By Allison Law
Readers share memories of those who inspired them
They’re more than just instructors and paper-graders. Most of us can recall at least one special school teacher who not only made learning fun, but opened our eyes to new worlds in science and math, piqued our interest in literature and music, and inspired us to reach farther and do better, in school as well as life.
We asked readers to send us stories about their favorite teachers, and to share with us how these educators shaped their minds and attitudes. They’re role models as well as teachers, and their lessons go far beyond the classroom.
Below are the responses we received; perhaps you’ll think back on your favorite teacher, and say “thank you” to the educators of today.
My mother, my teacher
My favorite teacher was my mother, Gladys Brasher.
My mother had finished high school and one year of college and was teaching school at age 16.
She taught all five of her children and many of her grandchildren, and gave each child her time.
She never learned to drive, so she rode the school bus to school each day.
She finished college, raised five children and never complained about being tired.
She took time with each child she taught. She loved all of her students.
Even today, now that she has been gone for 23 years, people will come up to me and tell me how much she meant to them and how much she helped them in school.
After she retired, she continued to help her grandchildren with homework.
– Barbara Smith, Vandiver
Life is a highway
My favorite teacher was Ms. Dianne Milliose, who taught fifth grade at the elementary school I attended in Temple Hills, Md. She was strict and firm, but fun. She would jump rope with us at recess. She taught you to strive for more than 100 percent.
When I moved to Alabama, my favorite would be my 11th-grade teacher, Mr. Byrd. He would always find ways to remind me that learning comes from interest and a burning desire and passion. Some of his other lessons: Life is a highway, with many turns, many obstacles, many distractions. Stay focused and alert. A reward is earned, and respect is earned. Not to give in, but learn when to bend.
– Patricia Baggett, Uriah
Making English enjoyable
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Creighon, a seventh-grade English teacher at Baton Rouge Jr. High, in 1959.
We, as new students, had been warned of this woman’s strict and tough attitude. Let me assure you, it was all true. On the first day, Mrs. Creighon stated no one in her class would fail. We would all participate in her activities, turn in all homework, and not be late for class. The only excuses accepted for being absent was a note from a doctor or there was a death in the family.
We had to make up our minds, right then and there, what our intentions were. If we had no intentions of following her rules, she said to get out now and don’t come back. Who would dare to walk the halls without a pass? We knew from day one what was expected of us.
Because of this woman, English was my favorite and best subject throughout the rest of my education. She didn’t mind helping and working with us, individually. We would get that special attention, if we needed it.
We realized, too, not all of us were on the same learning level and our teacher helped each of us. Mrs. Creighon made English easy and enjoyable.
– Alice P. Dunbar, Robertsdale
Class was over when he said so
During my school career, I had many special teachers. When I think of one who stands out, I think of Mr. Billy Oliver of Holly Pond, Ala.
Mr. Oliver, or Coach Oliver as he is still known, touched the lives of many during his tenure with Cullman County Schools, serving in many positions as an educator, coach, principal, and eventually over the transportation for the county.
While at Holly Pond School, Coach Oliver taught science classes and coached football, girls’ basketball, and track. Coach Oliver gave countless hours of his time and himself to make a difference in the lives of many young people. As a family man, his family was always there to support the functions he was involved in. They were not only there to support him. But they were there to support the students he cared so much for.
Coach Oliver continues to take an interest in his students past their high school careers. As I began my teaching career 25 years ago, Coach Oliver was there to encourage me and often offered help many times. His encouragement from the past to this day has meant a lot to many.
Coach Oliver had a specific rule in his classes. Class was not over when the bell rang; it was over when he told you it was time to leave. Coach Oliver delivered to me the only paddling that I ever received in my school career for getting out of my seat when the bell rang. One time and I did not do it again.
Today, Coach Oliver serves as the mayor of our town. Though he is busy with his responsibilities as the mayor, he is never too busy to lend a hand or and encouraging word. The lessons that I learned in and out of the classroom from Coach Oliver made a difference in my life along with many others.
– June Wood, Holly Pond
Creating a passion for learning
Growing up in northeast Alabama on Sand Mountain, it did not occur to me that we were of the lower economic class. The four-room wooden schoolhouse with a pot-bellied stove for warmth and an outhouse down in the hollow should have given it away. But I had not one but three of the most amazing teachers ever to set foot in any classroom.
Miss Emma Hales taught me in first and second grade where both classes were in one room. With few books, limited materials, and a vivid imagination, Miss Emma would take us to all parts of the world.
The husband and wife team of Junior and Ina Carlyle continued that enthusiasm in third through sixth grades and made us feel we could conquer anything. Mrs. Carlyle convinced us that we were the greatest actors on the stage, confirmed when our little school placed in the top three at the annual 4-H County Talent contest every year. To Mr. Carlyle it mattered not whether your dad had a paying job or whether he was a sharecropper, everyone was the same. Many times he would pile us all on a flatbed truck to visit neighboring schools for a friendly softball match.
Few days go by that I do not recall something one of these outstanding educators taught me. Their influence has carried on through their students and through the hundreds who have been in my own classroom. Their influence created the passion for learning I continue to embrace.
– Nancie Ellis Nesbitt, Pelham
History came alive
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Kate B. Hendley. She was a loving, caring and inspiring teacher. Mrs. Hendley taught me in grades 4, 5 and part of 6 at Cowarts Elementary, a three-room school in Cowarts, Ala., 1959-1961.
She was soft-spoken, kind and friendly, yet she was firm. A student knew to listen to her, but when we did something wrong, she not only scolded us, she told us why it was wrong. When we did a good job or deed, she praised us.
In the mornings, Mrs. Hendley would let us take turns leading the pledge to the American flag, reciting a Bible verse, praying and leading the class in a song. Too, we got to ring the bell by pulling a large rope to begin and end school, recess and lunch.
Mrs. Hendley was a caring person. On my last day in her class, she pulled me aside and told me to always be honest, to be kind to others, to brush my teeth after meals, to keep myself and my belongings clean and to eat an apple every day!
She was an inspiring teacher. Most mornings she would read a chapter of a storybook to us. There was a double-door bookcase filled with biographies of our forefathers and other historical figures. I read them all.
Mrs. Hendley made Alabama history come alive. We learned the state song, bird, flower and all 67 counties. When it was rest time, our heads on our desks, Mrs. Hendley would be hand-sewing while listening to records of Perry Como singing or a Yankees baseball game on the radio.
To this day, I’m thankful for Mrs. Hendley and the good influence she made on my life. I love to read, sew and listen to ball games on the radio.
– Kathy Granger, Enterprise
Salt and pepper shaker memories
I felt the need to tell about my first-grade teacher in 1960, Mrs. Wilson. (I was born and raised in West Texas.)
She also taught three of my siblings. She could use that paddle very well.
I bought her a Christmas present that year. It was salt and pepper shakers shaped like a spoon and a fork.
As the years went by I became a nurse and still lived in the same town. I got a call one day to see if I would consider cleaning and cooking for her and her husband. I took on the challenge twice a week. Loved them dearly. Did this for them until they both passed away. I lovingly became the proud owner of the salt and pepper shakers from her family. One of my most cherished possessions. Hopefully my granddaughters will consider it one of their prize possessions also.
– Shirley Grimes, Marbury
Without discipline, there is no learning
Ms. Jesse Draper of Raleigh, N.C., was my first grade and favorite teacher, counting all education levels through a master’s degree. Why? She was a very strict disciplinarian and I was a “handful” if there ever was one. Folks today would not approve of her disciplinary actions, including holding my chin with a very long thumbnail and taking my chin to the floor while telling me “Don’t do that again.” No surprise that I didn’t do “that” again and the class continued without further interruption from me. I learned from her that without discipline, there is no learning.
Ms. Draper devoted just about her entire adult life to teaching young children and lived to be 100 years old. In her later years, we became friends and I am so thankful that I was able to say “thank you” to her personally before she passed. Our entire education system, including parents and lawyers, could learn a lot from Ms. Draper. I certainly did.
– Linwood H. (Woody) Snell, Jr., Colonel (USAF Retired), Lake Jordan