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All American High School Film Festival selects Combs as Teacher of the Year

MADISON – The All American High School Film Festival has named Clay Combs of James Clemens High School as its 2019 “Teacher of the Year.”

Combs teaches introduction to TV production and photography, along with advanced TV production or Jetspress, part of the Arts A/V Academy in the Career Tech subject area at James Clemens.

The award recognizes a teacher who mentors students with proficiency and growth for the film fest, from number of selections to on-site film competitions.

At the festival, founder Tom Oliva began describing the winner but Combs dismissed any similarities to himself. However, Combs’ students in the audience began looking at him.

“I still wasn’t convinced until my name was called. I was in complete shock. Honestly, the best part was hearing the applause and shouts from my students,” Combs said.

In 2018, Combs’ students raised funds to bring Oliva and the film fest to James Clemens. Combs also invited Liberty Middle School’s Digcom and Lee High School’s newly formed film classes.

Oliva discussed the importance of film and methods for improvement. “He also spent one-on-one time with my Jetspress students and saw how seriously we take things but also how much fun we have,” Combs said.

In its fourth year of competition, James Clemens has had eight official selections in the film festival and one finalist for music video. James Clemens also was a finalist in the two-day “Claustrophobic Challenge” where groups had 48 hours to complete a two- to five-minute film using only one location.

“We submit horror, sci-fi, comedies and dramas, but typically have the most success with PSAs, documentaries and music videos,” Combs said.

James Clemens’ accomplishments include “Everything’s Fine, I’m Fine” music video by local talent Brent Morgan; Jets sports promotional videos; best PSA for ISTE conference; student-created horror film festival, “The October Project”; “10Min” original theatre/film production; internships with Huntsville Havoc; and summer camp.

“I would love to offer more real-world experience by expanding to groups such as Rocket City Digital and Rocket City Trash Pandas,” Combs said.

A 1995 Bob Jones High School graduate, Combs received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He returned to alma mater Liberty to teach language arts in 2002.

His wife Kristi Combs works as Instructional Partner at James Clemens. Their son Tyler, 17, is a James Clemens junior and nine-year-old daughter Lily, 9, a Columbia Elementary School third-grader.

“Not surprisingly, in my spare time I love watching movies. I also love live music and going to concerts with my son,” Clay said.

For more information, visit Hsfilmfest.com.

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