25, 23, and 4… These numbers may seem unimportant to most, but to Darlene Driggers, today’s People of Blount County, they are extremely important. Darlene has been married to Dan Driggers for 25 years, she has been teaching at Appalachian High School for 23 years, and she and Dan have four wonderful children. Noah is named after his father. Number two son, Aidan Ira Driggers, is named after Darlene’s uncle, Dr. Ira Patton. The twin girls, Nora and Darlene, are named after Darlene’s mother and maternal aunt respectively.
As a teacher at the same school for 23 years, many students have passed through her classroom. Some have gone straight into the workforce, some have entered the military, and others have chosen to attend college before jumping into a profession. She will tell you there is no wrong choice as long as you do what is best for you and you do it to the best of your ability.
Any student you talk to will tell you Mrs. Driggers’ classes are not an easy grade. She sets high expectations and challenges students to meet those expectations. She does not do this to be mean nor does she expect failure; to Darlene, it is important that students are prepared as much as possible once they walk out of her classroom for the last time.
Having two children who had Darlene as a teacher, I can attest to her demanding classes, but both children acknowledged that taking her classes left them better prepared as they entered college. They knew how to better prepare for completing assignments on time, how to study for tests, and how to utilize resources to help them successfully complete their classes. Did they see it from that point of view while in high school? Certainly not, but later appreciated the challenges they faced in her class as they moved on from high school.
Not only does Darlene have high expectations in the classroom, she sets the bar high for students in whatever they are participating in. Students are important to her. She wants them to succeed. She wants them to be the best they can be. She will tell you that students need to be taught the basics early on in the classroom as each year simply builds on them.
Without that initial knowledge of basics, students quickly fall behind and it is more of a challenge to get them back to the same level as their peers. In 2019, Darlene finished her EDS (Educational Specialist) degree, which gives her more freedom and responsibility as she focuses on helping students as well as closing the educational gap.
In addition to teaching at AHS, Darlene also teaches dual enrollment history classes through Wallace State Community College. She is grateful for the opportunities students have and that the administration allows students the time to not only complete the FAFSA application for any type of scholarship money, grants, and other financial aid, but to provide time for students go to the lab and apply for scholarships.
Applying for scholarships has been beneficial for many students who otherwise might have not been able to afford the opportunity to attend college. Plus, instead of just one or two students getting scholarships, it is a phenomenal amount of money offered to many students through full or partial scholarships each year. To Darlene, it is amazing to witness students going off to college to live their dream.
Because students are important, Darlene spends a lot of time working with them outside of the classroom. She has been the cheer coach for many years and can be found in the stands whenever the cheerleaders are rooting on the Eagles. Darlene is also the prom coordinator. From securing the venue to decorations and everything in between, she has to ensure it is a safe, yet fun night for students.
Darlene will tell anyone she is very blessed to have been given the opportunity by the Blount County school system to teach for more than two decades thus far. And, having her family together every day has been another bonus of teaching at AHS for Darlene. All four children have either completed school or are currently attending AHS. In addition, Darlene’s husband is the school’s guidance counselor, and they work closely together as the students prepare for graduation and entering adulthood. After all, they have the same goal for students.
And Darlene is fine with working on site with her family. She will tell you most everything she does centers around her family, church, school, or her children. She was once asked if she could take an all-expense paid vacation anywhere in the world where would she go? Her response simply was, “Anywhere I can take my family.”
Growing up, Darlene’s parents believed that hard work was essential. She believes the same. She has worked since she was 13 years old. Throughout high school at Oneonta, Darlene worked part-time jobs and was employed full-time while majoring in business at Jefferson State Community College. After deciding that was not for her, Darlene transferred to Jacksonville State University. She worked part-time on the weekends for her parents at Miller Drug Company and picked up odd jobs at Jacksonville during the week.
That transfer proved to be good for her as she met her husband, who received his master’s degree there. She completed her undergraduate degree in secondary education with a certificate in English, government, and social science. Although she has primarily taught history over the past 20 years, Darlene is teaching English this year. Because it is a different avenue, it has been challenging in some aspects, but she is enjoying the new direction.
Darlene and Dan married at Lester Memorial United Methodist Church after both had graduated from college. The family is still members of the church today. Although Darlene and Dan moved to Claxton, Ga., for a couple of years after marrying, it was not home. They set out a plan to move back to Blount County and were finally able to do so. Blount County is a special place to Darlene. It is home.
Fishing, going for long walks, and volunteering whenever possible are a few of the hobbies Darlene enjoys. Most of these hobbies are things that include her family. Darlene has numerous treasures collected from long walks on the beach with her children including abandoned hermit crab shells, sand dollars, and sea shells. They are not valuable monetarily, but they are priceless to her because the children found them.
Darlene has several collections including Fenton glass and Waterford glass, historical items such as a 1900s crank phone that has all working parts, a non-working Civil War gun that belonged to her grandfather, a replica of an American and a German helmet, and a piece of Saddam Hussein’s shack after it was destroyed. Her students enjoy when she shares these items with the class.
Other hobbies include playing golf and oil painting. She learned to play golf from her aunt, Mary Isbell, who is in the Blount County Hall of Fame. Those lessons certainly paid off as Darlene has hit a couple of hole-in-ones over the years. When she paints, Darlene primarily paints country scenes and pictures of barns, but she has painted a few ocean scenes in the past. She learned to paint at K & B Art Studio, which is where the Neely Arts Center is now located.
Looking at the future, Darlene wants to do what God has in store for her. She wants to spend more time with the family and take a few more trips before they have families of their own. Family, God, students, and school — that’s what it’s all about and that’s what makes Darlene very happy.