LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Cas McWaters

Position: Chief Academic Officer
School: Cornerstone Schools of Alabama
School District: Cornerstone Schools of Alabama
City, State: Birmingham, AL

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Music that Describes Cas

Cas McWaters was nominated by his wife, Deborah McWaters.

"I can’t think of a more fitting name for him to be called than LifeChanger," said Mrs. McWaters. "He has been investing in the lives of students for more than 30 years and has primarily spent those years at two schools, including an affluent high school in the Over the Mountain area of Birmingham, AL. He is now the Chief Academic Officer at a private school for inner-city kids whose parents are looking for a good education centered on academics, character development and athletics."

At every level, Mr. McWaters has exemplified integrity, fairness, knowledge of current and cutting-edge educational strategies, and most importantly, a passion for his students.  It is that passion for students, combined with a love of education, that fuels what he does every day!

Mr. McWaters doesn’t just work a 9 to 5 job; he has always been willing to get to school early or stay late to help “that kid who didn’t quite understand a concept,” or to just talk with one of his students who is from a troubled home.  A large number of the students at his current school come from single-parent homes, and he is a father figure to so many of them.

One of the most extraordinary things Mr. McWaters does for students is to provide them assistance as they work to get into college.  Most of these kids come from homes where no one has ever attended college, and the parent(s) don’t really place an emphasis on going.  They don’t know what to do or where to begin the process of even applying to college.  Mr. McWaters has spent numerous hours preparing them for the ACT Test and working with parents on filling out the FAFSA so they can receive financial assistance.  A large number of the students cannot afford to go to college, but with the help of some of his school’s supporters, along with financial aid, every graduating senior in the last two years has been accepted to college. Mr. McWaters has made several phone calls to universities about prospective students, and he has also taken the seniors to visit colleges and give them that experience. Oftentimes, he follows up with them after graduation to make sure they are on track to begin college in the fall.  He has even called a couple of small, local colleges in order to help a young man who wants to play basketball at that level set up a visit and have him talk to a coach.

Mr. McWaters knows that a good education, then furthering that education at the college level, is what will give these students the ability to break the cycle of poverty in their families. Education will give them the confidence to do something special and achieve their lifelong dreams!

Most of all, Mr. McWaters just loves kids! When kids are dealing with poverty, instability at home, or an abusive situation, all it takes is one person reaching out to them to make a difference in their lives.  He is that person for so many of these kids.  He will always put them first and is willing to reach beyond what he can see. Mr. McWaters works to build students up, educate them to the highest level possible, and prepare them to be successful fathers, mothers, high school and college graduates, and future leaders in the workforce.

Comments (37)

Kelli Posted over a year ago

Coach McWaters has always been more like family than a teacher or coach. I remember well how he engaged students in our chemistry class in high school, and how he always had a friendly word of encouragement that would make you smile as you passed him in the hallway. Fourteen years after I graduated high school, I called Coach and asked him if he would sing the opening song at my wedding. He and his sweet family came to Nashville and he opened my ceremony in song. I love Coach McWaters and am forever thankful for his support and encouragement.

Bill Priddy Posted over a year ago

I can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of the 2018 Life Changer of the Year award. Throughout the fifteen years I’ve been privileged to know Cas, I’ve witnessed his dedication, focus, determination, support and encouragement to and for a vast number of individuals through many various avenues of service. His humor is a gift he freely shares, not to be overshadowed by his transparency and honesty. Cas is a man you want to see because he truly does brighten your day.

LaWanda Broadus Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is definitely a life-changer. We need more men and women like him in the world.

Eloise zspray Posted over a year ago

None of this surprises me. We served n staff with him for a number of years in the B'ham area. He was an exceptional minister of music and fine Christian leader. Congratulations Cass. We love you.

Robby Armstrong Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is one of the most caring and positive influences any young person could ever want to have in their lives. He is dedicated to their success only second to the individual. He will hold you accountable, pray for you, mentor you, I'm sit back and watch you reap the rewards of your hard work. Cas was truly a life-changer in my life as a young teenager through young adult.

Faye Nichols Posted over a year ago

Some have said that everyone makes a difference in those around them. More specifically, one is known for the problems one solves or the problems one creates. Cas McWaters makes a positive difference in those around him because he recognizes the needs of others and is ready to help meet those needs. My company and I worked very closely with Cas for about 3 years while he was principal of Vestavia Hills High School. Sometimes my appointments were held up because one of “his“ students was in crisis or a parent needed a little more time. Cas was never too busy to take care of “his” students. His desire to help all students, from the most needy to the most gifted, was pure passion. With his vision, I brought my college test-prep program to his students during lunch-study, as well as during after school hours. He made certain that deserving students who could not afford the fee or provide transportation after school had the same opportunity to raise ACT scores as other students did. That same passion for all students accompanied Cas when he left the affluent Vestavia Hill High School to work and mentor at Cornerstone High School, a mission school for inner-city students. Cas’ interest in helping his new teachers and students led me to present my ACT faculty-training program at Cornerstone at no cost. Cas is totally invested in teaching ACT prep to his juniors and seniors. He contacts me when one of his students needs my 20-hour prep program and cannot afford my fees. He knows the scholarship is waiting. I have known Cas as a personal friend and fellow church choir member for thirty years. His expansive music ability is tested to the limit and found faithful in our mega church. He is ready to step in where ever he is needed: singing solos, arranging music, planning and directing an annual summer gospel program, directing youth choir for performances and tour, and directing our Sanctuary choir when needed. Last summer, Cas helped direct our 180 voice choir in concert at Carnegia Hall. Cas has always used this special gift of music in the schools where he has worked. With his boundless energy, servant’s heart, wit, and enthusiasm, Cas McWaters makes a positive difference In the lives of all who know him. I am honored to call him my friend and to recommend him as one who makes a difference.

Matt Swale Posted over a year ago

It is impossible to adequately describe the character and influence of Cas McWaters. He has taught me (and continues) more about excellence in education than anyone in my life. A word of advice or encouragement from Cas is invaluable. His passion for students, commitment to seeking their life-change, and the way he uses his seemingly bottomless well of social connections and wisdom to benefit students and colleagues makes him one of the single most impactful people I have ever known - and THE most impactful professionally. Beyond his words of wisdom, watching Cas is an education in itself. He learns our students' stories. He gets to know our students' loved ones. He laughs with our students and occasionally weeps with him. If anyone is at the point in their career where they can "rest on their laurels," it is this man who has served students for decades; instead, however, he is the first to arrive and last to leave. He works tirelessly and more than anyone else at our school to make sure that meaningful, generous, and beneficial events, curricula, and systems are in place for the good of students.

Alllison Posted over a year ago

Award or not, Cas McWaters is and always has been a Life Changer. I feel as if I have a unique perspective and position towards my relationship with Cas. I first knew him because of his involvement at the church I grew up in where he still serves. He is not the kind to just sit in a pew and be a spectator in the church. Cas puts his membership and faith into action. I then knew him as my own principal during my high school career. He was the sort of principal that was accessible, intentional, full of spirit, patient, and fully committed to more than just our academics. He wanted to see us be people that represented Christ well. He encouraged us to have the kind of character that would impact the people in our lives and the community we lived in. Now, I know him as a boss. I have the opportunity to work at Cornerstone which is where Cas serves as the Dean of Academics. I get a front row seat to see how much he does behind the scenes for the school and for the students. “Above and beyond” is such a surface phrase for what Cas does here at Cornerstone. Yes, this is his job but he treats this role as a higher calling given by God to be Jesus to these kids. And because he sees that his role is greater than a list of responsibilities he captures the heart of students. They listen to him. Because he treats them as if they were his own. He cooks for them. He invites them into his home. He prays for them on the spot. He makes all of the phone calls needed to help kids to get where they need to be after the student graduates. He asks the questions that they longed to be asked. He invests in a way that leads him outside the walls of the school and into the lives of these students. Students will always remember “Mr. Mac” and rightfully so. He is a Life Changer.

Dedrick Agee Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters has been a huge blessing to the Cornerstone family. Mr. McWaters has been instrumental in helping me transition into my current role as Principal and his wisdom and guidance has proven to be invaluable. He currently serves as the Dean of Academics here at Cornerstone. He has really used this position as a way to help guide our students and teachers. He has also used this role as a vehicle to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. McWaters also has a great sense of humor. I am honored to recommend Mr. McWaters for the life changer of the year award.

Rosemary Byettner Posted over a year ago

I am pleased to recommend Cas McWaters for the LifeChanger 2018 Award. I have known him since he was a junior in high school when he was in my Algebra ll class. He was an excellent student who was involved in both academic and extracurricular aspects of school life. After college, when he returned to Vestavia Hills High School as a chemistry teacher, he was was energetic, personable and exemplary as a role model. Although I retired before he became principal, I know him to be an excellent leader who genuinely cares for his faculty and his students. On a very personal level, I will always be grateful for Cas’ assistance and advice when a dear friend of mine (and his) and faculty member at Vestavia Hills High School was diagnosed with a debilitating illness. He was supportive, knowledgeable and never too busy to answer questions regarding her care; his patience and compassion for our friend as her health deteriorated went well beyond the normal responsibility of a principal for a teacher. I am delighted to recommend Cas for this award; he is very deserving of the recognition.

Michael S. Gross Posted over a year ago

I was Principal of Vestavia Hills High School and hired Mr. McWaters to teach chemistry and coach baseball. Chemistry is a very difficult subject for students that do not have a science background, but Mr. McWaters was very patient with his students and went "overboard" to help these students succeed in this subject and the majority of these students did jut this. He would tutor students after school and open his classroom at night to work with students. Even after a long day of class and baseball practice or games, he continued to meet students at school and help them understand the subject matter and prepare them for exams. Mr. McWaters was considered to be one of our finest teachers, going the extra mile for his students. Mr. McWaters was very involved in school activities and city programs. He was always present and helping senior class members decorate for the senior prom. Cas attended all sports activities, helping all coaches in every sport. He always attended games at home and on the road. Cas was a dedicated and involved educator at our school. He was well liked by students, faculty members and his community. On a personal note. Mr. McWaters sang the National Anthem at my daughters Army Promotion Ceremony. This made the program a complete success. This is just another of many examples where Cas was a giving person, always available to help out and serving others. I am honored to make this recommendation to an outstanding educator and a very fine and warm person. Michael S. Gross Retired Principal Vestavia Hill High School

Randy Stembridge Posted over a year ago

First met Cas when my oldest son started at Vestavia Hills. From the beginning, it was apparent he was not a "normal" teacher. His impact was intense and consistent. He truly cared for the kids and did not accept complacency in their academic nor athletic endeavors. Cas went on to teach all three of my kids, not only in school, but in church and, simply life in general. As a parent I could not ask for a better role model in education and in life for my family. He is the same man today that I met years ago. One of the most consistent people I know. Throughout his tenure at Vestavia, he positively impacted hundreds of kids through academics and athletics. Never have I heard a negative word from any of those students or his peers. He continues to have impact today on those students as well as his current students. We remain good friends to this day and our family is blessed by the relationship with Cas and his family. After each baseball season, the team would have a "banquet" to celebrate the season. While we were there, we had a lot of things to celebrate! Each year Cas would remind us of a poem: "Isn't it strange how princes and kings, and clowns that caper in sawdust rings, and common people, like you and me, are builders for eternity? Each is given a list of rules; a shapeless mass; a bag of tools. And each must fashion, ere life is flown, A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.” Cas has been, and continues to be, a stepping stone to all of us who are blessed to know him. I know for sure our family is better academically, professionally, and spiritually. I am so thankful that God allowed our paths to cross so many years ago. I am especially grateful that I am allowed to all him Friend to this day.

Debbie Speigner Posted over a year ago

The name Lifechanger award fits Cas McWaters perfectly. Changing lives is what Cas has been doing his entire career in education. I was a teacher at Vestavia Hills High School when Cas was a student and also when he joined us on staff as a teacher and coach. I saw the influence he had not only on students but also on other faculty members. Cas was one who always went beyond the call of duty. He would come early and stay late whether it was to help a student in the classroom, on the field or just with a personal problem they might have been having. It speaks for itself that Cas went from a classroom teacher, to vice principal and then to principal at one of the most outstanding high schools in Alabama. It was because of his competence and commitment to education. I have said for years that the reason Cas was in education was because HE LOVES KIDS.

Laura Walker Posted over a year ago

Cas is the perfect choice for this honor! He coached my oldest son in baseball at VHHS. My son recently had his 20-year reunion. In addition to inviting the team members over for a gathering, he included Cas as well. Then he was my principal at the same school years later. He would listen to teachers’ suggestions as to how to improve our students’ educational experience. He was always willing to try a new idea. My favorite memory of Cas is of him walking down the hall pushing a huge dust-mop while talking on the phone. Our janitor was absent that day, but Cas didn’t mind pitching in to do whatever needed doing! I taught for 35 years, and he was by far the best principal I ever had!

Jo Ann Huddleston Posted over a year ago

I have personally experienced Cas McWaters as a Life Changer through his life span as my student, as a fellow teacher, as my assistant principal, and as my principal. As my student he influenced the lives of his peers for good as a positive role model through his character, his work ethic, and his success in academics, athletics, and leadership. As a teacher he not only imparted knowledge of subject matter, thus changing students’ lives but also exhibited his concern and love for them through tutoring and personal counseling before and after school. As an assistant principal and later as principal he ensured an extensive academic curriculum and extracurricular activities that met the individual needs of each student—actually being easily accessible and taking an interest in each student. His present role at Cornerstone Schools enables him to continue to be used as a Life Changer providing opportunities for students to achieve their potential and in turn become Life Changers making a difference—making our world a better place. Cas is a Life Changer—used as “an instrument in His hand.”

Beverly Brasell Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is an educator and friend who possesses exceptional integrity and knows the value of personal connection. He was a student performer in one of the first musicals I directed at Vestavia; he taught for years in the classroom next to mine; and as Vice Principal in 2000, he safely evacuated the production of Brigadoon from the 1200 seat auditorium when a tornado threatened. In addition, he was physically present through many student and faculty related tragedies with acts of kindness, food, and hope. As a principal he always supported our fine arts program with the same enthusiasm he supported every other program in the school, because he knew high school students needed a "taste of everything" before they settled into their chosen path. Presence and Love filled every encounter Cas had as a student, as a teacher, as a Vice Principal, and as a Principal, I wholeheartedly recommend Cas McWaters for Life Changer of the Year! He certainly changed mine!

Dr Alice Laurendine Posted over a year ago

I highly recommend Cas McWaters for the Life Changer of the Year award. He is truly a caring educator who does whatever is needed to help others change or improve their lives from students, teachers, staff, administrators, to parents and guardians. Cas McWaters is a compassionate educator who listens and learns what is needed, and then he takes appropriate action to help. I have known Cas Mc Waters since he began his first year teaching at Vestavia Hills High School. He is a man of outstanding character and high principles. Please consider Cas Mc Waters for this prestigious award. He is a Life Changer who epitomizes what this award stands for.

Sharon Benton Posted over a year ago

The main response from people who know Cas is “I love Cas McWaters!” We should make tee shirts saying that, it is a universal cry. I worked with Cas while bookkeeper at VHHS and his leadership was phenomenal, in the classroom as well as when he served as principal. He always goes above and beyond any and all expectations. I’ve also known him as a parent and my children thought he was “the best!” He has boundless energy and such a personal touch with everyone that makes him perfect as Lifechanger of the Year.

Charolette Hamby Posted over a year ago

I wholeheartedly recommend Cas McWaters for Lifechanger of the Year. He has been a friend for many years. At Vestavia High School he was an outstanding fellow teacher and administrator. I appreciate so much the integrity and commitment Cas displays to teachers and students. No one loves young people more than Cas.

Karen Jeane Posted over a year ago

I would like to speak for Mr. McWaters from three perspectives: Parent, colleague, and a teacher under his leadership. In all three aspects, Mr. McWaters was outstanding. Both of my children had him as their chemistry teacher. He was able to teach a difficult subject in a way that made it clear, but he also enjoyed the students and they enjoyed his class. He was aware of needing to respect them and encouraging them to respect other. He also stressed ethical and moral behavior. Because I also taught at the school, I was also able to experience his positive attitude and his desire to do what is best for students and to help students. When he became the principal, I worked with him on accreditation essays. His ability to see the big picture and overall effects of decisions was amazing, and, again, he always had student- interest in mind. He loves helping and teaching students and is a wonderful human being!

Kay W. Tipton Posted over a year ago

I have known Cas for 40 years. He was a student at Vestavia Hills High School when I first knew him. He was in my Pre-calculus class his senior year. Cas was an outstanding student and very involved in all aspects of the school. While at Vestavia, he was in challenging academic classes, was a talented musician, was involved in the baseball program and had outstanding character traits. After graduating from Auburn, Cas returned to Vestavia as a chemistry instructor. A few years later Cas became an assistant principal. Cas was able to do a great job in that role because of his knowledge of all aspects of the school and the community. Later, Cas became the principal at Tarrant High School and then returned to Vestavia as our principal. Cas was so involved in all activities at the school and was loved by the students as well as the faculty. I am pleased to recommend him for this award. I feel he has changed the life of many of the young people with which he has worked.

Emily Sanders Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is the perfect candidate for an honor called Life Changer of the Year. He has made his life work to make a difference with students. His ability to adapt and respond to the needs of all types of students in all types of situations is a testament to his commitment to help each one and make a difference in their future. Cas is excellent in building relationships and being a truth teller even in the hardest of situations. Going the extra mile and being an unselfish giver of his time and resources is a true example of a great leader. Honored to learn from his example.

Robin Greenlee Posted over a year ago

I am so excited to support Cas McWaters' nomination for Life Changer of the Year! For the years that I have known Cas, I have always been amazed by his energy and optimism which he constantly uses to make a difference in our community, his church and his family. And He never seems to stop! His commitment to students over the years has never slowed even a little bit. More than just being concerned about excellence in education - which is a huge need in this day and age - he is every bit as active in seeing the other needs in the lives of students, teachers and others around him and responding to them without pause. It is easy to see why he evokes such response from kids - he truly cares and it shows! His ready laugh and humor draws people in; his talents, wisdom and compassion keep them. There are few as deserving and impactful as Cas McWaters for this recognition, and few better to hold up as an example to all of us who see the need to make a difference in our world. Cas does it everywhere he goes - and he is always going!

James Brittle Posted over a year ago

Throughout the 19 years I have known Cas, he has always approached and handled each situation he faced with the best interests of the students involved at the forefront. Whether he was the teacher, the administrator, high school coach or volunteer coach he has impacted so countless young people because of his love for them and his desire for their ultimate success in life. His efforts to help his current students succeed often go unnoticed and require far more time than most are willing to commit. I can think of no better way to acknowledge and highlight his accomplishments with students.

Steve Browning Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is tireless in his investment to the next generation. As an administrator, teacher, and coach, his impact has been exponential all across the Birmingham area. Even after long days serving in schools, he still finds the energy to pour into students at his local church through Sunday School, student choirs, and personal mentoring. He is a powerhouse of wisdom to the thousands of students who have been blessed to connect with him over the years. He has made those who serve alongside him, whether fellow educators, ministers, or volunteers better by modeling what it means to really care for students. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.

Laura Casey Posted over a year ago

Not only has Cas, affected the lives of thousands of students in his career, he has also changed the lives of his employees and colleagues. Cas gave me my first job. Looking back at my teaching and coaching career, he believed in me as an educator and a coach long before I ever believed in myself. Not only did he give me confidence as a young professional, he also created stability as I always knew that Cas was behind me, supporting & encouraging me to pursue excellence in the classroom and on the playing field. He has made me a better educator and coach and, in turn, affected the lives of the hundreds of kids that have walked through my doors.

Sabrina Hagen Posted over a year ago

As a parent I’ve seem Mr. Mcwaters go above and beyond for all students. Whether it is to support them academically or to listen to them share their thoughts, fears and hopes. He’s dedicated his life to encourage all students.

Paul Carter Posted over a year ago

Whether it's in his school as a teacher or principal, his local church as a Sunday School teacher or choir director, or on the baseball/football field as a coach, Cas has had a direct and positive influence on the lives of thousands of students for decades. I've had the privilege of witnessing first-hand how Cas gives so selflessly of his time and resources in order to invest in the lives of students and to see how those students gravitate to Cas because they know he cares about them. He has an honest, straightforward and many times humorous approach to helping students deal with the challenges and difficulties that they face. Mentoring and teaching students is his passion and the difference he has made in so many is evident when I see adults who were once his students come back and express their appreciation to him for his investment in their lives.

Renée Shepherd Posted over a year ago

This profile is proof as to why Cas is deserving of this award. It has been my pleasure to know him for 20+ years.

Hayes Lucas Posted over a year ago

As someone he taught in Sunday school and went to the high school where he was a principal, I can definitely say he deserves this. He was always in the halls of the school interacting with students as well as getting to know them. It was amazing to have someone like Cas in my life because I felt like he cared about me as a student and still does. I’ve been able to come to him several times for help and he has always been there for me. I can’t think of anyone who could possibly deserve this more!

Lori Cole Posted over a year ago

I have had the honor of seeing Cas McWaters in action!! He was my mentor for 2 years and so blessed to call him a friend. This is definitely a deserving award for a wonderful man!!

Judy Meadows Posted over a year ago

Cas is truly invested in his students and goes the extra mile to make sure they have a good outcome.

Leah Ayers Posted over a year ago

Cas is a great person to be nominated for the life changer award!

Dina Sprouse Posted over a year ago

It is my privilege to be in the church choir with Cas McWaters. I’ve watched Cas direct different choirs in our church, and he always brings out the best of the people that are involved. Cas is a man of great integrity, and there is no one more deserving Of this award than Cas McWaters.

Lis Hethcox Posted over a year ago

Mr. McWaters is SO deserving of this award! He has touched the lives of countless kids including my own! He always goes above and beyond to help kids succeed in school and in life!! There is no better candidate for LifeChanger of the Year!!

Steve Bendall Posted over a year ago

I can think of no one better suited for this title than Cas McWaters. Cas is a man who puts this title into action every day. I have had the pleasure of knowing and being friends with Cas over 40 years and can testify that he is a positive influence in his words and actions. Cas has been a tremendous influence not only on young people throughout his academic, coaching,teaching and singing career but also to adults alike as his presence is that of a friend and mentor. Cas is an active member in his church, Shades Mountain Baptist and has led youth and adult classes as well as music ministry. He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. Cas loves his community and has volunteered in most every capacity possible to serve his city and citizenry. Most of all, Cas has the ability to make each and every person he comes into contact feel as if they are the most important person at that moment in time, in the world. Most anyone can volunteer, it is that person that goes out of the way to make the most minuscule thing a personal connection with another person that earns the title of "Life Changer" in my book, and Cas Mc Waters is the author in my humble opinion.

Charlotte Thornton Posted over a year ago

Cas McWaters is Intentionally involved in the lives of the students he serves. It is a thrill and honor to learn from him in the arena of building relationships. He obviously cares deeply for the students he ministers to, and makes efforts outside of a school setting to meet various needs.