HAMILTON - Hamilton resident Elery Hammitte was recently named the Alabama Association for Public Continuing Education (ALAPCAE) Teacher of the Year at the ALAPCAE summer conference held in Birmingham.
Hammitte has been a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) instructor for the last 15 years at Bevill State Community College-Hamilton.
Bevill's Director of Education, Nancy McDonald, said, "The Adult Education student, more than any other, needs to know that they can trust us to help them to be successful and that we genuinely care and want to help them.
"With a true servant's heart, a calm demeanor and the personality of a true gentleman, Mr. Hammitte has created the ideal atmosphere for our students.
"I wish I could tally the number of GEDs that are a result of his influence. No matter where he is, Mr. Hammitte has always been willing to share the message of Adult Education. He's always created a caring and welcoming classroom reputation," she said.
Although Hammitte retired in June, he continues to serve Bevill as a substitute teacher.
McDonald noted, "It has been such a pleasure to work with Mr.
Hammitte during the past 15 years. I appreciate all that he has done to benefit our students and this program and I appreciate his friendship.
"He and his wife, Loretta, are very dear friends and I wish them all the best as they will have even more time to enjoy their children and grandchildren."
McDonald also noted that one of the reasons that Hammitte was popular with his students was that they always felt like they were in good hands.
"He knew what he was doing. He was very reassuring. They knew he could help them. He made sure they knew they could do this--get their GEDs. They gained great confidence from him," she said.
"We'll miss his contributions and the experience that he brought."
McDonald also explained more about the Teacher of the Year Award.
"The award was established to recognize the teachers among us who exemplify the ideal Adult Education instructor, to celebrate their commitment and to be a shinning example for others.
"I could not ask for a more conscientious member of our team.
Affectionately known in Hamilton as as the 'Adult Ed Man,' he has served his students, our program and the college well," she said.
Hammitte's family and history
"Our family is real proud of him," said Greg Hammitte of his father.
"We're proud of what he accomplished and the dedication that he put into it."
Besides Greg, Hammitte and his wife of 46 years, Loretta, are also father to Jennifer Scott and they have five grandchildren ranging in age from two to 14.
Hammitte grew up in Middlesboro, Ky., and graduated from high school there in 1955.
He attended college at Central Michigan University in Detroit, where he studied industrial management while working fulltime as a safety director at Chrysler Transport.
Hammitte became familiar with Hamilton after his two brothers, Ken and Jim, moved to the area and he and his family came to visit them.
"We fell in love with Hamilton and this area. When I had the opportunity in 1991 to retire early from Chrysler, we moved the family here," he said.
"When I retired, I said all I'm going to do is play golf. And I did.
After about six months of playing every day, I got tired of it.
"I had to find something to take up part of my day and someone suggested substitute teaching. After subbing at the high school for a year and a half, someone suggested the GED Adult Education classes at Bevill."
Asked what was the thing that stood out in his mind the most about his years with GED students, Hammitte said, "It was like an extra payday when I was able to help someone. I enjoyed watching the students fly through the program and go on to college.
"I can't tell you the number of nurses in this area who went through the program, but there are many. I've seen about 500 people come to the class, take the test and pass it. I've really enjoyed seeing what happens when they succeed."
Hammitte has advice for anyone thinking about returning to school for their GED.
"The Adult Education Classes are solely to help people succeed in life. Go down to Bevill, go to the Hamilton Career Center and tell someone you want to start GED classes and they'll take it from there.
"All of the GED classes are free," he noted. "Although, when you take the test, it's $50. But, if you study real hard and take a practice test and score over 500, the GED test is only $25."
Hammitte explained the discount as the state's way of rewarding students who are studying really hard.
He also said that he's had several anonymous donors pay for students to be tested when they were in a position to need financial assistance.
"Kids that had to drop out of school for any reason, senior adults who had to drop out in the fourth or fifth grades to work or take care of their families--they are all welcome," he said.
What is a GED?
According to Wikipedia, GED tests are a group of five subject tests, which when passed, certify that the taker has high school-level academic skills.
The subjects are language arts-writing, language arts-reading, social studies, science and mathematics.
To pass the GED tests and earn a GED credential, test takers must score higher than 60 percent of graduating high school seniors nationwide.
The test is always taken in person and is never available online.
Only individuals who have not earned a high school diploma may take GED tests.
Originally created to help veterans return to civilian life after World War II, GED tests are commonly given to those who have been home-schooled, left high school early, had an inability to pass required courses or mandatory achievement tests, had the need to work, had personal problems or who wanted to get into college early.
Since the program began, more than 15 million people have received GEDs, including one in every seven Americans with high school credentials, as well as one in every 20 college students.
Any adult who is at least 17 years of age and not presently enrolled in school may participate in the GED program.
A favorite memory
One of Hammitte's favorite memories is of a senior lady, in her 60s, who wanted to get a GED.
"It took her about a year of classes and the first time she took the test, her scores were sufficient enough to pass everything but math.
She came back and worked real hard and only had to take that part of the test again.
"When I found out the results, I went to tell her. I said, 'I have good new and bad news' and she said, 'Well, give me the bad news first.'
"I said, 'The bad news is that you're not going to be coming to class anymore.'
"She slammed the book closed and put it back on the shelf and told me, 'I've got places to go, people to see and things to do.'
"Teaching GED classes was probably the most enjoyable 15 years of my career. I enjoyed it and it wasn't easy to stop working," he concluded.
GED classes are held Monday - Wednesday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
For more information, interested persons may call the Hamilton Career Center at 921-5672, ext. 26.