For Cleveland State Alum Eric Weaver, Cleveland State wasn’t just a college—it was the college he needed. The long time principal of Sweetwater High School got his start at Cleveland State right after high school, but he said he wasn’t passionate about it at first. He completed one quarter at the college and then decided to join the Army. During that time, he discovered he was a quick learner. Once out of the military, he decided he was ready to give Cleveland State another shot.
Mr. Weaver said, “The military was good for me; it taught me how to learn. I learned that I was a kinesthetic learner and that I needed smaller groups and contact with instructors in order to grasp the material; therefore, the smaller classes and good instructors at Cleveland State was the right fit for me.”
This time around, Mr. Weaver knew what it was he needed in order to accomplish his goal of completing his degree, so he did things a little differently. He used index cards while at work, and recited his notes while driving to class—anything it would take to help him succeed. Most importantly, he relied on his instructors and asked for help.
“I met with teachers after class, and they were always there to help when needed,” stated Mr. Weaver. “If you put in the effort, they would work to make sure you didn’t fail. This is something I will always be appreciative of in regards to Cleveland State.”
Mr. Weaver continued by sharing about several instructors that influenced his time at Cleveland State. “Will Benson (former instructor of music) refused to let me sneak by in music appreciation. I was that student that sat in the back of the room, but he made sure I paid attention. A couple of the requirements of the music appreciation class was to attend plays and concerts in the community. The class would attend as a group, and Mr. Benson always took roll before and after the performance. Guess he knew me pretty well and realized that humanities was not my forte. We always had a good time in class, and he kept his eye on me and refused to let me fail. I was saddened to hear that Mr. Benson had recently passed away. I know this is a great loss to Cleveland State.”
In addition to Mr. Benson, Mr. Weaver credits other CSCC instructors for his success. “Dr. Frank McKenzie and Pam Sheets both took a special interest in me and were instrumental in my success. I leaned on Dr. Frank in my education classes. He was involved in helping his students and myself in getting through the PPST, Pre-Professional Skills Test, which was a nightmare, but he really opened my eyes to the fact that the faculty truly cared about students’ success. Pam Sheets was my advisor at the time who helped me tremendously. I have kept in touch with several of my past instructors and we still talk regularly. Dr. Frank likes to tell me how proud he is of me.”
During his time at CSCC, Mr. Weaver used his G.I. Bill to work and go to school. He worked at Anderson’s Paint Store while attending CSCC, but an opportunity opened up for him that he couldn’t pass up. Bill Dupes, the head football coach at Sweetwater High School at the time, who Mr. Weaver had played for while at Sweetwater High School, asked if he would be interested in helping him coach the junior varsity football team.
“I jumped at the chance. It only took me about five minutes to know that coaching was what I wanted to do with my life. The obvious pathway to coaching was to become a teacher. My ultimate goal at the time was to be a head football coach. I was part of the coaching staff when Sweetwater High School won the State Championship in 1993, which was an experience I will never forget. Although I never became the head coach, I never would have dreamed that I would be principal. Life leads you in different directions all the time, but someone had to open the door.”
According to Mr. Weaver, one of his favorite memories of CSCC was his graduation. It wasn’t his only graduation in his career, but to him, it is still the most special.
Mr. Weaver said, “I stayed to graduate from Cleveland State because I needed that piece of paper; I needed that progress. It was my first degree, and I needed it. I could have gone on to a four-year school without graduating from CSCC, but I personally needed proof of my progress. That was my validation. To this day, that is my favorite diploma. It gave me the strength I needed to keep going. That one was the springboard that got me where I am now.”
After CSCC, Mr. Weaver attended Lee University (Lee College at the time) to complete his bachelor’s degree in education, Tusculum College for his master’s degree and Tennessee Tech University for his Ed.S. He also spent 22 years in the military and deployed to Iraq, during Iraqi Freedom III and IV.
Mr. Weaver stated, “Looking back over my educational career, I realized it was not always an easy task. As many students do, I struggled at times with my studies while also working. Maybe that has been my purpose in life, to help other students realize they too can succeed through any barriers that come their way. I do all I can to promote the tradition of this community and this school where I grew up, and I want to see all students succeed.”
In March of 2019, Mr. Weaver was the recipient of a Community First Award in Education presented by Cleveland State Community College. This award recognized individuals from CSCC’s five-county service area who share the Cleveland State value of always putting the community first. Mr. Weaver remains a strong advocate for CSCC today.
“I appreciate everything Cleveland State has done for me,” stated Mr. Weaver. “That award I won last year was probably one of the highlights of my life, other than the military.”
Mr. Weaver continued, “I truly accepted that award on behalf of my teachers and my students. I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants every day, and they are the giants. I’m just the guy that tries to maintain order, but I’m humbled enough to know that they can take my name off that door tomorrow.”
For more information about Cleveland State Community College, visit the college at ClevelandStateCC.edu or call 423-472-7141. For more information on the Monroe County Center, visit mycs.cc/monroecenter or call 423-884-2338.