PEDESTAL CALHOUN TEACHER DON MCCARTNEY - 'Students Like To Be Challenged And Inspired'


Don McCartney, about 18, with his father
Sylvanus, who fathered 19 children

McCartney leaving home for first day of college at Glenville
State with prized possession under his arm, a radio

By Bob Weaver 2013

Well-known Calhoun educator Don McCartney of Russett, now 85, whose teaching career spanned 30-years, said "Students like to be challenged and inspired."

Most of McCartney's teaching life was within the walls of the old Calhoun County High School in Grantsville, mostly teaching English.

"If all students were curious, we'd have no problem educating," he said.

He believes his love of poetry, literature, music and his faith in God allowed him to reach many students, many who have come to him during his aging years to express their appreciation.

Group of students at Lower Run School about 1941 (left to right)
Harold Vannoy, Don McCartney (on bike), Clarence Vannoy, Gless
Yeager, Leona Yeager (rear), Virginia Yeager (school cook on bike)

McCartney siblings went out into the world (left to
right) Pell McCartney, teacher and IBM employee; Sull
McCartney, conservation officer; Don McCartney, teacher,
poet, literary enthusiast, musician and farmer

"Being a life-long farmer has kept me close to creation."

"I know that I became known as a disciplinarian, but I never thought of myself as being that tough," he said. McCartney said he always thought through his actions, "I made some mistakes, but when I did I tried to correct them."

"I learned a lot about kids during those years," he said, "and considered what kind of action would give them a better chance in life."

"The lack of fear of discipline has almost eliminated
discipline," in public schools, McCartney said

He recalled students, when asked to read from a book, he discovered they could not. "One student just refused to read aloud, and I continued to pressure him. He then came to me and admitted he couldn't read."

"I apologized to him and offered to meet him in the evenings to help him learn to read."

It was not uncommon for fledgling teen boys to challenge authority, sometimes in a tough manner. McCartney admitted he stood up to those challenges, and sometimes used a paddle.

McCartney started teaching the one-room Snake Root School
between Russett and Stumptown, with a dozen to 25 students

Snake Root School was one of over 100 one-room schools that
once stood in Calhoun, still standing along Steer Creek

"Much like a loving parent, I had guilt and remorse after the paddling, always questioning myself."

He said during his teaching years, most parents supported teachers and their efforts to discipline. "That has all changed now," he said. "Many of those guys have gone into life becoming some of the finest men I know," he said.

McCartney recalled how he got the nickname as the "human fly," an oft told story in the community.

He had a basement classroom, and the students in the classroom above got really rowdy in the absence of their teacher.

"It sounded like a bowling alley above me, and I couldn't teach," he said. McCartney climbed out his basement window, shinnied up the cut-stone wall of the school to the upstairs classroom.

The English Department at Calhoun High (1958)
left to right: Louise McDonald, Glendon McKee,
Don McCartney, Eugene Reynolds, Sue Murray

"It was a pretty good drop down. I peeked through the window and told them to quiet down. They didn't, so I pulled myself into the classroom."

One of the students asked, "Where did he come from? They knew I meant business then. After that they called me the human fly."

McCartney came from a family of 19 children, son of Sylvanus and Alice Goff McCartney, growing up in the backwoods of Lower Run in Gilmer County.

His family later operated a large general store on Rt. 7 between Russett and Stumptown, his father was a teamster and Little Kanawha River gasoline boat operator, and helped develop the Boogerhole oil and gas field.

Many of the McCartney's siblings went on to teaching and military careers.

"People were really connected on Lower Run. It was a real community of people, much like many rural communities in the last century."

McCartney (right) with Robert Umstead
during tour of duty in post WW II Japan

After graduating from Calhoun High in 1946, McCartney had a stint in the Army in war torn Japan after World War II. He praised the GI bill for allowing him to go to college.

"I went to college while teaching at the one-room Snake Root School on Russett Road, and in 1954 they asked me to teach at Calhoun County High School."

McCartney revels in the value of poetry and literature to enhance the lives of people, often quoting from memory long narrative poems.

"Some people look at the world and life and never see the beauty, mystery and creation."

"I hope that I have helped some of them to experience that," he concluded.

McCartney and wife Anne who live on a working farm along Steer Creek

Note: McCartney has now passed.