer Stipe said. The inductions’ other co-host, Assoc. Supt. Dr. John Bryant, said, “our world has been flipped upside down.” Bryant and Stipe often hammed it up, for comic relief to move the event along.

Surprise special guest Roy Williams, famed head basketball coach of UNC Tar Heels and a Black Mountain native, called teachers “my heroes.”
Entertainment includes student orchestra and chorus, and video from Flat Rock Playhouse’s Letterland Alive! musical about phonics. Mills River kindergarteners opened the ceremonial video.

Hazel Griffin Ashburn

The three new Hall of Famers each told about their careers, lasting memories and intrinsic rewards.

Hazel Griffin Ashburn has teaching in her bloodlines, going back to Napolean — her ancestor Napolean Griffin, one of the first teachers in Henderson County.

Ashburn taught 38 total years — at Dana Elementary starting in the Fifties, Flat Rock Junior High starting in 1973, then her final year (‘93-4) at Apple Valley Middle.

She was a reading specialist in those later years. Her motto was to “read by example.” She was teacher of the year at Dana in 1968. She was active coaching girls basketball, as Beta Club sponsor, and a dedicated planner of student extracurricular activities.

Since retiring in 1994, Ashburn has taught at Fruitland Baptist College. Thus, in all, she has taught for 64 years.

In her video speech, she praised her own teachers at Edneyville School, support of principal, and students for writing recent letters of endorsement for the Hall of Fame.

Her greatest reward was helping students “down on themselves” to “reach their potential.”

Martha Ann Hill

Martha Ann Hill worked exclusively in the Hillandale Elementary cafeteria for 30 years, from 1975-2005, and served an estimated two million meals in that time. Supt. Caldwell noted how crucial school nutrition workers are during the pandemic. He said they serve more than 6,000 meals daily, with 63 stops and “grab and go” meals at 13 sites.

Hill was called “Ruby Begonia.” Students enjoyed making banana pudding under her direction, she recalled. She is hailed as a busy and smiling worker, a healthy role model who showed caring for students.
She helped the poorer ones such as by giving them extra food at lunch, noted her daughter who interviewed her on video.

Shanti A. Kudva

Shanti A. Kudva called her teaching career a “marvelous and magical ride.” First, she was a scientist. She and her husband emigrated into the U.S. in 1967. She taught in Dana Elementary in 1985-2012 — lastly as a literacy specialist. Earlier she taught first, second, and third grades.

Kudva was teacher of the year for county schools in 1997, and three times for Dana. She earned teacher grants from HCEF. One from the local Rotary was for the Apple Dumpling Adventure literacy-character pilot project, teaching civic goodwill in second grade.

Kudva in her video recalled students enthusiastically wanting to “write a poem or a fable or a play.” She liked giving “an extra push, or a slightly different approach” to foster “transformation from struggling learner” to confident student. A “glorious” memory was of “smiles” abounding as her third-graders tutoring kindergarteners in reading, writing and fun puzzles. Those tutors became “leaders.”

“Learning is joyful,” Kudva said. ‘It’s all connected, in some way. And it’s going to serve them for a lifetime.”

Teachers of the Year:
Apple Valley Middle: Jessica Reid; Atkinson Elementary: Chasadi Arrowood; Bruce Drysdale Elem.: Tori Shaffer, Career Academy: Anthony Johnson, Clear Creek Elem.: Rachel Stanberry Mann, Dana Elem.: LaTonya Kennedy, Early College: Marriette van der Sluijs, Edneyville Elem.: Melissa Duncan, East Henderson High: Michael Jensen, Etowah Elem.: Teresa Rhodes, Fletcher Elem.: Catie Grieve, Flat Rock Middle: Kristy Ontko, Glenn Marlow Elem.: Bryan Vaughn, Hendersonville Elementary: Brigitte Warren, Hendersonville Middle: Gwen Babbitt, Hendersonville High: Amanda Trent, Hillandale Elem.: Julienne Jeffries, Mills River Elem.: Erin Stachura
North Henderson High: Fran Nelson, Rugby Middle: Tracey Parker, Sugarloaf Elem.: Bethany VanderSchaaf, Upward Elem.: Rebecca Blackwell, West Henderson High: Karen Dellinger.

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