By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Decades and decades of students at Cherokee High School have learned more about their culture, particularly as it relates to arts and crafts, through the tireless work of Alyne Stamper. Now, after 44 years with the school’s Cherokee art program, she is retiring at the end of July.
Stamper said she officially has 44 years with the school, but that number is actually a little higher as she started filling in while still a student. “We had a teacher get sick while I was in the 10th grade so we’d go down and cover her class for about half a day, and that’s sort of when I became interested in teaching. I enjoyed it, and it was something that I felt I was good at. I had a rapport with the kids, and it made you feel like you were really doing something very special.”
Stamper said the daily interaction with the students was the reason she stayed at the job so long. “The students are what kept me there. Even when I got ready to retire, some of them begged me to stay.”
While she is happy to be retiring, she did say it will be hard. “I’m still 100 percent, and I know when school starts, I’m going to miss it. The kids made my life so much richer. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for letting me have that job that I had because it was never like a job to me. It was something I loved to do.”
She said it was like having two families. “Some of them (students) needed more than instruction. They needed somebody to talk to or somebody to listen to them, and sometimes I was able to be that person.”
Being there for the students was something Stamper always held dear and took very seriously. “I would tell them that I loved them. I always told them I loved them, and I still do…some you get closer to because they let you. I made lots and lots of friends with the students and the parents.”
Stamper is very proud of the Cherokee art program she’s been able to help build at the school. “It’s an outstanding program. I don’t think there is anywhere in the United States that has a class like we do.”
The school is currently in its fifteenth year of partnering with the Cherokee Preservation Foundation on a basket weaving program. Stamper said before the grant monies, only a handful of students would be able to participate due to the lack of funding. “Now, we have a regular basket weaving class; not before school, not after school, but in school.”
She went on to say, “I don’t regret being there the 44 years I’ve been there. They were some of the happiest times of my life. I really, really enjoyed working there, but the students are what made it. They’re the ones that kept me there all those years.”
Stamper’s family is hosting a retirement dinner for her on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 6pm at the Oconaluftee Island Park. Everyone is invited with meat, drinks, bread, and cake being provided. If you plant to attend, it is asked that you bring one of the following covered dishes: bean bread, cabbage, potato salad, or fat back. If you plan on attending, call 736-6001 with you name and the number of people in your party. Registration is required.