“Kathryn Staton pulled me out of the darkness and placed into the sunlight many of the paths I could take” Deputy Clyde A. Chipps, Jr.
“I’ve been telling people for years, that if it wasn’t for her, I would be one of the people that I arrest rather than being the one making the arrest. Kathryn Staton changed my life for the better.”
A few months ago, Deputy Clyde Chipps from the Staunton City Sheriff’s Department included these sentences in a letter he had written to Dr. Jeremy J. Raley, Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools. Deputy Chipps was searching for a way to publically acknowledge the “tremendous impact” Kathryn Staton had on his life and the lives of “countless other students. “
Kathryn Staton, who is currently the technology teacher at Ashby-Lee Elementary School in Shenandoah County, was Deputy Chipps’ resource teacher at Ft. Defiance High School during his senior year in 2002. Dr. Raley and Steve Povish, the principal at Ashby-Lee, worked together to arrange for Deputy Chipps to honor his former teacher at ALE’s December faculty meeting. Mrs. Staton had not the slighest idea of these plans.
The faculty meeting began with announcements and Mr. Povlish’s reading a quotation that addressed the critical importance of positive student/teacher relationships. He mentioned that Kat Staton had sent an email to faculty about this very topic only the day before. Then, he paused a second before adding, “We have a very special guest with us today—his name is Deputy Clyde Chipps. “
When she heard his name, Kat Staton’s expression of surprise was quickly followed by her tears as Deputy Chipps stepped into the library from his out-of-sight location in the workroom.
|Clyde had been a student with "so much untapped potential," she said.
He has become "her brightest shining star."
Since he was a child, Clyde Chipps wanted to be a Marine. When he failed the ASVAB test, his dream was dashed, and his hope for a better life vanished. His high school career had been a series of infractions---he had skipped school, had been suspended for fighting many times, had used drugs, and had been caught smoking at school. He was not “the best student a teacher could hope for,” he wrote.
And, on top of these behavior issues, he had suffered physical abuse as a child and been diagnosed with a learning disability. He saw military service as “a way out” and since he had “completely failed” their exam, he believed he would fail in life. He was in a dark place. He told Ms. Staton that there was no reason to re-take the test because he wasn’t ever going to be anything but “trash.” He was not even “smart enough to go fight for his country.”
Kat Staton was not a Marine, but she was a fighter. She told Cylde that she was not going to give up on him. She contacted Clyde’s recruiting officer, who arranged for Clyde to re-take the ASVAB . She purchased a manual to help him study for the re-take, and she used class time to help him prepare. When his score on the re-take was three times higher than his first score, the military personal in Richmond thought that he had somehow cheated. Clyde had to take the ASVAB for the third time.
The score on his third attempt matched the score on his second. Clyde A. Chipps, Jr. had passed the ASVAB! Clyde wrote, “That is the point where she put me on the correct path, pulled me out of the darkness, and placed into the sunlight many of the paths I could take. “
|Within three days of his high school graduation in 2002, Clyde Chipps was on his way to Marine Corp Boot Camp on Parris Island, South Carolina. He soon became “one of the few, one of the proud”-- a United States Marine. He served as a radio operator during three tours of duty in Iraq and fought in the Battle of Nasiriyah, a major offensive effort as American troops crossed the Euphrates River to gain control of the city.
Kat Staton still has all of the letters and postcards Clyde sent to her during his military service.
|In 2007, Clyde Chipps returned to Augusta County where he was hired as an officer at the Middle River Jail. Since 2011, he has been a deputy in the Staunton City Sheriff’s Office and works a second job as a security officer to support his wife and two young children.
In a few months, Deputy Chipps will be awarded his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Investigation and plans to transfer to Liberty University in the spring to begin work on a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology. His career goal is to be a Federal Probation Officer.
Following his military service, Deputy Chipps and Kat Staton stayed in touch with an occasional letter and then met again on Facebook. While they often shared information online, they had not seen each other since June 6, 2002. That changed on December 4, 2013.
On that day, Deputy Chipps told his story to the Ashby-Lee faculty. Amidst hugs and tears, he presented Kat Staton an apple-shaped plaque on which is etched these words:
A Teacher Takes a Hand,
Opens a Mind,
Touches a Heart And,
Shapes The Future.
You Shaped My Future
In To What It is Today
Kathryn Staton with Deputy Clyde Chipps
December 4, 2013
Ashby-Lee Elementary School
Photos by Jennifer Proctor
Ashby-Lee Elementary School