Submitted by TCCC
When one is born in 1935 in the Atoah Community of Graham County to full-blooded Cherokee parents; and when one’s native tongue is the language of his honorable ancestors; and when one is 15, yet stalled in third grade at the Snowbird Day School, then it is easy to understand why that “one” believes it is a long, but important journey to travel to the North Carolina capital city of Raleigh.
Such was the journey taken this year by Daniel Rattler.
The 74-year-old Rattler began 2009 by receiving his GED, a High School equivalency diploma, from Tri-County Community College (TCCC) after seven years of study, and he recently concluded the year in Raleigh on the podium accepting a medallion as one of three statewide finalists for the Angela Moore Trogdon Adult Basic Skills Student of the Year Award.
“I cannot think of a more deserving and dedicated student than Daniel Rattler,” said TCCC President Dr. Donna Tipton-Rogers. “He is the epitome of persistence and tenacity and has long been an example to us all with his work ethic and commitment to education.
“The Angela Moore Trogdon Student of the Year recognition for Daniel was most certainly appropriate and justified,” said Tipton-Rogers.
“The award honors students for their exceptional accomplishments in improvement of literacy.”
As he was raising his family, Rattler worked primarily in the construction trade. He said he tried to work in other fields, but as a native Cherokee speaker, he always had difficulty reading and comprehending English, so he was unable to pass exams written in English.
After being widowed, Rattler was encouraged by a friend to enroll in TCCC GED classes.
“I started going to Tri-County Community College in Graham County in 2001,” said Rattler. “My friend, who was already in school, took me to Tri-County at Christmas time.
“The math has always been a struggle for me. I knew how to add and subtract, but anything beyond that was difficult,” he said. “I had failed the Army math test when I was drafted, and it was still a challenge, and English was also difficult since Cherokee is my native tongue.”
In order to obtain a GED diploma, Rattler had to take a battery of five tests in Language Arts/Writing, Social Studies, Science, Language Arts/Reading, and Mathematics, said Susann West, TCCC Director of Adult Basic Skills.
“Upon meeting Daniel, I was amazed at the strength of this quiet and silent Christian man,” said Sarah Tatham, one of his TCCC instructors.
“Daniel was a constant joy to have in class and he was always ready to learn.
“Daniel studied hard and what we did in class, he took home and studied,” she said. “He would bring it back the next day, and want to go over it again.”
Rattler said he did best in Social Studies, but Tatham added that writing was often an adventure for him, especially in the early days.
“Writing brought a whole new learning adventure but Daniel just kept writing,” she said. “He probably wrote 30 rough drafts, before ever writing a complete essay, yet never once did he quit. He would write, rewrite and then rewrite again if he thought that was what the teacher wanted.”
Rattler stayed determined.
“It was hard, everything was different from what I remembered, but the teachers at the college were great about helping me,” he said.
The award for which Rattler was a finalist was established in memory of Angela Moore Trogdon, former Basic Skills/HRD Director at Randolph Community College and Guilford Technical Community College who died of breast cancer. Ms. Moore Trogdon was a member of a community college Basic Skills staff for years and a vocal advocate and trainer for Basic Skills across the state.
Tatham said Rattler was a perfect candidate for the award.
“Daniel always stood out from all the other students because of his willingness to learn,” she said. “If he was going to be away, he would ask for his makeup work and you never had to remind him. He never shied away from doing the work and he never complained that the assignment was too long.
“Daniel has been a role model for all of our GED students,” Tatham said. “He has always encouraged them, and even tried to give them some worthy words of advice when they needed it. When Daniel completed his GED, several students cried. They were so proud of his accomplishment.”
While his journey from Atoah to Raleigh took more than 74 years, Rattler said he is not ready for a traveler’s rest.
“Daniel was not content with obtaining his GED,” said program director West. “He earned his diploma in December and immediately started taking college credit classes in January. He told me he plans to take one class every semester for as long as he is able.”