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Johnson County Teacher publishes memoir about former colleague

JCMS teacher, Marsha Honeycutt Marcela, poses at her desk with a copy of Mr. Rigney, Rigney, and Me (…or is it “I”), Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in Mountain City, Tennessee. Photo by Veronica Burniston.

By Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

In late August, Marsha Honeycutt Marcela published her memoir, Mr. Rigney, Rigney, and Me (or is it “I”), with Laurel Hill Publishing of Patrick County, Virginia. Originally from Mount Airy, North Carolina, Marcela currently teaches Language Arts at the Johnson County Middle School (JCMS).

In 1984, after earning her bachelor’s degree in English, Marcela started teaching at the Patrick County High School in Stuart, Virginia, where she first met her colleague, Mr. Rigney. She taught in Patrick County for fourteen years before moving to the North Carolina school system. In 2012, she and her husband, Mike, moved to western North Carolina mountains, purchasing a home in Vilas. For the next six years, she taught in Watauga County before joining the JCMS faculty in 2018.

Mr. Rigney, Rigney, and Me (…or is it “I”) follows the interactions of Marcela and her family with the retired english teacher, Mr. Rigney, her late friend and mentor of thirty years. As an educator, Rigney dedicated his life, love, and generous heart to his students. When he saw a need, he sought to fill it. When he saw an opportunity, he sought to give it.

“‘Meet the children where they are and take them where you want them to go.’ I’ve always enjoyed that quote from him,” Marcela said, “because he truly meant it.”

Although educating students mattered greatly to him as a teacher, Rigney’s own “education did not come easily.” Dropping out of high school and earning his diploma through the Virginia High School Completion Exam in 1949, Rigney began teaching in one-room schoolhouses at the age of seventeen. Ironically, while earning his living as a teacher, he attended Radford College every summer for ten years to earn his teaching degree. He eventually became a teacher at Patrick County High School where he remained until his retirement in 1999.

Inspired by Rigney’s generous life, Marcela and Laurel Hill Publishing Company agreed to donate all proceeds from the book to the George D. Rigney Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is for Patrick County high schoolers, who are first-generation college students.

“[Mr. Rigney] would be happy to know that we were giving a scholarship,” Marcela said. “We’ve awarded two so far, and we’ve got enough money to do two more. I’m hoping with book sales we [can do even more].”

For more information about Mr. Rigney, Rigney, and Me (…or is it “I”), contact Marsha Marcela at [email protected] If interested in purchasing the book, it is available on Amazon. To donate the scholarship, please make checks payable to the George D. Rigney Memorial Scholarship Fund and drop them off with Marsha Marcela at JCMS.