Turning the Page--Teacher, Alumni Completes Chapter With "The Eagle"
By Emma Duncan--Eagle Editor
“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”
A phrase more commonly used to describe graduates from here is now fitting for Dave Campbell, alumni and media teacher of 10 years, who students have most likely noticed is no longer teaching on campus.
Member of the football and basketball teams, actor in theatre, and editor of The Eagle, Campbell graduated FCHS in 1983.
“Honestly, I cared more about activities than I did academics,” he recalled. “I majored in [an] extra curricular. A lot of things interested me. I wanted to experience as much as I could. Also, I was trying to find a place where I belonged [since my family] didn’t move here until I was in eighth grade.”
As Campbell mentioned, he went on to receive a bachelor's degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri - Columbia. He also played in a band, something else the determined student participated in during high school. This band gained so much popularity that Campbell and his buddies decided to quit their jobs and hit the road.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to spend about ten years on the road playing music while at the same time also training in and teaching martial arts,” Campbell shared in an introductory video to his Journalism class in 2020.
These experiences along with their associated travels helped the jack-of-all-trades realize the rest of his story should take place right where it began.
“For the past 20 years I’ve been back in Franklin County playing in a band and teaching, not only karate but [also] courses at both Ferrum College and Franklin County High School,” Campbell continued. “I got into teaching because of martial arts. I had an amazing karate sensei. After I got my black belt, he told me I needed to start teaching karate. I told him I wasn’t really interested in the teaching aspect, [but] he told me that since I had taken from the art I needed to give back to it. At some point I decided that I had certainly taken from education, [and] in that regard needed to give something back to it. I started subbing for FCPS and after three years of that got the nod to teach full time.”
Teaching younger generations showed Campbell his time as a student wasn’t quite over, so in 2011 he obtained a Master's of Fine Arts and Creative Writing from National University.
Campbell’s knack for creative writing and inspiration to teach Journalism stemmed from his involvement in newspaper during high school. When he began as a freshman at FCHS, the paper was only available to students with paid subscriptions, but by the time Campbell graduated, anyone was able to read student stories free of charge.
Through the years, The Eagle has gone from all black-and-white to colored print, and since the pandemic it moved to an online format - all under Campbell's leadership. This small town paper has also been nationally recognized for its in-depth articles and overall maturity, style, and quality.
“I do have to say that winning the outright state championship for high school newspapers twice is a biggie,” Campbell recollected.
With a decade of Franklin County teaching under his belt, Campbell had ample time to foster lifelong bonds with both his students and coworkers.
“Dave was fearless - as a teacher, a leader, a colleague, a friend. I'll always be glad I got to call him some of those things,” newspaper sponsor and English Teacher Shannon Brooks reminisced. “He showed us - students and colleagues alike - how to dream boldly, to express ourselves fearlessly. Dave showed us the absolute best thing we could be was ourselves - whatever that meant at any given moment - because no one else could do it better.”
Campbell’s impact extended far beyond his classroom walls, though, filling the entire school with positivity and bravery.
“I remember my daughter met him when she was a freshman as part of a project she was working on; he came to talk to her class about journalism,” Brooks continued. “She told me all about it afterwards, saying, ‘This really cool guy came and talked to us about writing for a newspaper. He looked like an aging hippie but he was AWESOME.’”
These connections seem as if they’re going to stay with Campbell as he begins a new chapter teaching English at Ferrum College full time along with leading their campus newspaper, The Iron Blade.
“What I will miss most about teaching at FCHS is the people: the kids, the students, that and the relationship with my colleagues. [However,] I am loving my new position here at Ferrum! There is a lot of academic freedom here. Professors are trusted to be professional in their teaching and approach. Not to mention that [when] it is almost 100 degrees I’m [allowed to teach] in shorts.”
His previous students share this appreciation for their mentor, role model, and friend.
“I think about Campbell ALL. THE. TIME,” Tara Sanders, 2018 graduate, past editor and photographer for The Eagle, and current Emory and Henry College attendee, testified. “I think about him when I write a great paper, when I take an amazing picture, and especially when I’m working in InDesign at school. I wish I could share my stuff with him and let him know how meaningful and impactful his teachings and advice are. Not only is he passionate about his students, but also their successes no matter the field they choose.”
Many students decided to pursue a career in the writing industry because of their experience with Campbell and The Eagle.
“With the help of The Eagle and Dave Campbell I gained a love of storytelling that will never leave my soul,” Meia Mitchell, 2021 graduate and previous editor, commented thankfully. “I have learned patience, grace, kindness, and so many other aspects of good character, as well as made some of the best friends a person could have. We now all collectively share memories of the trials and triumphs from 33 West that have ultimately brought us closer.”
2019 Graduate Nora Shanahan, Virginia Western Community College student pursuing her Associate’s of Science, also highlighted a unique quality found in Campbell’s classroom.
“It’s easy--especially after doing it for years--to see every day of high school as indistinguishable; Mr. Campbell and his course allowed me to see the beauty in the mundane, and the 'newsworthy' in the ordinary," the previous staff writer shared. “Everyone in his class was accepted, heard, and appreciated, which during the turbulent years of high school, is crucial."
Shanahan's classmate, Nicole Pruitt, who graduated in 2020 after working her way up to editor over four years and now attends Virginia Western as well, has just as fond of memories of Campbell's teaching personality.
“I originally met Campbell my freshman year in his Intro to Media class where he recruited me for journalism. After the first semester of journalism I fell in love and continued to write for the remainder of my high school years," she recalled. "Mr. Campbell [gave] me a save space to pursue my writing and creativity. He was also an amazing listener and never failed to put a smile on any students face. If I could say one thing to Mr. Campbell today, it would be thank you for giving me confidence in myself and my abilities. I wouldn't be where I am today without [him].“
Personally, Campbell served as a lighthouse when I was a shy freshman. Although I was enrolled into his Intro to Media class by default, meeting this inspirational man was no mistake. He reignited my passion for writing and demonstrated that anything can be achieved when backed up by a dream and some morning meditation. Campbell pursues what he loves and therefore doesn’t “work”; he just lives. During his time at FCHS, Campbell continuously pushed me to enhance my skills, and I will constantly give him credit for what’s to come in my future. Through sharing his own story, I, along with many of my peers, have been inspired to help share the stories of others.
All of your Eagle staff members wish you all the best as you continue teaching at Ferrum College, C. Thank you for being you.