Literacy Association director honored

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — At the start of the Pickens County Literacy Association’s annual awards dinner Thursday, the association’s director was surprised with an award herself.

Rep. Davey Hiott and association member Kayce Shusterman surprised executive director Everette Curl with a special award, recognition from the state legislature.

“‘She’s the backbone of the organization,’” Hiott recalled Shusterman telling him. “‘She wants to make sure everybody’s happy. She wants to make sure everything’s going right, and I want to do something for her.’”[cointent_lockedcontent]

Hiott himself has known Curl “probably all my life, just about,” he said.

In 1978, Hiott’s family sold The Pickens Sentinel to a group of investors headed by Jerry Alexander.

“When our family sold the newspaper, I got sold with the newspaper, to make sure it ran well,” Hiott said. “I had to go over there one day a week to make sure the paper got out on the streets for a year. I got sold. My name was in the contract. You go every week, to the new Sentinel owners, make sure the paper got put out on the street, show them how to do it.”

“Miss Everette was working back then,” Hiott said. “I got to know her well. Every Wednesday when I’d go up there to do whatever I needed to do, Miss Everette was running the place. She was the office manager.

“I knew right then that she was a go-getter,” Hiott continued. “She had things under control over there.”

He remembered when Curl joined the literacy association after Ben Bagwell, editor of the Sentinel, asked her to.

“Ben’s passion was the literacy association,” Hiott recalled. “She’s been a fixture of this organization ever since.

“It’s people like her and all of you sitting in this room today that make Pickens County a great place to live and work,” he continued. “You give of your time, you give of your talents and help those people who need a little bit of a push to get where they need to go in life.”

Hiott’s wife is a teacher.

10-26 Page 3A.indd“She understands the importance of literacy, like all of you,” Hiott said. “What you’re doing is to help people read the simple things of life. Allowing them to read the newspaper, read their Bible, whatever it may be. You’re making a difference in many lives. You have for many years.”

Jason Evans/Courier    Representative Davey Hiott surprised Pickens County Literacy Association director Everette Curl with a special recognition from the state Thursday night.

Hiott presented Curl with the award.

“I thank you for what you’ve done,” Hiott said. “Miss Everette, you’ve made a difference in so many lives. There have been a lot of people riding along with you, but you’ve been the driver.”

The award recognizes Curl for “outstanding service to the Pickens community.”

The association also awarded its Carman Award to members John and Mary Lester.

Retired elementary school teacher Bill Shields was the dinner’s guest speaker.

“I think what the literacy association is doing is just amazing, because you’re really picking up the slack for the people who really got dropped off somewhere,” Shields said.

He didn’t start teaching until he was 47.

“Sometimes you’re dropped into something,” Shields said.

He said he taught for years “before I figured out that I didn’t know how to teach reading.”

“We have teachers who cannot teach all students, as much as we would like to,” Shields said.

His students ran the gamut from future Pickens High School valedictorians to what were termed “reluctant readers.”

“I was one of those myself,” Shields recalled. “I didn’t want to learn to read. Everybody has a story about how they learned to read. Some stories are happy, some are reluctant, like me. Some are nightmares.”

When he was 52, an assistant principal came to Shields’ classroom and asked him, “How come you’re using the textbook?”

He replied, “That’s what they gave us.”

“And she said ‘But they all can’t read that book,’” Shields remembered.

That remark, in part, spurred Shields to go back to school and get a masters degree in reading instruction. That changed the way he taught reading.

“You taught all different levels at the same time,” Shields said. “You had four or five books running at the same time in the classroom. I learned how to do it, and it worked for us.”

He recalled times in his own life when he felt he could have done more to help someone with their education.

“I’m not going to let another person walk away,” Shields said. “We can help them get their GED now. These people who don’t have a high school education, they can’t get a job, they’re restricted in their income. There are so many things they can’t do. We punish these people — and we punish them for a lifetime, which is a shame. What (the literacy association) is doing is really helpful.”

Shields encouraged association members, if they can, to thank those teachers who impacted their lives, especially those who taught them to read.

“When you look back at your story, how you came to read, you need to go back, if you can, and find the people who made it happen for you,” Shields said.