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Washington Voices

Cheney senior shows those who can, teach

Thu., May 24, 2012

Cheney High School senior Seth McCombie goes over math concepts with a group of fifth-graders at Betz Elementary on April 18. (Jesse Tinsley)
Cheney High School senior Seth McCombie goes over math concepts with a group of fifth-graders at Betz Elementary on April 18. (Jesse Tinsley)

Seth McCombie, 17, is an active and engaged student at Cheney High School.

He has a 3.975 grade-point average and takes honors chemistry, honors physics, Spanish III, Advanced Placement English language, AP English literature, precalculus and AP calculus.

McCombie is president of the National Honor Society at the school, and he’s involved in Spanish club and Future Business Leaders of America. He’s on the swim team, too.

He tutors fifth-grade students at Betz Elementary School at lunchtime and mentors special education students.

Outside school, McCombie is an Eagle Scout. His project was to build a new gate at the Mary Queen of Heaven Parish Cemetery in Sprague, Wash. He talked to a farmer to get a donation of basalt, managed to get a wrought-iron gate donated and found some funds through his church, West Plains Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He attends an early-morning religious education program in Cheney with about 80 other students. He said it’s nice to spend time with other kids who share his faith.

The oldest of seven, McCombie also plays piano and organ.

It’s a long list of accomplishments, one he hopes will lead him to a career in education.

“I’ve just always loved to teach,” he said. “I just love it.”

He credits some of his own teachers who inspired him. Alan Harmon teaches AP language and composition: “He’s careful to never force us into thinking a certain way,” McCombie said.

There’s also calculus teacher Jeff Butler: “He really is inspiring, to watch him as a teacher.”

And Bonnie Long: “She’s an angel. She’s doing the best she can to take care of kids.”

These are teachers McCombie says don’t leave work behind them at the end of the day but think about their students constantly. He said that is the kind of teacher he would like to be.

When McCombie was 7 years old, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He had a tumor the size of a Big Mac removed from an area close to his spine. He went through chemotherapy and tests until he was 13 to make sure the cancer was gone.

“I was taken care of,” McCombie said.

The experience taught him to care for others as well. “I learned how to be more supportive of others. It became easier to identify people that were struggling.”

Corey Anderson, McCombie’s school counselor, had high praise for him.

“Seth is passionate about the things that really matter in life, and always pushes himself to put people and their feelings first,” Anderson said.

McCombie said he is going to miss Cheney High after he graduates June 1, but he is excited, too.

“It’s what it represents,” he said, “The work I’ve put in and staying focused.”

He plans to complete a church service mission before he goes to college. He mows lawns during the summer months and wants to expand on that this year. He plans to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to study math education.

His time tutoring students at Betz has solidified his decision to teach. He said some of the students were resistant to learning math, but sometime during the school year that changed.

“They’ve become more willing to learn,” he said.

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