STEPHEN HEMELT — Inspiring children remains something special

Published 12:19 am Wednesday, October 2, 2019

To hear Bill Worsham tell it, four of his five top mentors are former coaches.

Lo and behold, the Port Neches mainstay became an educator and coach, working for many years in the Port Neches Groves Independent School District before retiring as athletic director at Lamar State College-Port Arthur.

I had the pleasure of reminiscing with Worsham last week during the Rotary Club of Port Arthur’s meeting at the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

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“I grew up and raised our children in Port Neches and was impacted greatly by the coaches that I played football and ran track for,” Worsham told me. “I was highly influenced by my coaches to become a coach.”

As a long time coach and administrator overseeing many disciplines, there was an obvious question for Worsham.

“What’s your favorite sport to coach?”

His answer came out quick and instinctive, demonstrating the traits of all good athletes.

Worsham likes track & field the most because there aren’t any referees to make one-sided or boneheaded calls.

Once a coach, always a coach. Worsham fits the mantra well.

Sports aside, our conversation was actually centered on dictionaries and the large yearly effort Rotary leads to donate a dictionary to every third grade student in Port Arthur.

Worsham was part of a team of volunteers stickering, labeling and boxing hundreds of dictionaries that will eventually land in the hands of eager students.

One veteran Rotary member noted he often hears local third grade students say it’s the only book they have.

But, hey, this is 2019. What need do third grade students have for dictionaries?

That’s where I turned to Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie.

“I appreciate how technology has created a means to obtain instant answers by just touching a screen; however, words in a printed dictionary will exercise young minds and help them to develop problem-solving skills,” Porterie said. “Utilizing a dictionary teaches order and sequencing, alphabetization, spelling, context and more. It is my opinion that nothing will ever take the place of the written book. Handling and holding the written works of an author can be an amazing experience for readers, both young and old.”

Obviously, Porterie’s words connect with my own passions, as I’ve loved reading and writing my entire life.

My son is 11 and my daughter is 9 and, thankfully, they have also picked up a love of reading. It activates their imaginations and opens all types of possibilities.

I really look forward to the day when my children and I can read a long-form story or novel together and share reactions and interpretations. They will surely be able to teach me a thing or two.

That’s why I again offer my most grateful thanks to retired educators like Bill Worsham and current leaders like Mark Porterie.

Their work in and out of the classroom inspires learning, which directly leads to the growth that sustains our community.

We all benefit from their contributions.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at