Avery places first runner-up for state Rick Perkins Award, historic milestone for BSC

Published 5:46 pm Friday, April 21, 2017

By Susanne Reynolds

Special to The Post-Searchlight

For the first time ever, Bainbridge State College not only had a regional finalist at the Technical College System of Georgia’s (TCSG) Rick Perkins Award competition, but also a state first runner-up.

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On Tuesday, April 11, Charles A. Avery of Colquitt, an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Instructor at BSC, was named a regional finalist for the 2017 Rick Perkins Award in Atlanta. After telling his story before a panel of state judges and being interviewed, Avery was named state first runner-up for the Rick Perkins Award. The first runner-up will assume the duties if the state winner is not able to fulfill the duties assigned.

Bainbridge State College is extremely proud of its technical college instructor of the year and felt well-represented at the state level.

Dr. Stuart Rayfield, Interim BSC President, said, “Charles Avery is the kind of instructor and person we should all aspire to be – he is knowledgeable in his discipline but it is his love for his students and the impact they will have on the rest of the world that drives his passion.  He is smart, compassionate, funny, and professional.  He truly loves what he does and it is an honor to be affiliated with him.”

Tatyana Pashnyak, BSC’s Rick Perkins Award Coordinator, has been coordinating the RPA at Bainbridge State for seven years. She said she was honored to see this “historical milestone for the institution.”

“It’s an incredible honor and privilege to coordinate the Rick Perkins Award program process at BSC and mentor our best instructors,” she said. “BSC never had even a regional winner so advancing to the first runner up level is an amazing historical milestone for our institution.”

Avery was nominated by his colleague, Charles White, Asst. Professor of Allied Health.

Charles Avery’s story is one of humble beginnings—filled with a childhood of poverty and family hardships.

Avery remembered going to school with the soles of his shoes superglued to keep them together and patches on his blue jeans. At the age of eleven, he began working on the farm.

It took him a month to save up enough money to buy a new pair of tennis shoes and blue jeans to wear to school.

“As I went into high school—around the age of 16—I did not care about myself, much less school—so I quit,” he recalled. “But in the few months after quitting school, I learned more about myself than ever before. I returned to high school and graduated on time—but I still wanted to make more of myself.”

After graduation, Avery joined the Army as a combat medic. He returned home in his early twenties with honorable discharge and ready to live the “American Dream.”

He said, “I applied for a job at the local ambulance service. I found out that all the training I received in the Army would not transfer to a job in the “real world,” so I took a job at a local cabinet shop making less than what minimum wage is now. Quickly, I realized if I didn’t do something my kids would have the same life I did. I looked into the eyes of my two small kids—and knew this could not happen.”

Avery took responsibility for where he was in life—and went to speak with the EMT instructor at Bainbridge State College. He was told there was a place for him in the EMT program. This gave the new EMT student a “mission and purpose in life.”

While working full time and being a full time dad, Avery went to class two nights a week. He said without the flexible class schedule, it would not have been possible for him to complete the program.

“Once I graduated EMT school I saw how many lives I was touching everyday—every call and every life was different,” said Avery. “I graduated from paramedic school—but still felt like I needed more.”

Avery began teaching an EMT Continuing Education course—but his teaching career was only about to start.

On Jan. 4, 2014, Avery’s phone rang and he was informed Bainbridge State College was in need of an EMT Instructor. Classes were scheduled to begin a few short days later. He accepted the challenge. He hit the ground running and began to develop an EMS Program.

Avery admitted, “For the first few weeks, my students and I wondered if we would be okay.”

On July 25, 2013, Avery pinned his first class. He considered it to be one of the proudest moments in his career. It was on that night he learned and experienced the rewards of teaching.

Now, four years later, Avery’s EMT graduates have helped thousands of lives.

“They’ve been a compassionate shoulder to cry on and they’ve been hopeful in hopeless situations,” said Avery. “I’m very proud to have had each of them as a student in my class.”

Charles Avery is passionate about what he does every day and wants others to understand the impact technical education makes in everyone’s lives.

“In our area poverty is between 20-30 percent,” stated Avery. “Technical education is bridging the gap between poverty and middle class families. We need the carpenters, electricians, welders, truck drivers, EMTs and nurses to fill these gaps and to serve where needed. What we are doing is allowing them to live a life of success and opportunity—much like the opportunity Bainbridge State College gave me.”

Also representing Bainbridge State College for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) was BSC Electrical Construction and Maintenance student, Douglas Tyler Kirksey of Bainbridge. He was nominated for GOAL by his Instructor of Electronics, Owen Elkins.

The Rick Perkins Award for Excellence in Technical Instruction honors technical education’s most outstanding instructors.

The award has been an ongoing statewide event since 1991 and is designed to recognize technical college instructors who make significant contributions to technical education through innovation and leadership in their fields. The recipient of this distinguished award is recognized as the Technical College System of Georgia’s Instructor of the Year.