Aurora HS alum dedicates first book to teacher

Published 1:18 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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When Peggy Simpson, of Washington, arrived at Aurora High School to teach Literature, she wanted to challenge students to reach their full potential. She developed a “sense of capability” in one Shawn Bennett who, because of her class, combined two passions – writing and hunting – to become an outdoor writer and photographer. His love for both writing and hunting has culminated in his first book, “A Dog for the Red Gods.” 

“A Dog for the Red Gods,” chronicles Bennett’s bond with his trusted Black Labrador Retriever, Breaker. For 14 years (1993-2007), Bennett and Breaker traversed Blounts Creek and beyond hunting fowl and developing a friendship Bennett cherishes today. 

In “A Dog for the Red Gods,” Bennett uses lived experiences to illustrate the progression Breaker made from puppyhood to becoming Bennett’s best friend and trusted hunting partner. 

Bennett dedicated “A Dog for the Red Gods” to Simpson who he said was a “teacher who made all the difference.” 

Simpson was an educator at Aurora High School for 19 years who taught Literature to junior and seniors. Later, she was a speech therapist at Chocowinity Primary School for 23 years. 

Bennett described Simpson as a strict, but well-admired teacher among students. “A teacher becomes more than an instructor. They become a friend, a confidant, a psychologist, a cheerleader. They play a lot of roles in students’ lives. If you find one as good as [Simpson] was, that really makes all the difference, because we loved her and it made us want to do good work. I think in return she loved us and we felt it.” 

When they graduate, some students leave a lasting impression on their teachers; one that teachers remember well into their retirement years. Bennett was one such student who left a lasting impression on Simpson. 

While reflecting on Bennett’s time at Aurora High School in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Simpson said Bennett was a “genuine respecter of humanity,” but he “lacked self-confidence.”

“He was and still is a genuine respecter of humanity. I don’t think it has ever occurred to him that he needed to be any other way,” Simpson said. 

Bennett’s confidence in himself grew with each returning grade. His good grades and Simpson’s words of affirmation helped him see his potential with writing. 

“Her class opened a whole new door for me. I didn’t know that I could enjoy English Literature so much, and that I would pick favorite authors,” Bennett said. 

All of the encouragement and support Simpson bestowed upon Bennett was returned to her in a tangible way. After “A Dog for the Red Gods” was published earlier this year, he presented a copy to her at a small class reunion. Seeing and holding the book, Simpson “was most grateful” for the dedication. “He could have dedicated that book to anyone or anything other than, and after all of those years he dedicated it to me.” 

Bennett added that when he presented the copy to her, it “felt great to know that she was proud of me.” 

Simpson admitted to reading the book at first with a red ink pen ready to catch any mistakes Bennett’s editors might have made; however, she eventually put the pen down and read the book as it is. 

Though she is not interested in hunting she said “A Dog for the Red Gods” was still enjoyable to read, because Bennett wrote about many familiar places in Beaufort County. She also enjoyed reading about Bennett and Breaker’s friendship which many pet owners can relate to. 

“A Dog for the Red Gods” can be purchased on Amazon for $15.