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Local teachers honored with Charles Craft Impact Award

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Triton Central High School band director Joey Shepherd, second from right, received the award last week. From left are Leadership Shelby County representatives Madison Ritchison, Matthew Sexton and Buffy Powers, Charles Craft, Shepherd and Emma Miano.
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Kaylene Box, left, hugs Buffy Powers while being presented the award on Monday.
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ABOVE: Jim Helsley was the Morristown Jr/Sr. High School recipient of the Charles Craft Impact Award. From left are Principal Ken Howell, Buffy Powers of Leadership Shelby County, Helsley, and Leadership Shelby Couty representatives Tyler Cole, Martin Roberts, Madison Ritchison and Emma Miano. RIGHT: Stephanie Emminger, right, reacts while finding out about winning the Charles Craft Impact Award from Buffy Powers, left. Emminger was Southwestern’s first recipient of the award, which is named after former Shelbyville teacher Charles Craft.
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Stephanie Emminger, right, reacts while finding out about winning the Charles Craft Impact Award from Buffy Powers, left. Emminger was Southwestern’s first recipient of the award, which is named after former Shelbyville teacher Charles Craft.
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Waldron teacher Kelsey Holley learns she is the recipient of the Charles Craft Impact Award on Tuesday.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Jim Helsley wasn’t quite sure why Morristown Jr/Sr. High School Principal Ken Howell called all of his students out of class on Monday, two days before Spring Break.

“He’s always quite the prankster,” Helsley said with a laugh after learning the reason. “I wasn’t sure what possibly was going to happen. They were going to move me to the other end of the building, I was going to have to teach third grade, you never know.”

This was no prank, and it was no joke.

After his students filed out and lined up in the hallway, Helsley came out out of the classroom to learn he was one of five Shelby County teachers to receive the first Charles Craft Impact Award. The award is named after the longtime Shelby County teacher who taught at Loper Elementary and Addison Elementary.

A group of nine members of Leadership Shelby County created the award to honor a teacher from each school district in the county this year, hoping to recognize their service to the community.

The other teachers who received the award were Kaylene Box of Shelbyville High School, Stephanie Emminger of Southwestern Jr/Sr. High School, Kelsey Holley of Waldron Jr/Sr. High School and Joey Shepherd of Triton Central High School.

Howell, a member of the team, suggested giving an award to teachers during the conversation and the idea resonated with the rest of the group.

Buffy Powers was one of Craft’s students and his lessons have inspired her since her days in school. One of those lessons was to always do your best, she said.

“It is important for us to do our best,” she said Monday while waiting to deliver the award to Box. “Throughout the years, as long as I did my best, I know that I tried hard. I wasn’t the best at basketball, I wasn’t the best at math, I wasn’t the best at a lot of things. But doing my best was important and he always made me feel like my best was good enough. Sometimes I think kids just need to hear that, even today. So through the years, I’ve just really focused on that. If I did my best, then I did everything I needed to do.”

Leadership Shelby County received help from Ryobi and Indiana Grand Casino in making the award possible.

Ryobi donated $1,000, meaning all five teachers received $200 apiece. The casino also donated dinner for two at Center Cut Steakhouse for each recipient, who also received a plaque.

Students submitted nominations and the nine-member team selected the five winners. The packet also included the nominations submitted, allowing the teachers to see what their students wrote about them.

The recipients were shocked and thankful to receive the award.

“I’m humbled that my students took the time and invested in me by letting somebody else know that I made a difference in their life,” Emminger said. “I think that that’s the most important thing for me, knowing that I was able to, allow them to know that somebody was there, somebody cared, somebody was in their corner. To get that feedback just fills my cup.”

Prior to the presentation at the high school, Box was teaching at the middle school. She didn’t think she had done anything wrong when she was called to the high school, but she wasn’t expecting to receive an award.

“When I realized it was for me, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t deserve this,’” she said. “We are so blessed here at Shelbyville that there are so many amazing teachers, I’m so surprised I get to rank with some of the best people.”

Emminger admitted that when she walked back into her classroom with the Leadership Shelby County representatives waiting, she initially thought her class was being given an award and not her specifically.

Powers said the team was looking at the needs in the community while brainstorming ideas.

“There was a continuous conversation about children hurt or students being hurt, so trying to grow Shelby County and ways to keep people invested in their community, that’s another reason we felt this was a good opportunity for that to happen,” she said. “So many times, maybe people move away. We hope that creates the value of what this community offers through education.”

The gesture was certainly appreciated by the recipients.

Last year, Emminger won a grant that she used to buy one of her students a pair of shoes for graduation. The student didn’t have tennis shoes during the course of the year.

She imagines saving the money for something along those lines, whether it be for graduation or Prom.

“I like to put my money back into students,” she said. “It’ll be that rainy day when I have a kid that needs something. I mean, it’s from the kids, in my heart, it’ll go back to the kids.”

Helsley said the most meaningful aspect was that his students were thoughtful to think of someone else in submitting nominations.

“For them to take time to think of me in that way, really just goes to show how special our kids are,” he said.

Like Emminger, Box and Helsley also plan to re-invest back into their students.

Box thought the money will go toward the garden her students have been working on as well as the green lights in the room. Helsley wasn’t immediately sure how he would spend the award but said the students would be the beneficiaries.

“We don’t teach for awards or paychecks or stuff like that,” he said. “To have somebody take the time, multiple kids take the time to say something positive about me like that, those are things that help you to do it another 10-20 years.”