Home Lifestyle RAMBLINGS: Remembering teachers who made a difference

RAMBLINGS: Remembering teachers who made a difference

The last few days of cooler weather goes along with thoughts of a new school year for our children and grandchildren and also the rekindling of my own memories of the anticipation and excitement I always felt at the prospect of beginning a new school year.

Sadly, for most of our kids, the beginning of this school year is marred by such issues as teacher shortages, pandemic anxiety, and now the ever present possibility of school shootings. For these reasons and others, we can only hope our schools will be given the highest priority in legislative decision-making and funding.

Fortunately, I have wonderful memories of schools I attended in Aberdeen and Raeford and of several teachers who made a great impact in my life.

My second-grade teacher was Edith Caldwell — who was also my next door neighbor on East Main Street in Aberdeen. Mrs. Caldwell was the “back-up” person for my family. Unlike most of my peers, my mother as well as my father worked outside of the home. I rode to school with Mrs. Caldwell that year and also returned home with her.

Mrs. Caldwell was a member of the local garden club and loved sharing her interest in birds, flowers, and nature in her classroom as well as in her well landscaped home. A faithful member of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Caldwell made sure that I as a member of Bethesda memorized the catechism of questions and answers about Christianity that children were expected to memorize. She always made me feel at home if I went over for a visit. In the summer, it would not be unusual for her to give me a pan to shell peas or beans from her garden. She would have her own pan and we would have a fun time just talking about a variety of subjects.

My fourth-grade teacher was Barbara Blake, who was much younger than Mrs. Caldwell and also a very attractive and vivacious woman. Mrs. Blake was big on group art projects. The one I remember the most was a plaster of Paris pond constructed on a sheet of plywood. A beaver dam was in the pond along with clay beavers scattered around the pond. Mrs. Blake knew my dad was quite an outdoorsman, so she invited him to talk to the class about his observations of beavers and otters in the wild.


After lunch, Mrs. Blake had us put our heads on our desks and she read us a Bible story. She gave no commentary about the stories but looking back in retrospect from these “politically correct” times, I am thinking how wonderful these stories were. I am sure there were kids in the class who did not attend church or Sunday school on a regular basis or even had Bible studies in their homes, but I know this exposure had to have meant so much to them. Regardless of the religious importance of the Bible for Christians, the Bible remains a cornerstone of western civilization for morality lessons, heroic characters, and allusions and references found in countless pieces of literature.

My family moved to Hoke County at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. It was at Hoke High in Raeford that I had the good fortune of getting into Roy Young’s World History class and later in his U.S. History class. There was something about Mr. Young’s demeanor that reminded me of the actor Robert Mitchum. He certainly did not mind sharing his opinion about a variety of topics. It was evident he loved reading history books and biographies and sharing interesting stories not often found in history text books.

He told us about an episode from his teenage years growing up in Maxton. He was present at a widely known event occurring in a field located near Hayes Pond in Maxton. A group of Lumbees broke up a KKK rally and ended the influence of the Klan in tri-racial Robeson County. He noted that the story of the routing of the Klan made Life magazine. Shots were fired but miraculously no one was killed or injured that evening.

I feel fortunate to have had dinner with Mr. Young a few years ago in Calabash where he had retired after a teaching stint in New York and later as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in India. I was happy two of my college friends were able to meet one of my favorite teachers. It was only a few weeks ago I got the sad news he had passed away.

Hoping for a safe and memorable school year for all our kids and that they will be left with some lifelong memories also.

Helen Cox is a former journalist and educator in Richmond County.

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