My favorite teachers in high school were, of course, my band directors, but the teacher that made the most impact on me was my senior English teacher. At the end of my junior year, the counselor came into our class for us to register for classes for our senior year. She said, “If you are going to go to college, you need to take College Bound English next year.” I really had never thought about it, since I thought I was borderline stupid; but, I thought, “Why not go ahead and take it in case I decide to go.” I walked into Mrs. Fitzgerald’s class the first day of my senior year and looked around at my classmates. Most of them were in their fourth year of Latin. I, on the other hand, had majored in band, drama, choir, and boyfriends – in no particular order. Mrs. Fitzgerald explained her expectations for the class, and she expected the same from me as she did from everyone else in the class, and she got it. Mrs. Fitzgerald knew her students. Early in the semester, she called me up to her desk and pointed to the poem “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” in the literature book; she said, “This poem has been set to music; see if you can find it. We will be on this page Tuesday, and when we are, I will point to you and I would like for you to sing this poem for the class.” After that, I would have done anything for her. I became a writer in her class. I also began to question whether I might be a little above borderline stupid.
I did go to college – 1 year, and then I quit and raised a family. I was a dedicated mother, pastor’s wife, gospel singer and religious writer. But for several reasons that I won’t go into here, I still considered myself a little above borderline stupid.
In 1990, the year my son went to college, I went back to school, back to the same college I had gone to in 1970. I was looking for the quickest route to a bachelor’s degree so I could go on and get a master’s degree in psychology. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the degree. I was seeking a degree in Bible with a minor in English and I had to have an upper level elective. In the spring semester of my senior year I took a course entitled “The Principles and Practices of Teaching” because it was available at a convenient time. On one February day as I sat through that class, I had an epiphany: I actually experienced a “calling”. I, at 41, was in class with mostly 20-22 year old males who were going to be preachers, and as I internally contemplated the principles and practices of teaching, I began to quietly sob. One of the young men said, “Ma’am, are you all right?” “Yes,” I said, “It’s just that now I know what I want to be when I grow up!” So, instead of going on to do a master’s degree in psychology, I followed a friend’s suggestion, contacted the Arkansas Department of Education and entered their Alternative Licensure Program in May. In August, I was a teacher.