By Faith Hensley
Mingo Central High School
“You either know it or you don’t! You have to study, guys. You are too smart to be making anything but A’s. Each and every one of you can do it!” encouraged Sonya Picklesimer to her dual credit biology class.
Picklesimer is currently a teacher at Mingo Central High School, but she has taught at many schools throughout her teaching career. Even more impressive than her resume, however, is the resounding positive feedback she has received from her students.
“Picklesimer is easily the best teacher I have ever had,” said Chase Justice, a recent graduate of Mingo Central and a past student of Picklesimer’s, “She taught me not to look at science as just, ‘Okay, this is how it is,’ but instead to question things and ask, ‘Why is this this way? Why does it function the way it does? Why is this so complicated when it could be simple?’ She taught me to be inquisitive.”
Justice is currently enrolled at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College where he is working toward his Associates degree in Nursing. After obtaining this, he plans to continue on to the college Picklesimer herself attended, Marshall University, to acquire his BSN.
“I learned more in Picklesimer’s classes than I had ever learned before,” said Justice, “Her classroom was the setting to some of the greatest, funniest, saddest, most exhausting, Eureka!, and just plain mind-boggling moments I have ever had! And I will always remember them all –and her.”
Justice is not the only student of Picklesimer’s to feel this way. Even individuals who graduated high school decades ago still remember Picklesimer and her classes fondly. In fact, Amanda Brown, a Williamson High School 1993 graduate, still boasts about the wonderful times she had with Picklesimer.
“Picklesimer will always be one of my favorite teachers. I love her! I still love her! She is wonderful,” said Brown. “She is just such a good, sweet-hearted lady who genuinely loves not only teaching but her students.”
Brown first became a pupil of Picklesimer’s in her junior year in 1991, “I had her for biology. I earned a 99% first semester, so Picklesimer requested I be moved into her Physiology class. I took that and AP Biology.”
When asked what she remembers most about these years with Picklesimer, Brown was quick to reply, “The notebooks! Oh God, the notebooks! I still have mine at my mom’s house. They were blessings; I referenced mine countless times in college.
“Looking back on her class at 40, I have to say that her expectations, how much she demands from you, are so good for you. She taught me time management. Every night I had to do something for her class: homework, study, something. I had to devote time if I wanted to be successful, and it’s just like that in college, even in life.”
Both students, Brown and Justice, also recall some of the things they dissected with Picklesimer. “Squids, fetal pigs…and cow eyeballs! We definitely did cow eyeballs,” said Brown with a laugh. “I wasn’t really a science person. I’m more artsy and creative, but Picklesimer showed me that I am more of a science person than I thought I was.”
This is something nearly every student of Picklesimer can agree upon: her love of science and knowledge is infectious. “She taught me to learn everything I could, not even just about science but about everything,” said Justice. “She told me to never underestimate the capacity and limits of my brain, because when it comes to learning, there are none.”
Justice plans to keep in touch with Picklesimer and update her on what he is learning in college, “Picklesimer cared for me, and I cared for her and her family. I love her, and I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t had her as a teacher.”
“I still talk to her almost daily through Facebook,” said Brown. “Sometimes we update each other about our mothers and ourselves through private messages, but sometimes we just share cute animal photos and videos. I just love Sonya, and I always will because of how much she has always loved and cared for me.”
Picklesimer currently teaches honors biology, honors anatomy, dual credit biology, dual credit anatomy, and forensics, and she is still known for encouraging her students to, “never settle for mediocrity, because the enemy of great is good, and you [my students] are all great.”