By Shirley Shuman
Braxton County High graduate Coleton Keener recently received an honor which those familiar with his work declare he definitely deserves. Keener was named Marshall University’s Student Teacher of the Year. Considering that he entered college unsure what he wanted to study, he’s especially pleased with the award.
“When I entered Fairmont, I really had little idea what field I wanted to enter, so I spent two years in nursing. That field didn’t fit, so I was struggling again. This time, my wife Hannah suggested I take an education class to see if I might find it interesting. I did and began the road to becoming a teacher. I’m definitely happy that I made the change,” Keener explained.
His move to Marshall came because his wife enrolled there to earn her master’s degree. He continued his work in the education field, and when it was time for his student teaching, he completed it in two Wayne County Schools—Milton Middle School and Wayne High School. Keener found both his student-teaching experiences enjoyable and also educational.
At Milton Middle School, Keener taught eighth-grade social studies, which concentrates on West Virginia history, one of his favorite subjects. He also greatly appreciated his supervising teacher, Ashley Steele. “My mentor teacher, Mrs. Steele, was excellent,” he said. He found her students receptive to learning and credited Mrs. Steele for that.
Steele called Keener “a great man” and said she is “excited for him to start teaching.” She added, “He has the training and a great mind for education. He has such joy and enthusiasm for it, and he’s able to develop such a good relationship with the students. He’s exactly what we need in West Virginia.”
Keener went to Wayne High School for his second student-teaching assignment. There, Robert Thompson was his mentor, and Keener taught Contemporary American History and Financial Literacy. Thompson described Keener’s work. “I haven’t had a lot of student teachers, but he stands out. If I had walked into the classroom without knowing that he was a student teacher, I would never have known that he wasn’t a veteran teacher. He’s one with a gift for it,” Thompson noted.
The fact that Keener currently works at Wayne High School to fill a position in special education allowed Thompson to add something more to his comments. “My students were thrilled that he’s back at the school full time even though he won’t be in their classrooms,” he said.
Additional praise for Keener’s work came from Professor Amanda Preece, supervisor of student teachers at Marshall University. To begin, Preece noted that nominations come from three different sources, and all three of those sources nominated Coleman Keener. She said that this fact “showed the different aspects of his work and the exemplary things he did.” She added, “I had him in my class, Current Topics in Education, and found him to be very insightful and very ‘into it’ with kids in the classroom. He acted like a seasoned educator.”
Colton Keener credits many people for supporting him in his educational endeavors. “My parents—Mike and Melissa Keener, are really supportive,” he said, and “Professor Amanda Preese, the student teacher supervisor, definitely helped me.” He continued, “But no one supported me more than my wife. She guided me into the education field, and she has been with me the whole way.” In addition, Keener did not forget to name another supporter—his dog Zuko who provides “great comfort.” Once his wife finishes her studies at Marshall University, the two plan to return to his home county. “I love Braxton County and the people there, my parents and other family members are there, and my dream is to teach at Braxton County High School,” he commented. From the kudos he received from those who have observed his work, Braxton County High School will very likely welcome him with open arms.