Bus driver/custodian, teacher/coach and community volunteer feted by Pike Co. board for making schools before for students and the community

Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville, Oct. 22, 2016

Pike County BOE gives Above and Beyond Awards
BY CHASE ELLIS

Four people were honored with the monthly “Above and Beyond Awards” last week at the regularly scheduled October meeting of the Pike County Schools Board of Education.

Eddie Blackburn, the recently retired principal of Phelps Day Treatment who could not make the meeting last month, was honored as the September certified employee recipient.

The October recipients honored were bus driver/custodian Marty Wagner of Phelps, teacher/coach Michael Coleman of Millard and Steve “Bird” Collier as the community member honoree from the Pike Central area.

Phelps High Assistant Principal Huletha Smith spoke to introduce Eddie Blackburn, describing him, as those who attended retirement party described him, as “a friend …
more than a boss … a sounding board and like a daddy.”

Smith was Blackburn’s colleague for 16 years at Phelps Day Treatment.

“He was, and is, more than a principal to Phelps Day Treatment,” said Smith.

Smith described Blackburn with three words; Integrity, trust-worthy and seasoned.

“Mr. Blackburn has the wisdom of trial-and-error, mistakes and ‘been there, done that’ which made him ideal for his job,” said Smith. Blackburn was more than just a principal to the students, Smith said, adding he was apositive male role model and “like a parent to many” to guide and direct them.

“There was never a time that I called Mr. Blackburn that he didn’t help me,” said Pike County Schools Superintendent Reed Adkins. “That is so important. Over the years, we became more than colleagues, we became friends and I certainly appreciate him.”

Phelps bus driver and custodian Marty Wagner was honored by Phelps High School Principal Mike Hamilton.

For 16 years, Wagner has served Phelps driving buses, as the custodian, on the chaingang for football, keeping statistics for sports and anything the school needs volunteer-wise, Wagner is there to do it, said Hamilton.

“If a kid needs a coat, a heater, they need something to eat, Marty makes sure they have it,” said Hamilton. “I am very proud to be here to award this to Marty.”

Adkins shared a story about Wagner at the county baseball tournament at Johns Creek last year. The concession stand ran out of hot cocoa and someone mentioned it.

“A few minutes later, I saw Marty go by with a bag in his hand and I said, ‘What have you got there, Marty?’” said Adkins. “He had ran to the store, got it and brought it back. That is what Marty does, whatever you need him to do.”

Wagner said he has the best job in the world and he tries to tell the students every day that these are the best years of their lives and to enjoy them.

Millard Assistant Principal Misty Riddle introduced math teacher/basketball coach/softball coach Michael Coleman, who was joined by an entire host of his players and students.

“When I went to tell Mikey about the award after we got the call that he was getting it, he said ‘I don’t want it … I do my job,’” said Riddle. “That right there told us that he is definitely above and beyond.”

Coleman attended and graduated from Millard High School in 2002 and Pikeville College in 2007 before returning to Millard in 2008.

According to Riddle, Coleman has been a math teacher, an enrichment teacher and a basketball coach for nine years.

“When we didn’t have a softball coach, he said, ‘If you need me, I’ll do it,’” said Riddle. “Those girls loved him all along the way.”

The most important thing Coleman does, according to Riddle, is to build a relationship with all of his students.

“He is a father figure and a role model … that is one of the most important things we can do for our kids,” said Riddle. “He makes the effort to know each one of their lives, not just the ball team, but each of the students in his class and as they move on.”

East Ridge-area Board Member Dewayne Abshire got to know Coleman through coaching.

“I am thankful for that because, every person I went to in your area, when I mentioned Mikey Coleman, they said, ‘a class act,’” said Abshire. “Every one of those kids he considered his own and treated them like his own kids. I am honored to help give this award to a man well deserving.”

Pike Central community member Steve “Bird” Collier was honored as the October community member.

“Mr. Collier is one of those people that you’re not sure all that they have done, you just always know they are there helping,”said Pike Central Principal Steven Taylor. “The reason you don’t know is because they don’t do what they do for recognition. They do it for the kids of that school, that community.”

Collier was a 1979 graduate of Johns Creek and started coaching in 1980 under nowPike Central Athletic Director Eugene Lyons. Collier has helped with boys basketball, girls basketball and football and has been on every football coaching staff since Pike Central opened in 1994.

Collier told Taylor his proudest moment was the 2007 Pike Central girls basketball program’s performance in reaching the semifinals of the state basketball tournament.

Collier’s son, Steven Kyle Collier, graduated from Pike Central and Pikeville College and now is employed as an executive producer of WYMT.

“If you go to Pike Central, you can count on seeing ‘Bird’ at the school. That’s just the way it is,” said Adkins. “He is a great, great community member for Pike Central and we appreciate him so much.”