Stupid cancer has taken another life far too early. This time it stole Vickie Honeycutt from us and left a great, big hole in the fabric of our community.
Honeycutt was best known as an educator. As her friend and co-worker, Richard Miller told me Honeycutt was a teacher with a capital T. For more than 30 years she taught English at Mount Pleasant High School, making a lasting impression on thousands of students.
Beth Downs first met Honeycutt when she was just 3 years old - she was the mascot for the Hartsell High School cheerleaders and Honeycutt was a cheerleader. Downs was thrilled years later as a high school freshman to find herself in Honeycutt's classroom. She says that Honeycutt made every day exciting for her students, and that along with writing and literature she taught them life lessons which she's never forgotten.
Perhaps foremost among those lessons was a demand for her students to do their best. Downs says that Honeycutt was a disciplinarian in class, and though her class was fun she made it clear that her students were there to learn, not to play. Downs related how Honeycutt would look a student in the eye and ask, "Now is this your best work?"
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"You couldn't lie to her!" Downs told me. So, she'd decide that she could do better and upon resubmitting her work, Honeycutt would smile and say, "Now this is your best work."
Miller said that Honeycutt had such a sweet way about her, and so obviously cared about all her students, that he could imagine a failing student thanking her for the F and apologizing for disappointing her.
Another former student, Ben Dotger, said that Honeycutt always managed to perfectly balance the content of her courses with the needs of her students, and that she was really good at helping 15-year-olds realize the value of what they were learning. According to Miller, Honeycutt wasn't concerned only with imparting knowledge, but also wanted to make each student a better person.
Eventually, Vickie Honeycutt's influence expanded beyond Mount Pleasant High School when she moved to the school's county office. There her focus was on recruiting, helping and supporting teachers, especially new teachers, to succeed in the classroom. Dotger and Downs are just two current educators who were inspired by Honeycutt to pursue that career. After college and an internship working with Honeycutt and Richard Miller, Dotger now holds a doctorate and is training teachers at Syracuse University. Beth Downs had decided against a career in teaching and worked in another field until conversations with Honeycutt persuaded her to go back to school. Now she teaches exceptional children at Mount Pleasant High, and this year is working with a new teacher that Honeycutt interviewed and selected.
Living in a small, rural community like we do, lives become interconnected in so many ways. One of those connections for so many people was Vickie Honeycutt. As Ben Dotger pointed out, she taught everyone - people who are now doctors, farmers, construction workers, scientists, and teachers; especially teachers. Through the work she did to inspire, mentor and encourage future teachers, the impact of Honeycutt's own career is greater than anyone can ever know.
I talked with lots of people over the past few days about Honeycutt and I could have talked with hundreds more, but I know they would have all said the same thing. Miller said that she touched hearts. Downs adored her. Dotger called her "darn near perfect." Her loss does indeed leave a hole in many hearts and in our community. But the lives she touched will continue to touch others.
Two memorial scholarships are being established in Honeycutt's name. One will help beginning teachers and the other is for the cadet teaching program in Cabarrus County. If you'd like to honor the memory of this wonderful teacher, send donations to Mount Pleasant High School.