Alumni Recognition

Alumni Recognition

JORDAN SHAW - Class of 2011

Jordan Shaw is one of our two Alumni’s of the Week.  He graduated from PHS is 2011 and held multiple school records in football.  He went on to attend Shorter University and played football for four years.  Following his graduation from Shorter, he worked as a Graduate Assistant with the football program at Carson Newman University.  In 2019, he graduated with a Master of Arts in teaching.  At the present time, Jordan is teaching Computer Science at Pickens Junior High.

When asked why he chose to become a teacher, Shaw shared that he understood what it felt like as a student to struggle with focusing and learning in the classroom.  He says that when he made the decision to study education, he wanted to remember how he felt and do something different for his own students.  He enjoys working with children, and recognizes that like him, they all learn differently.  Shaw states, “Along my teaching career, I hope I can continue to grow and help young people find their way – the way that works best for them.”

Jordan is married to Kadie Mullinax Shaw and when he’s not working, he enjoys golfing and spending time with family and friends.  He also enjoys spending time with his dog, Opie Taylor.

As for the advice he would offer students still in school, he encourages them to remember that nothing in life worth having comes easy; set goals and work hard to attain them so that you can be successful in life.

Jordan says that coach and teacher, Brad Steinhauer, made the greatest impact on his life.  He shared that Coach Steinhauer “pushed him to be the best version of himself, not only on the court, but also in life.”  Shaw goes on to say that he taught him how to win with humility and lose with dignity by telling us the truth, even when we didn’t want to hear it.  More importantly, he encouraged us to learn from our mistakes so that we could grow in every aspect of life.

SUZANNE PLUMLEY - Class of 1997

Suzanne Fountain Plumley is one of our two PHS Alumni’s of the Week.  She is a 1997 graduate of PHS and received several key honors including being named Miss PHS, Outstanding Athlete, and was presented the Academic Athlete Award.  She attended the University of North Georgia where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Master of Science in Physical Therapy degrees.

For the last 15 years, she has worked as a licensed Physical Therapist in various healthcare settings including acute, outpatient, skilled nursing, and home health.  At present, she works for New Beginning Therapeutic Services at their outpatient facility near Big Canoe.  Suzanne shares that she loves all realms of therapy, but is especially interested in cardiopulmonary, orthopedic, and geriatric care.

When asked where her desire to work in the healthcare field originated, she shared that she broke her leg playing softball during her senior year and while undergoing physical therapy herself, decided that was what she wanted to do!  She goes on to say she really has never wanted to do any other career and it is still her passion today.

She is married to Chris Plumley and they have two children – Adrienne, a freshman at PHS and Maddox, a 6th grader at JMS.  When she’s not helping others improve their health, she enjoys scrapbooking and spending time with her huge family.  She can also be found watching basketball as it is also a sport she loves.

Her advice to current students is to find something you enjoy and make a career out of it, no matter what it may be.  Students should have goals, be tough and learn to take some criticism, and be engaged, learning from those around them.

There were three teachers that had an impact on her – Mrs. Janet Vardaman, Mrs. Gail Culbreth, and Coach Roy Cowart.  Mrs. Vardaman taught literature and grammar which helped her in college and now in her career; Mrs. Culbreth taught one of her favorite classes, 8th grade Algebra; and, Coach Cowart kept her out of a lot of trouble, including teaching me how to respond and engage with someone.  One thing he taught her that she’s never forgotten was to reply to someone with a yes rather than a yeah.

In closing, Suzanne shared, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, how big or small your hometown may be, if you work hard, you can achieve your goals!  When you put in the time and effort and don’t give up, you will be rewarded!” 

WILL LAWSON - Class of 2014

Pickens County School District would like to congratulate Mr. Will Lawson as this week’s Alumnus of the Week.  Mr. Lawson graduated from PHS is 2014 and earned the opportunity to be named as Valedictorian of his class.

Will earned is BBA in Accounting from the University of Georgia and holds a CPA license in Oregon, where he currently lives and works.  He states that he did not consider other career choices.  He enjoys living on the West coast and enjoys reading and traveling when he is able. 

When asked what teacher had the greatest influence on his life, he named Mr. Michael Oubre.  Will shared, “He was always very supportive of my goals and helped push me musically and academically.  Pickens is lucky to have him as their Band Director!  I wouldn’t have the leadership and teaming skills I have today with him.”  His advice to current PHS students is to enjoy the time you have in school and college – it flies by!

Congratulations to Will Lawson, Class of 2014.

EMILY ARP - Class of 2016

Congratulations to our PHS Alumna of the Week, Ms. Emily Arp.  Ms. Arp was nominated for our Alumni of the Week program and we are excited to share her story.

Emily graduated from Pickens High in 2016 and decided to take some time off to work full time and save up money to build a house.  Last June, she decided to attend a dental assistant program and after graduating in August, now works full-time at a dentist office in Milton.

Since graduation, Emily has been an entrepreneur and owns her own business.  Yes, you read that correctly – right out of high school, she used her talents in preserving flowers to make money!  When asked what advice she would offer to current students, Emily shared, “Being successful doesn’t mean you have to go to college; all it takes is believing in yourself and working hard for what you want to achieve.  It does pay off.”  Emily is driven by goal-setting.  When she sets a goal, she never allows anything to come between her and what she sets out to accomplish.

Emily would like to recognize two teachers who had the greatest impact on her life – Mrs. Cindy Brown and Mrs. Nikki Towery.  Both were her art teachers throughout high school, and she shared that they both pushed her to do things with which she struggled.  Arp included that they both “taught me things I never knew I could do when it came to my artwork.”  She thanks them for pouring into her confidence and reassurance, and attributes her success in owning her own art-based business to both of these teachers.

Emily’s business, Southern Sage Jewelry, was born from wanting to create something out of the funeral flowers from her grandfather by which to remember him.  Today, she continues her preservation of memories for people near and far in addition to working at the dental office.  She’s working hard to achieve her goals.  Congratulations, Emily!  We wish you continued success as you strive to make your dreams a reality.

TRACI BUCKINGHAM - Class of 1985

I sat contemplating how to start my response to being honored as a successful PHS alumna and all I could do is think of the road that I have taken to get here.  It is dotted with many wonderful people who each had a part, so I will try to be brief but at the same time give credit where it is due.  Growing up with a mother and father who instilled the value of diligent work ethics is undoubtedly the foundation for who I am.  Education starts at home with the value of hard work.  Then, I remembered Miss Merilu’s Pink Kindergarten as my first school experience in Cartersville and it was there that I saw the importance of high expectations.  She expected us to read by the time we left her, to understand and appreciate classical music, and to know common courtesies such as how to properly greet an adult and play well with others.  Following such a great beginning was hard but not impossible.  At Jasper Elementary, Mrs. Mae Jamieson was one of the sternest teachers, but she taught me to love structure and organization.  I always strived to show my students that same need for structure in life.  At Pickens High School, Mr. Michael Blatt encouraged my love of writing.  We would write long journals daily and he took time to not only correct our grammar but to give commentary and feedback.  He showed that he truly valued us and what we had to say.

          After graduating in 1985, I went on to attend the University of North Georgia (it has since been renamed a couple of times).  I received my degree in French Education but soon found that those jobs were limited.  I worked on a provisional degree, teaching my first two years at Jasper Elementary as a 4th and 5th-grade teacher.  During my first two years of teaching, I went to school at night two days a week to get my Masters in Middle Grades education.  Following that, I worked 7 years at Pickens Middle School in exploratory foreign language.  Missing the closeness of having my own classroom, I returned to teach 5th grade until a unique position came open as an ESOL educator.  I went to Berry College and got my ESOL endorsement and spent my last 20 years in that position.  At each school where I taught, I was named Teacher of the Year and I was Pickens County Teacher of the Year two times.  I received other awards such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Golden Apple Award and was a Disney Teacher of the Year nominee.  But the true successes of my career can be seen through the accomplishments of my students.  As a matter of fact, I have taught approximately 20 Pickens County School District teachers, administrators, and even past district leaders.  Some of these have gone on to be Teacher of the Year as well and if I even had one part in that, then I feel I was successful at my job.

          I retired in May of last year.  Truth be known, I would probably be working somewhere if my health would allow it.  I spend my time with my husband Rodney and my dog Brownie.  I have two grown children Crystal and Jeff.  I volunteer with 4-H youth which still gives me the connection with children that is just a part of who I am.  When I have extra time, I like to make crafts and enjoy card making.

          Going through this journey with my kidney failure and some other personal battles over the past couple of years have given me a unique focus on life.  First, I know I am here to serve my God and it’s only through his power that I can get through the struggles to be what some might define as a success in life.  Secondly, it is that life is truly a gift and we should treat it that way.  If you have a disagreement with someone or a job doesn’t work out, then correct it.  Don’t give up.  Lastly, I feel that God has given me a heart that desires to help others.  I want to use that to glorify him and I think that is my definition of success and living a full life.  After I get over this hurdle of sickness, I would like to go back to school and get a degree in social work.  I have seen a need for social workers in the medical field and for those exiting prison.  Where will God place me?  Only He knows and I’m good with that!



JESSIE TATUM FORD - Class of 2000

Dr. Jessie Ford graduated from PHS in 2000 and went on to graduate from the University of Georgia in 2004 with a BS degree in Biology.  She attended Mercer University School of Medicine and earned her Medical Degree in 2008.  She did her Pediatric Residency at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 2011.  


She currently calls Monroe County, GA her home.  She is married to Robert Ford and they have 3 kids Katie (7), James (6), and John Arthur (7 months).  They have 2 dogs. 2 cats, and 7 chickens. For fun, she shares that she and her husband love to take their kids on trips to experience new things and that their favorite place to come is back to the North Ga mountains.  She went on to say that they love being outside, exploring, and going to festivals.


When asked what teacher had the greatest influence on her, she could not choose just one but had three to share, “Amelia McIntyre, Kaye Chastain, and Sandra Payne inspired me to love and pursue knowledge not just to get the grade but to love the subject I was studying.  I had many great teachers but these stand out special to me because of how they were passionate about their subject matter and helped me become passionate about it as well.  I helped form a foundation of knowledge that I carried with me throughout the rest of my training.” 


Jessie knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl.  She even shared that there is a picture she drew of herself being a missionary doctor when she was 6 years old.  She’s never really thought of another career.


When asked what advice she’d give to current students, Dr. Ford said, “Take any opportunity to learn seriously and invest yourself in it.  Whether it be history, economics, statistics, geometry, literature, you will be glad you did one day. Don't read the Cliff Notes but read the book itself. It's an accomplishment you'll never attempt again most likely. Most importantly, pursue God's will in your life and make a relationship with him your ultimate goal and dream.”

Congratulations to our PHS Alumna of the Week, Dr. Jessie Tatum Ford!

WILL WALLER - Class of 2004

Congratulations to Will Waller, PHS Alumnus of the Week!  Will graduated from Pickens High School in 2004 and graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2008.  He earned a Bachelor's degree in American History and Politics at Washington and Lee and earned a Masters of Divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary in 2012.

When asked what the teacher had the greatest influence on his life, Mr. Waller shared that Gail Culbreth did.  “She was committed to teaching something that confused many students, Calculus.  Her determination and passion for the subject were evident.  That made an impact because in life, we often are faced with challenges that we may feel are too daunting or impossible to conquer.  Through Mrs. Culbreth, I saw that you must be determined if you wish to persevere.”

As a seventh-grader at Pickens County Middle School, Waller knew he wanted to be the pastor of a small United Methodist Church.  He is now living out that dream in Rocky Mount, Virginia with his wife, son, and cats. 

When asked if he had considered other career opportunities, he said someday perhaps and leaned toward the hope that maybe he could be a full-time ski bum in Colorado living on the large slopes.  In the meantime, though, he will continue to wear a tie and preach a three-point sermon on Sundays.  Speaking of slopes and mountains, Waller says that for fun, he’s always on the trails in Virginia – ski trails, hiking trails, BBQ trails – doesn’t matter to him because he’s into trails.  No trials, though.  Leave those for the lawyers.

As for advice for students – “Don’t listen to old people; dream your dreams and shoot your shot.  Just remember, everyone dies but not everyone lives.  So just live, y’all.” 

Congratulations to Will Waller, Alumnus of the Week.

DONOVAN JONES - Class of 2010

Congratulations to Mr. Donovan Jones, PHS Alumnus of the Week!  Mr. Jones graduated from Pickens High in 2010 and graduated from Savannah College of Arts and Design in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television.

Mrs. Susan Anderson was the teacher Jones selected as having the biggest impact on his life.  He stated that she allowed him to work with her on creating a morning news show at Harmony Elementary in 2009-10.  He also attributes being prepared for the real world to learning life skills during his participation in the Youth Apprenticeship Program. 

At age 13, Donovan knew he wanted to be an editor.  He has had the pleasure of working on national and local commercials for clients such as Holiday Inn Express, Mellow Yellow, Zaxbys, Georgia Lottery, Cheq, Alicia Keys and Delta, just to name a few.  He has also had a spot featured in Ad Weekly featuring Dikembe Mutombo.  At present, he works as a Senior Video Producer/Editor for Optimum Productions.  You can check out his work at

Mr. Jones has never really considered any other career and feels that he has too much invested in what he’s doing to even think about it.   Perhaps his advice to current students is not only what he says, but what he practices – “Find your passion, stick with it, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” 

Because his career is also a hobby, he is always finding ways to work.  He enjoys working on short films, documentaries, photography, and music videos.  In 2017, he received his FAA part-107 commercial drone license.  Mr. Jones is pictured above with his mother, Sondra Wigington Jones who was also a PHS alumni (Class of 1980).  Join us in congratulating Mr. Donovan Jones! 


Congratulations to Mrs. Janice Jones Andrews, one of our Alumna of the Week.  She is a 1970 graduate of PHS. In 1984, she graduated from Texas Christian University with a BBA in Accounting. Janice serves as Chief Financial Officer for the City of Waco, Texas. She has been in this role for 31 years. As CFO, she oversees a $150 million dollar + budget for the City of Waco. Janice and her husband, David, have a daughter and two granddaughters. She enjoys spending time with them and returning to Georgia to visit family and friends. 


Congratulations to George Montgomery a PHS graduate named as an Alumnus of the Week! He graduated in 2012 and attended Kennesaw State University where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Communication in 2016. 

When asked what teacher made a huge impact on his life, George shared, “I had so many great teachers at PHS! But I owe a lot to Angela Quarles. She provided me the workspace and resources to explore my interests and develop a passion for video production. Her support and encouragement led me to compete at several TSA state and national events, and our team even won a couple of times! She also gave me creative and technical freedom to reinvent the morning announcements ... few people watched it, but the joke's on them because I got the hands-on production experience I needed. Thanks to her, I had an opportunity to build a foundation on which I've built my career.” 


Although he makes his home near Atlanta, he shared that his parents still live in Jasper and he also has a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins who live all over the country. Besides that, he goes on to say, “I've got a cat I love dearly. And I spend a lot of my off time with my friends or working on projects around the house. I bought an older home about a year ago and it's kept me appropriately busy in my downtime. No husband or kids insight for this guy; I've got sagging door frames and crawlspace encapsulation to worry about.”


The purpose of the Alumni recognition opportunity was to highlight PHS graduates who have found success in life.  When asked what advice he would have for current students, Mr. Montgomery wants them to “Take every opportunity as a chance to learn something new. Don't be afraid to branch out and try new things in new places. Even if you don't succeed, take notes. Try again. Learn what you need to do to succeed and keep going. People respect someone who takes messing up in stride, admits to their mistakes, and forges ahead to make different mistakes. It shows you're flexible and capable of growth.”


Mr. Montgomery has landed himself in a career that rarely has downtime!  He is a producer of breaking news and special events for CNN Newsource. We provide content of national and regional interest to more than 1,000 affiliates around the world. My day-to-day job is spent at a desk coordinating live video feeds of news from across the country. Or I'm writing and producing a news package on whatever the day's story might be. But when big news breaks, I might be out the door to go coordinate our coverage on the ground of the hurricane, blizzard, wildfire, mass-casualty event, or whatever it is. I just got home from the Democratic Debate in Des Moines; my next stop is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. My job responsibilities are all over the place. 


For some people, finding the right fit for a career is a challenge.  For George, he shared that he has never really considered any other career, at least not seriously.  He shared this about his work – “I love working in news. Waking up at 3 am and spending 12+ hours standing in sub-freezing temperatures or 8" of floodwater gives you a certain rush. Some might chalk it up to sleep deprivation and over-caffeination, but I much prefer to call it adrenaline.”


Congratulations, George!  Keep up the great work.

NICOLE MCARTHUR - Class of 2004

We are happy to introduce our PHS Alumni of the Week, Ms. Nicole McArthur! Nicole is a 2004 graduate of PHS and is the daughter of Monica and Clyde Cody and Alex McArthur, all of Jasper. She is a 2008 Mercer University graduate where she earned a BA in Psychology and Criminal Justice. In 2011, she graduated with honors from the Thomas Goode Jones School of law with her juris doctorate. She currently owns her own law firm, The Law Office of Nicole L. McArthur, LLC, where she practices in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys playing tennis, cooking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. We are proud to recognize the accomplishments of our Alumni of the Week, Ms. Nicole McArthur.