WARE SHOALS — The district greeted its teachers in grand fashion Tuesday morning, with a welcome back celebration in the Ware Shoals High School auditorium recognizing district teachers and community luminaries.

Attendees also heard from speakers who were, by turns, inspiring and uplifting.

Mike Hudson told the crowd about his decision not to let a tragic accident in his young adulthood limit what he could accomplish in life.

A military brat who grew tired of the transient lifestyle, Hudson moved in with his grandmother so he could spend his senior year of high school in Ware Shoals. After a stint in the Marine Corps, he returned to serve as a police officer when, one day, he broke his neck diving into the pool at his mother’s house.

“Everything that you can do when walking you can do from a seated position,” Hudson, who now uses a wheelchair, said. “You just got to learn how to do it differently.”

Hudson founded Rediscovering Outdoor Activities & Recreation (R.O.A.R.), a nonprofit that makes the outdoors more accessible to people in wheelchairs. One person came to him after an injury unable to move any part of his body other than his shoulders and head; ROAR was able to help him find a way to go hunting and shoot again.

Superintendent Fay Sprouse said the talk was linked to one of the district’s themes going forward: resiliency.

The district’s graduation rate has steadily climbed in the past couple of years, from 74.1 in 2015 to 81.3 today, Sprouse said. But more work needs to be done.

“We can’t control what happens to students and children before they get to us,” Sprouse said. “But most of our kids have at least one — and some have multiple — risk factors. What can we do? We have to help them become resilient.”

She said the district would look into the vast body of research regarding resiliency and contemplate ways to help equip students to deal with the stress of living in poverty, for example.

Chief Academic Officer Daniel Crockett introduced the district’s teachers of the year, those for whom “teaching the standards is not as important as making sure students master them.”

The district also honored this year’sN teachers of the year:

– Janie Guess was the high school’s teacher of the year.

– Lee-Ann Livingston was the elementary/middle school’s teacher of the year.

– Carla Holley was the primary school’s teacher of the year.

The inaugural crop of Ware Shoals Hall of Famers was also announced during the celebration. It includes some who were instrumental in the establishment of the town and its schools, such as Benjamin Riegel, Marion Boyd Camak and Emma Maddox, as well as prominent figures in Ware Shoals sports, such as Bob Johnston, who coached the Lady Hornettes to five state championships.

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.