Lexington, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Happy birthday! Here is a teacher who remembers her students at least those over the last ten or more years of her career once a year, if not also at other times. She has wanted her students to know that they are special to her and that she is thinking about them. This tradition earned her an interview on NBC Evening News in February 2012.
Lois was born in Lexington, Mississippi, being the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who was in charge of his first church. The family moved from here when she was three years old. It was really unusual that when she and her husband married, he was working in this community!
She and her husband met on a blind date. One of her roommates when she was teaching in Clarksdale is his cousin. The roommate set up the date for the end of October 1972. It went well, but she did not hear from him again until after Christmas when hunting season had closed. Then he would visit her each weekend until they were married the following June! They have lived in the Lexington area ever since.
She graduated from Fair Park High School, in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1963, and from Belhaven University, in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1967. Her college major was Elementary Education and her minor was Christian Education.
She commenced her teaching career at Sue Reynolds Elementary School, in Augusta, Georgia, where she was in charge of nineteen second grade children in her first of numerous second grade classes. All of the students of this class had either repeated first grade or were repeating second grade. The classroom was located in the school auditorium because there was no other room available! This setting of students and classroom provided a challenge. However, because she was a first-year teacher, she did not realize fully how challenging it actually was. All of these children, who lived in a very low income area of town, possessed special needs academically.
One of the most vivid experiences of her career occurred with this class. A certain boy was hyperactive very hyperactive. Lois looked up one day and, to her horror, saw that he had climbed to the top of a huge cabinet in the room and was enjoying his achievement! On another occasion, the boy ran out one of the doors and came flying around the building and ran back through the door on the other side of the auditorium. On a quieter note, the class had two pet hamsters. On each weekend, a different child received the joy of taking them home and caring for them all weekend. The opportunity to be the keeper was eagerly anticipated. Those hamsters received special tender loving care during each weekend.
After successfully surviving her rookie year, she decided to go abroad for the second year to São Luis, Brazil, where she taught missionaries’ children. For her first year there, her class consisted of four children in grades 1, 4, and 6. She worked with her students in an open air garage that had been transformed into a classroom.
The next year, her class numbered thirteen children in grades 1 to 5. The people constructed a little thatched-roof two-room school. One of the mothers taught grades 6 to 8. She does not remember there being a problem in trying to take care of teaching five different grade levels in one room. The children were wonderful and everyone had a year full of happy memories. They even completed the year with a field day. The children helped make the annuals for the school that year. Lois took the pictures and made enough copies of each picture for each family to have an album. The older children helped put the pictures into it and do the writing for each page. Their little thatched-roof school was nicknamed “The Shaggy Dog School”! One child even drew a picture of it for each annual.
Her most challenging year was one in which she had only twelve second graders. They were not adequately prepared for the grade level work and it took Lois three weeks to formulate a workable plan which would meet each of their needs. She finally realized that the children had to be taught on three totally different levels in every subject. Thus, she placed four children into each group. They achieved much progress and, by the end of the year, they were able to proceed to the next grade. The interesting point was that she became the teacher for this same group of children later in the fifth grade and really enjoyed seeing how they had matured and were able to perform the work required much better! In the last years of teaching, it was much more of a challenge. Children were not ready to learn as easily as they had been in earlier years of her career. When she retired in 2006, Lois found it much more difficult to teach a small class than it had been to teach larger classes in the first half of her career.
Another memory that was special occurred in the second grade science when they had a unit on foods. Lois always added an extra part on etiquette and setting the table. At the end of it, she would prepare for them a nutritious dinner that exemplified a balanced meal. The children would help set and decorate the tables correctly and then all would practise their good manners. It was a special memory for students and teacher alike. How sad it is that so few families today ever sit down regularly at a table away from the television to eat a decent family meal and talk to each other during the meal!
Another enjoyable activity in the foods unit was to make a huge pot of soup. Each child would bring a vegetable and everyone would help to prepare the collection. By lunchtime, the soup was ready for them to eat. Lois would read the story Stone Soup to accompany the consumption of their soup. One day, she prepared a huge tray of vegetables for them to eat at recess. On another day, she prepared all the fresh fruits that she could find for them to sample.
One way in which she would make each child feel special was by letting each of them have a whole week when he/she was the Star Student. Each day had something special that the student would tell the rest of the class. On Mondays, the honoured students would bring posters that they had made, showing pictures of themselves and their family and pets. There was a special bulletin board constructed for them with their poster and their names written in an acrostic. One day, they would tell the class about their hobbies or collections and they could bring them and show everyone. On Fridays, they could invite a special guest to come and talk to the class. Sometimes, it would be their parents; but, sometimes, they would ask special friends to come and tell about their work, for example, fireman, policeman, doctor, and others. Everyone always looked forward to their special guests on Friday afternoon. Lois would take pictures of them and, at the end of the school year, would give them to the children.
It was her desire as a teacher that all children would perform the best that they could with the ability which God had provided them. What a joy it was to see the children excited about learning! During one year, the second graders listened attentively as she read The Little House on the Prairie series when the class took a break after lunch. How they loved those stories! One of the top gifts which they desired for Christmas that year was a set of the books so that they could read them on their own! Reading this series to her second graders was a tradition for her. It was a joy for Lois to see their little faces light up as they learned to think things through. They were so proud when they had finished their work and had done well. She taught the children organizational skills and instilled in them the sense of being responsible for their actions in addition to their academics.
Lois taught for thirty-three years, starting in 1967 and retiring in 2006. She and her husband raised four children, with her being able to stay home with them when they were young.
Throughout her teaching career, she served in Augusta, GA; São Luis, Brazil; Clarksdale, MS; Lexington, MS; Pickens, MS; and West, MS. During those years she taught kindergarten through the sixth grade, with the majority of the time being spent in the second grade. In her largest class, there were thirty-nine sixth graders.
She is so thankful that, in the schools where she taught, she was able to teach from a God-centred point of view. They were able to start each day with a Bible lesson, prayer, and learning Bible verses. The children learned a verse for each letter of the alphabet and then many other passages of Scripture. Lois loves Scripture choruses and, thus, the class would sing some each day.
She stresses that teaching is such an important occupation. She would advise anyone entering the profession to be sure your heart is in it. Do not do it solely as a job to receive a pay cheque! So many times today people do not want to spend the time it takes to prepare to teach. They want an eight to three job that they can walk out the door in the afternoon and forget about the job until the next day. A good teacher cannot operate that way because much time has to be spent in preparing for each lesson. It also requires much patience and love for the children and much wisdom and understanding. If you are not willing to give of your whole self, you should not consider being a teacher. As a Christian, she believes that it is so important to give the children a God-centred learning experience and to pray faithfully for them.
Lois has always loved to send greeting cards. When she started sending cards to the children, she thought that she would do it for only the year in which she taught them. However, it mushroomed and was such a pleasure helping make their birthdays special that she continued doing it year after year! Most of her former students are grown now, but they still look forward to their cards coming for their birthdays! Mothers tell her that many of them have all their cards in a box that they have saved over the years! Some will write back and give an update on how they are doing and even send pictures of their children! She uses a well-organized card system in order to keep the names, addresses, and dates at her fingertips.
It is been such a joy for Lois to watch the children grow up and become mature adults! God blessed her with many happy years of teaching, and she is thankful that she had the opportunity to do it. Now, she regrets that she did not begin to send cards in the first year that she taught! It was not until 1990 that she began; thus, there are only about 300 children involved. Counting family, church, and friends, she probably sends about 450 to 500 cards a year. Her former students refer to her with such words as “caring” and “dedicated”.
What a wonderful way Lois has to remember her former students! It is evident that she, too, will be remembered for many years to come.
(This page was updated in May 2012.)