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North High grad example of excellence

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Emily Teachout has made service a way of life, and as much as she has put into it, she has gotten that much more out.

Teachout, a 2007 graduate of North Fort Myers High School, has travelled the world to serve others, from being a member of the Peace Corps, to her current job as community manager for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.

Last week, Teachout was asked to be the keynote speaker for the 23rd annual Excellence in Education event at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

The subject was about leading a life of excellence. Seeing what these students had accomplished in their young lives and desire to give back through service, many of them seemed to already be doing that.

“The things they are doing are outstanding and it’s cool to see that Cape Coral is bringing in a new generation of excellence,” Teachout said.

In her speech, Teachout discussed the decisions you make that lead you down a path of excellence and those who inspired her on that path.

“I encourage you to have five people from whom you take constructive criticism and when they tell you that you did a good job, you listen,” Teachout said. “It’s important to listen to what some people think because I care, at a certain point, what five people think of me.”

Teachout said one of those people was drama teacher Michelle Whitener, who taught her one of the most important lessons of her life after one of her classmates told Whitener he had a boring weekend.

“(Whitener) exploded. She yelled ‘Boring? Your weekend wasn’t boring, you were boring!'” Teachout said. “She taught us our situations will never be boring. If you walk out of a party and you said it was boring, it wasn’t the party that was boring, you were boring. It wasn’t that the situation wasn’t fun, you weren’t fun. She taught me to take responsibility for life around me.”

Nothing about Teachout is boring. Following college and an internship with the American Red Cross, she joined the Peace Corps, where for more than two years she served as a health and sanitation volunteer in rural Paraguay, one of the most poverty stricken places in South America.

“We taught people about water sanitation, how to prevent diseases such as HIV/AIDS and held seminars with youth,” Teachout said. “Nothing is really rewarding if it’s not tough.”

Teachout also told the students to worry about things they can control.

“I can’t control if my father or I get cancer or if someone isn’t nice to me. But I can control how I react to that and I can do that throughout my life,” Teachout said. “Every day we make decisions that lead us down a path, and I’m sure you know what decisions you made that put you in those seats today.”

Teachout’s decisions were to serve in Key Club, student government and drama and the National Honor Society while at North. She graduated from Florida State University with a degree in sociology and international relations.

Teachout, who was raised in Bokeelia, was also a graduate of the junior and adult leadership programs from the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, the first time anyone has accomplished that, and previously worked as a volunteer coordinator for Feeding South Florida.

Teachout will attend Emery University in August to continue her education in global health, after which she plans to work for an international organization developing public nutrition plans in developing countries.