Rory Pruette Hefner Class of 1977
Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC

The Cavalier community can often be compared to a family, interconnected in unusual ways. Several graduates have returned to East Burke to work in a variety of capacities, but Rory Pruette Hefner has taken that career one step further to work alongside a former student as a university instructor. It seems like an appropriate way to carry on the traditions of excellence in education experienced at EBHS.

Her present job is as an adjunct professor in the mathematics department at Gardner-Webb University. I have taught everything from basic math to calculus both at Gardner-Webb and in my previous positions. Although I also teach the required math courses to traditional freshmen and sophomores, many of the students that are in my classes now are elementary education majors who are completing their math requirements and learning how to teach math to children. A good number of them are adults who have two-year degrees and have returned to school under the Degree Completion Program (DCP) to finish their four years and become fully licensed teachers.

Becoming a math educator seemed a natural path for Rory. I always enjoyed math. I used to help my siblings with their homework assignments, and sometimes I lined up the dolls and played school. I dont think Im the only teacher who did that. I had great math teachers at East Burke. Elsie Whisenant and Virginia Hayes were major inspirations for me and helped me discover my love of teaching. In fact, so many of the skills I learned from Mrs. Hayes contributed to my success when studying Probability and Statistics at NC State. While in high school, I was also very involved in the Future Teachers of America organization and liked working with other students who aspired to be teachers.

I owe a lot to my parents who encouraged me to pursue whatever path that I felt the Lord leading me toward. Rory earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from NC State in 1980 and her Masters Degree from ASU in 1992. Having completed her undergraduate degree in three and a half years and graduating in the middle of the year, she took a job filling in at Freedom High for a few months in the spring and then began full time in the fall. After two full years at Freedom, she came home to teach at East Burke for fourteen years and then went on to Newton-Conover High for sixteen years. I enjoyed working alongside some of my former teachers at East Burke, and I had the opportunity to supervise a number of student teachers over the years.

It was while she was at Newton-Conover that one of her former East Burke students, Jason Willis, who is chair of the math department at Gardner-Webb, asked her to join the department. Jason had also returned to East Burke to teach for a number of years, and hiring his former teacher brought the story full circle.

During my last year at Newton-Conover, I also taught night classes at Gardner-Webb. Some of the classes were held at the Old Rock School and at CVCC as well as on campus. I vividly remember how nervous I was during my first night teaching statistics to an adult class. As it turns out, they were nervous, too. Adult students are especially hard working and eager to succeed, and the classes were very rewarding. Students learn at different paces, and the teacher has to practice patience. I remember staying after hours to help individual students. Witnessing the pride that they felt when that light came on and they were able to master the concepts has always brought great satisfaction to me. Now my classes are all online, but Im still able to experience with them the joy that they have when they can say I made it! and move on toward completing their degrees.

In addition to her professional duties, Rory enjoys tutoring people of all ages who need help with mathematics. I have tutored students at church on Wednesday nights for a long time. I still do tutoring. It seems that a lot of folks have trouble with math, and I am happy to help them out.

I plan to continue my work at Gardner-Webb for a while longer, but I am certainly open to any opportunity to instruct and serve that may come my way in the future.

Published April 2021

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