Vision, Mission, and Core Values

  • Vision: We inspire a lifelong passion for learning.
  • Mission:  We prepare all students to achieve excellence by providing the highest quality education while empowering each individual to positively impact their families, communities, and the world.
  • Core Values:  Accountability: We, working in conjunction with students’ families, accept responsibility to ensure student learning, to pursue excellence, and to hold high standards for all. Citizenship: We prepare all students to exercise the duties, rights, and privileges of being a citizen in a local community and global society. Excellence: We pursue the highest academic, extracurricular, and personal/professional standards through continuous reflection and improvement.  Integrity: We embrace a culture in which individuals adhere to exemplary standards and act honorably.  Personal Growth: We promote the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and experience to develop individuals with the aspiration, perseverance, and resilience to be lifelong learners.  Respect: We show regard and consideration for all through a culture of dignity, diversity, and empathy.  Leadership: We provide guidance and direction to accomplish tasks while being a moral compass to others.





Speed Limit on School Ground is 10 m.p.h.

1. All students parking in the Choctawhatchee parking lot are required to obtain and display the appropriate decal* on their vehicle. Students are restricted to parking in the areas designated for their specific decal. Students parking in an unauthorized area are subject to fines and other disciplinary actions, including loss of driving privileges on campus.

2. Vehicles parked without a decal are subject to $20 fines (which will go towards purchasing a decal) and towing at owner’s expense.

3. Students are to park their vehicle and enter the building immediately. Please lock your vehicle, as the school cannot accept responsibility for theft or vandalism. Report these incidents to the administrators or SRO.

*Students parking a vehicle on campus must register their car and purchase a parking decal for that vehicle. The fees are $20.00. Students who are TEMPORARILY driving a vehicle with no CHS decal must make arrangements in the front office that will accommodate their needs. These arrangements must be made the very first day the student parks a car with no CHS decal.


Bell Schedules




Our Story

In the Beginning. . .

Choctawhatchee High School opened its doors in Shalimar, Florida on Monday, September 22, 1952, with an over-capacity enrollment of 625 students in grades 7-12. The $600,000 building was designed to hold 500 students, and was considered to be the most modern school in Northwest Florida at that time.

The school combined students from Niceville, Ft. Walton Beach, Wright, Ocean City, Shalimar and Destin.

According to Mr. Jim Leonard, Choctaw’s first band director, the original site planned for the school is where the current US Air Force Armament Museum is located. Mr. Clifford Meigs, however, released the land where the school was actually built. This is a photo of the first school sign at the Meigs location. Fall, 1952.


Getting a Name

The local newspaper, then named the Playground Daily News, held a contest to name the school. Leonard came up with the idea to call the school Choctawhatchee…as in Bay and River.

The word is a Creek Indian word that means “Coming Together.” Since students were coming together from all over the county, it seemed appropriate.

Votes for the school name were cast by sending postcards to the Playground Daily News. In the end, Choctawhatchee won.

According to Leonard, a committee of students who had attended school in Niceville and those from Ft. Walton were asked to choose the school colors.

Niceville had the colors burgundy and gold and Ft. Walton had the colors blue and white. “The students wanted to keep white because it is neutral, but didn’t want to choose between burgundy or blue. I suggested green, mainly because it isn’t used by schools much and it is my favorite color,” Leonard said. The students liked the idea.

Uniting for one School

There was some tension among students that first year. It was particularly difficult for the seniors who had to make a change their last year in high school. ““Some students got into scuffles as you can imagine. It was what you would expect any time you put students from rival schools together,” ”Leonard said. Each group of students, those from Niceville and those from Ft. Walton, considered students from the other town different.” Betty Blizzard , a member of Choctaw’s first graduating class in 1953, who lived in Niceville, described the situation. “It was like segregation. Ft. Walton was our rival. Those students were more worldly.” To help promote unity among students in the new school, Leonard said that several teachers helped the students plan a homecoming that fall. The parade route was around the school and down a few streets in the small town of Shalimar, but it helped unify the students.

Blizzard said pep rallies also helped unite the students. “Pep rallies were a fun time. We could sing, cheer and just have a good time,” Blizzard said. That first year was a simple, but trying time for Choctawhatchee High School that led to the formation of traditions that have stayed with the school for fifty years.

Information compiled by Linda Evanchyk, Class of 1974.




























The Horse

The riding of the horse at the start of each home football game is one of the most talked about aspects of Choctaw tradition. While this tradition does not date back as far as others, it has as many tales to it as any other.


Football coach and athletic director, Wyman Townsel, came to Choctaw in 1965. The athletic program was struggling, and Townsel’s goal was to get the players and fans motivated. His idea was for a student to ride a horse at an outdoor pep rally to get the crowd motivated. He chose a student who agreed to paint himself green to ride the horse. Well, when the band struck up, “Big Green Indian,” the plan fell apart. Seems the horse wasn’t too fond of the song and bucked the student off.

Obviously, that was not the end of the horse, though. Townsel found Jim Hart, a local equestrian and Choctaw fan, to help with the horse. Hart taught several individuals how to ride the horse, and after several years, students “auditioned” to ride the horse. Not only does the student have to know how to ride the horse, but he or she also has to throw a spear midfield. Add to that the football team running onto the field, the crowd is going wild, and oh yes, the band is playing, “Big Green Indian.” It is quite a challenge to ride the horse at each game.

Brian Buckelew, Class of 1987 grad, rode the horse for two years. “It was a thrill and honor to ride the horse at each game. Mr. Ely helped me a great deal in learning how to handle riding the horse onto the field, ” Buckelew said. The horse has also impacted visiting rivals. At one particular school, the football team had to be warned about the horse because a previous trip to Big Green Territory had intimidated, and in fact, frightened many of the players. The Head Coach actually spent valuable practice time going over the horse-riding and spear-throwing so his players would be ready. Legend has it that the team was still awestruck.

Many think that the idea of the horse was borrowed from Florida State University, but according to Townsel, that isn’t true. He said that Ann Bowden, wife of Florida State University football coach, Bobby Bowden, attended a Choctaw football game in the 1970s, saw the horse run, and told her husband that it would be a good idea for FSU.

Over the years, both males and females have ridden the horse. It still incites spirit among current Choctaw students as well as alumni and equally impresses those visiting us.

The Totem Pole


The Totem Pole is an important symbol of school pride.One purpose of the Native American totem pole was to serve as an emblem of a family or clan. The three totem poles Choctawhatchee High School has had in front of the school over the years have served a similar purpose.

The head of the totem pole represents the Big Green Indian with “the sun for his left eye.” Each section of the totem pole represents an aspect of student life. The first Choctaw totem pole happened by accident, according to the school’s first band director, Jim Leonard. He and Bryan Lindsay were looking for a big, wooden Indian statue that was popular in front of stores, but couldn’t find one. A senior student in a woodshop class offered to design and carve a totem pole.

That was in 1957. The first totem pole was relocated to the “new” Choctaw on Racetrack Road in 1966. Since it was made out of wood, it eventually rotted and was replaced by a new one in 1981. The second totem pole was carved out of a telephone pole. Student leaders painted each section. The second totem pole was destroyed in 1995 by Hurricane Opal, and the school went without a totem pole for two years. The Choctaw staff went through hardship wherever they went from people asking about the totem pole.

Alumni were particularly troubled about seeing their alma mater go totem pole-less.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without being asked about the totem pole,” said then-Principal Richard Bounds.

The class of 1997 raised the $3,000 to get the totem pole made by a wood carver in South Walton County. The current totem pole is made of a cypress tree. The tree was left in its natural shape, which has a slight lean to it.

To make the totem pole more stable, a steel pole was placed in the center.

Over 45 years the totem pole has stood in front of Choctawhatchee High School. It has withstood hurricanes, attacks by rivals, and continues to serve as an emblem of the Choctaw High School Family.

The Songs

When Jim Leonard came to Choctaw that first year as the band director, the new school had no alma mater or other school songs. He wrote the Alma Mater that first year. The tune is a World War I song, “Long, Long Trail Awinding.”

In 1956, Bryan Lindsay came to Choctaw as choral director, replacing Andy Write. He started on the words to “Big Green Indian,” which is actually a spirit song.

“Bryan would bring the words over to me during the school day to ask my opinion. I made suggestions, and we collaborated on the music,” Leonard said.

Most anyone who has ever heard, “Big Green Indian,” remembers it. It has a unique sound that seems to never grow old. Leonard said that the first time he and Lindsay played the song for the students it was an immediate hit.

“I learned it on the piano in three days,” said Peggy Starkey Rice, 1962 graduate.

Leonard said that the song has a beat that makes it unforgettable.

“We kind of have to thank Elvis for the success of ‘Big Green Indian’. He changed music at that time, and “Big Green’ has a rock’n roll base,” Leonard said.

Indeed, in 1963, a group in Nashville recorded the song, that Lindsay had sent them, as a single pop song. The flip side of the 45 rpm record had the song, “The Loneliest Boy on the Beach,” reminiscent of the Beach Boys.

Allison Lindsay Lofe, daughter of Bryan Lindsay, said she has fond memories of growing up singing along with “Big Green Indian.”

“We listened to that song and sang it like other kids sang along with the radio,” Lofe, now a teacher at Bluewater Elementary, said.

“Dad was really proud of all of the songs he wrote,” Lofe added.

Bryan Lindsay died in 1996 in North Carolina. Jim Leonard, with members of his family own Playground Music Center. He retired from Choctaw in 1967, but has helped out with the band over the years.

The Headdresses

Since the 2nd year of their existence, the Choctawhatchee Stylemarchers have been recognizable not only by the precision and excellence of their craft, but by their ornate headdresses which have become one of the most treasured traditions of Big Green Territory.


Across the nation this distinguishing feature can be seen at parades, bowl games, and professional football contests, depending on which venue the Stylemarchers grace.

The Stylemarchers’ signature accessory was started during the tenure of Jim Leonard, Choctaw’s first Band Director and has endured for over 50 years.

Each Stylemarcher’s headdress is uniformed but personally styled for uniqueness. Each headdress has 30 large feathers with over 1000 other feathers in green, black, red, and white. Each feather, along with horsehair, must be placed in the headdress frame one at a time.

The drum major’s headdress is even more elaborate and flows the entire length of this student who is charged with the responsibility of being the most recognizable member of the most recognizable band in the South.

Most of the information on this page courtesy of Linda Evanchyk and the Smoke Signals Staff.





























Individuals or groups selected for the Hall of Fame must have brought honor to themselves, and by doing so, also honor to the school, and must have distinguished themselves in at least one of the categories below. Their moral character must be above reproach.  
Categories for recognition to the Hall of Fame:
  • Achievement- this alum has distinguished him/herself in his/her career or in a civic organization.
  • Athletics- this may be a player, coach or team that has been exceptional in the area of athletics for the school.
  • Service- this is a faculty or staff member, alum or friend of Choctaw who has given exceptional service to the school.
  • Distinguished Alum- this is a graduate who has continued to give to the school after graduation, or has otherwise distinguished himself or herself. The person must have been graduated a minimum of 20 years prior to being inducted.
First Class of Nominees-September 21, 2012:
*Thomas Barton, first principal 1952 - 1954
*H.A. Bruner, second principal 1954 – 1974
*Ben Brown, third principal 1974 – 1979
Richard Bounds, fourth principal 1979- 2003
Bettye Campbell, long-time resident/supporter
Cindy Gates, fifth principal from 2003- 2016
Jenny Hamilton, former teacher and activities director
Mike Jones, Choctaw fan and supporter
Jim Leonard, first band director and co-composer of school songs
*Bryan Lindsay, former choral director and co-composer of school songs
*William “Pop” Marler, spirit maker
Eddie Taylor, Class of 1957 graduate/supporter
Wyman Townsel, football coach/athletic director 1965-1973
*Dutch Van Buskirk, former radio broadcaster who broadcast Choctaw games
Jo Yeager, drama teacher 1973 – 1987
2013 Inductees
Jerry Brigante, community supporter
Jackie Burkett, former student/athlete/ professional football player
*Ray Goral, band supporter
Billy Mikel, former student, athlete, teacher and administrator
Fred Pitts, former teacher, coach and voice of the Style Marchers
*Indicates the person was inducted posthumously.
2014 Inductees
Elaine Anderson, former Choctaw student and teacher
Sharilyn Darnell, former Choctaw student/community leader
Todd Gatlin, former Choctaw student/community leader
Melody Jackson, former teacher/champion for female athletes
*Richard Pitts, former band parent/Style Marchers supporter
*Indicates the person was inducted posthumously.
2015 Inductees
Richard O. Covey, former Choctaw student/ astronaut
Lionel Fayard, former Choctaw athletic director
Nancy Krenkel, former director of the Choctaw International Baccalaureate program
Roy Pike, former Choctaw football player; on the first team
Marci Clemons-Spivey, former Choctaw student; award-winning golfer
2016 Inductees
Anne Johnston, former Choctaw teacher and administrator
Jennifer Cannon Kunz, former student, NASA engineer
Don Kyzer, former teacher, and assist, band director
Tom and Peggy Rice, former students and community supporters
Mary Jane Ross, former media specialist, TV production teacher
Don and Janie Varner
2017 Inductees
Gina Gregory, former Choctaw student
*Houston Harrison, former Choctaw coach
David Lambert, former Choctaw student/Chief Scientist (Eglin AFB)
*Sherman Moon, former Choctaw student/athlete, entrepreneur
Susan Casper Smith, former Choctaw student/TV personality
2018 Inductees
Linda Evanchyk, former Choctaw student and teacher
Garry Hines, former Choctaw student athlete
Krysta Jones, former Choctaw student
Donna Lambert, former Choctaw student
Gareth Stearns, former Choctaw student

2019 Inductees
*Lona Almond 
Willie Gosha
Justin Johnson
Bill Roberts
Dr. Jolyn Taylor


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