Earlier this month, physical education teacher Rich Fendley was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year at Heard County High School. Fendley was elected by a vote of the faculty, who chose a teacher who best represents the positive qualities of an outstanding educator. “Coach Fendley’s infectious, positive attitude has helped transform the culture of Heard County High School,” claimed Principal Rodney Kay. “Our kids are excited about working hard, whether they are student athletes or not it does not matter to Fendley. He has extremely high expectations for his students and he works tirelessly to help meet those expectations. Our entire school is a better place because of what goes on in his weight room.”
Fendley is in his sixth year teaching at Heard County High School. He has taught at seven different schools and states that Heard County High School is his favorite. “Heard County High School is my favorite place to teach because it is like family,” stated Fendley. “Everyone is close with one another, and you can build lasting relationships because it is so small.”
Fendley resides in Carrollton, Georgia with his son, Cole, and his two boxers, Maxi and Rocco. He has been a resident of Carrollton since 2000. In his free time, Fendley enjoys spending time with his son, collecting turtles, eating healthy, and lifting weights. Fendley is a graduate of the University of West Georgia, where he played as an offensive tackle on their football team. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a minor in Social Studies. Fendley also has his certification to teach Advanced Placement World History.
Fendley grew up surrounded by educators. His dad was a science and physical education teacher, and his mom was a secretary of an elementary school. Now, his sister, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law are all educators. His passion for physical fitness was inspired by his father who played a role of both a dad and coach and always pushed him to do his best.
Fendley is the first member of his family to receive a Teacher of the Year award. He believes that he was chosen because he has improved the environment of the weight room. This positive atmosphere has led to more students wanting to work out because they are challenged by Fendley to reach goals that they have set. This positive influence has also led to back to back state championships in weightlifting.
Heard County High School is located in a rural area of west Georgia. It is the only high school in a community of roughly 12,000 people, and educates approximately 600 students in grades 9-12. One of the challenges presented by the Heard County community is the recent economic downturn. For the 2012-2013 school year, 60% of Heard County High School students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The average household income is $42,685, which is less than the national and state average. 20% of Heard County residents live at or below the poverty line.
Some of the unique challenges associated with the community served by Heard County High School include recent budget cuts and financial challenges. While every effort is made to maintain a low teacher-student ration, average class size has risen from 19 students to 26 students over the past five years. Additional challenges stem from the 10.7% unemployment rate in the Heard County community, as students are presented with limited employment options as they graduate and seek local employment.Consequently, the school has faced decreased funding from the local tax base.
Despite the current financial challenges, construction of the beautiful and modern new Heard County School was completed with SPLOST funding. Students, faculty, and staff have enjoyed the new building since the 2009-2010 school year. Perhaps due to the small size of the community,the people of Heard County are a solid and cohesive support system for all students. Community members frequent sporting events, participate in fundraising activities of all extra-curricular groups, and consistently express interest in and support of the academic achievement of students.
The students at Heard County High School have mastered the Georgia Performance Standards as evidenced by their scores on the state required End-of-Course Tests. American Literature and Ninth Grade Literature EOCT passing rates are routinely above ninety percent, while exceed rates are consistently above state average. The English department has also witnessed an increase in passing rates on the Georgia High School Writing Test,culminating in a 100 percent passing rate in 2010. Since 2010, Heard County High School has remained at or near the top in the West Georgia area for passing rates on the GHSWT.
Heard County High School received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Economics from the State Superintendent in 2008 and 2009, the only two years the awards were given. The students at Heard County High School have consistently scored at the top or in the top few schools in the state of Georgia in terms of both passing and exceed rates on the Economics EOCT. Success in United States History has been equally successful, as more than 90 percent of students passed during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. Additionally, students regularly exceed national averages on the AP United States History exam. Heard County High School will also add to its growing number of advanced placement courses in 2013-2014 when AP Microeconomics will be introduced. The social studies department will also phase in AP Macroeconomics in the near future.
The math and science departments have also realized increases in student achievement. The science department attained an average 97% rate on the GHSGT before it began to be phased out and has achieved a steady improvement in EOCT pass and exceed rates for both Biology and Physical Science. Additionally, Heard County High School was awarded the Distinguished Improvement Award in Biology from the State Superintendent in 2009. The math department has achieved an average 95% pass rate on the GHSGT, while transitioning through three curriculums (QCC, GPS, and CCPGS).
For the past three years, Heard County High School Spanish students have taken the top prize in the West Metro Foreign Language Competition. The Spanish Advanced Placement program had five students pass the AP exam last years; three students scored a 5, and two students scored a 4. The Spanish department is also proud to have had a student successfully meet all the stringent application procedures for the Governor's Honors Program. Two students have participated, with one being chosen to the State Student Council that serves to advise the Governor on student issues.
The Certified Nurse Assistant program is a dual-enrollment partnership program with West Georgia Technical College that has led to CNA certification for 43 students since the 2007-2008 school year. Many of these students are now employed as CNAs, or have been accepted to nursing programs where they will continue their studies and complete a nursing degree program. Seventeen students have completed the health occupations pathway and passed the end of pathway examination.