Greetings from the Chair:
After fifty plus years, I still remember my first teacher. I can vividly remember Mrs. Meyers bouncing a red ball in the classroom and introducing us to the sounds of the alphabet and phonics. I am still fascinated by the memories of going to school that first year and beginning a long journey of discovery beginning with tying my shoe laces for the first time on my own. Ms. Kay McCoy continued the work of exposing the marvels of the world around me in the second grade and hammering home the reading and writing skills that we all had to learn. Her smiles and laughter still exist in my memories and far outweigh the times I think she could have given up on us because of our classroom antics.
Mrs. Bailey told me that I would be president someday. She made me feel like the king of the third grade. She believed in me and insisted that I was capable of doing anything I wanted to do. I have long since given up any plans for higher office and am quite content with my choices but she made everything possible through her encouragement. Mrs. Bailey came to my rescue once when Mrs. Braswell, the school librarian, took a wooden ruler to my flexed and outstretched hand for an indiscretion on my part in the library one day. Apparently third graders should not be reading about the sinking of the Bismarck and the history of World War II and should stick to the bookshelves she had designated for third graders. After Mrs. Bailey and Mrs. Braswell had a little talk, Mrs. Braswell always steered me to the best books the Dewey Decimal system could offer in any part of the library. They both hold special places in my memories and share responsibility for growing my love of reading and books despite a rocky start.
Mrs. Sandra Burns was a genteel and always calm teacher despite my and other’s fourth grade propensity for mischief and trouble. I hear her voice even now as she read Caddie Woodlawn to us beneath the big oaks on the playground of Fairview Heights Elementary School. We hung on her every word from every book she shared. We traveled around the world that spring with a wonderful teacher that wanted each of us to love reading and to enjoy exploring the world through books.
There was Mrs. Keziah and Mrs. Cribb and of course Mrs. Shelley, my seventh grade teacher. She was a giant of a teacher despite her height of four feet from the top of her head to the tile on the floor. I look back now and realize her height probably gave her a distinct mechanical advantage for a slightly uplifting arc when wielding the two-handed board she used to inspire some of us. On numerous occasions she provided these uplifting and inspirational reminders of why I was in school contrary to some of my own ideas! Curiously I remember those days with a smile knowing she always wanted me to succeed-despite myself at times.
I remember Mr. Matthew Williams, the custodian that looked after our entire school. He was always first to arrive in the morning and last to leave every day. He always seemed to know every student by name and kept up with our progress in school each year. He kept the furnace going every winter and made sure the floors were smooth as glass for those of us that loved to slide down the corridors when teachers turned their heads. He was a friend to us all and always had a smile for us as we passed in our neat lines. Mrs. Strickland in her funny hairnet made sure we had hot food everyday although I don’t recall the food was always what I liked or wanted. Mrs. Cochran kept up with how much milk money I owed and always made sure I had plenty when I forgot to bring my nickel.
Mr. L.H. Williamson, our Principal, was someone that you steered clear of if possible according to the older students. He was always talking to us and smiling and turned out not to be a bad guy once you got to know him a bit-so much for the wisdom of fifth and sixth graders.
I could go on and on about my teachers and the many people in my school years that nurtured me as a student and provided encouragement and inspiration on a steady basis. I remember them all, from elementary to high school, so clearly and as if my time with them just occurred instead of forty plus years ago. They inspired me and cared about my education even when I did not. Unfortunately I do not recall ever letting each of them know how much they meant to me. I guess it takes us awhile to appreciate some gifts. I give them great credit for their patience and now belated thanks they richly deserve for not giving up on me or their other students that did not always appreciate being in class every day. I just hope they know how much they have meant to me and the many other students they have impacted in their careers despite our not always saying so.
Even though schools are quite different today, I think that most people are like me and fondly remember their teachers and the other special people that have made a difference in their lives while in school. Like me, they may not have always expressed their appreciation in a timely manner but I believe they do remember and feel gratitude for those special people in their lives when they reflect on their time in school. Sometimes we adults may forget about those special people for a time but when we remember as children, we always remember our teachers and school friends. They stay with us in our hearts and memories forever.
As you go about your day, just remember that every student you teach, drive to and from school, clean up behind, prepare food for every day or otherwise care for in your work, will remember their days in our schools and like me, someday will remember the names and faces of all the special people that opened their eyes to a very wondrous world through education. They may take awhile to reflect and appreciate their time in school but I assure you, they will remember and they will appreciate you and your choice to be there for them.
Thank you all for being the special people in the lives of our students in Brunswick County Schools and thank you all for the endurance and steadfast commitment that is necessary for the work of educating students. We all appreciate you whether we think to say it or not.
John W. Thompson
School Board Chairman
Brunswick County Board of Education