Katie Ward admitted she won’t pass up an opportunity to talk about her team.
The Effingham County High School English teacher is also the coach for the ECHS competitive cheerleading squad, which was honored at Thursday night’s Effingham Board of Education meeting. The team finished fourth in the Class AAAAA state meet, held in November in Columbus.
“Unless you’ve been around or been involved in competitive cheerleading, you don’t recognize all the things that go into it, especially at this level,” Ward said. “These young ladies are not just involved in competitive cheerleading at ECHS. Scholastic and academic achievement is very, very important to me and it’s very, very important to them. I push them and they push themselves more than anything else to set very high academic standards.”
Many of her cheerleaders are in advanced placement or honors courses, and a majority of them also are honor roll students, Ward pointed out. Almost all of them also have jobs or are participating in other school extracurricular functions.
“Their commitment to our program and their academic commitment and their commitment to other responsibilities and obligations within their school and within their community, you can see they are very actively involved,” she said. “They are wonderful role models and spokespeople for ECHS and our community.”
Each year at Christmas, Ward gets the names of students in need. Her cheerleaders aren’t privy to their identities, but they provide the means for up to four families who otherwise may not be able to have a Christmas to enjoy the holiday.
“They understand, even at such a young age, the importance of civil servitude and of being good stewards in our community,” Ward said. “It makes me so proud as a teacher and a coach, anytime I get to dispel the negative stereotype and image.”