ASC Honors-Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Arts, Science or History celebrates the lifetime achievements of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg resident in the visual, design or performing arts, history, literature or science. Thanks to the generosity of the Cato Corporation, ASC is also able to honor lifetime achievement in teaching art, science and history for Pre-K-12 teachers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region with the ASC Honors-Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Awards.
By Bea Quirk
Andrew West was born in North Wilkesboro, but he is Charlotte-bred – or more specifically, Myers Park High School-bred.
MPHS is where he went to school, and it was there that he realized he wanted to be a high school history teacher. “I had many good teachers there who inspired me.”
After graduating from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in history — and a year’s teaching stint at Harding High School — West returned to his alma mater to teach, where he is beginning his 21st year.
“I don’t just consider Myers Park my home – it is my child, my life,” West says.
But one thing did not go as planned. West started out as a history teacher – but also taught one class in speech and debate. Now, under his tutelage, the debate club has become so popular and successful that most of his teaching duties are in speech and debate. This fall, he is teaching a history class for the first time in several years.
MPHS has won the state championship in speech and debate nine of the last 15 years, most recently in 2010. He has coached more students to the national tournament than any other coach in North Carolina. Last year, he coached the National Debate Champion, Priyang Shah.
Each January MPHS hosts the largest debate tournament in the Southeast and one of the largest in the country. Typically, some 800 students from 50 schools participate.
“I enjoy spending time with students – after school and on the weekends when we got to tournaments,” West says. “They truly make it worth it These are top-notch kids.”
A good debater must learn a multitude of skills – conducting research, writing a speech and then making a good presentation, which includes the delivery itself, as well as their stance, demeanor, gestures and facial expressions. “We make them confident,” West says.
West has not lost his love of history. He has an extensive collection of books about the Civil War, a legacy from his father. American history remains his favorite topic, particularly the late 19th and early 20th centuries.