We have all had them in our lives in one way or another: people who impacted us in such a way as to leave an omnipresent – albeit subtle – effect that would help to guide us through the trials and tribulations of life.
As serendipitous as the meeting may have been, it was with great pleasure that I happened to encounter such a person from my past at the recent Seaboard Festival in Hamlet: my sixth-grade teacher at Fairview Heights Elementary School, Mrs. Sarah Graham Jackson.
Having “worked” (although she prefers to view her career as a labor of love) as an educator for 36 years before retiring in 1999, Jackson was a mentor and inspiration to approximately 2,000 kids during her steady, continuous tenure.
As an active member of the Hamlet Friends of the Library, “Mrs. J” was assisting with sales of raffle tickets to benefit the library when we were (re)introduced at the festival. Although she was quick to point out that I evidently had her confused with “another” Sarah Jackson (which I must admit was indeed the case at first), we immediately realized just who each of us was in relation to the other.
Jackson believes that the Lord had her preordained to become a school teacher. Born and raised on a dairy farm in Rowan County, at the age of 11 she lost her father in an automobile accident. As the oldest of five kids, Sarah was immediately thrust into the role of pseudo-mother (and thus teacher) for her younger siblings.
After graduating from Appalachian State Teachers College (now the university, of course) in 1963, Sarah taught in Cabarrus County (Harrisburg) before coming to Ellerbe in 1965. From there she moved to Hamlet and her position as a fifth grade (her favorite) teacher at Fairview Heights for three years.
She then transferred to the new Richmond Academy where she remained for seven years, followed by stints in Rockingham at Leak Street, Washington Street and West Rockingham. Her final stop was with the “Gifted and Talented” program at Monroe Avenue in Hamlet, from where she retired in 1999 after more than three decades of providing proverbial “pearls of wisdom” to school kids.
While not quite as spry as I remember her from those days in the late 1960s, Jackson remains a force to be acknowledged. Aside from the FoL work, she also helps with the food pantry operation at her church (First Presbyterian in Hamlet); the soup kitchen activities on Hamlet Avenue; a “stamp ministry” to benefit kids in need of spiritual publications; and leads the First Presbyterian “Morning Circle” Bible lesson every week. In her “spare time,” she maintains a productive garden and provides direct care for her husband, Don, in the home.
So, if the Pareto Principal of “80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people” is indeed accurate, or if one should seek out the assistance of the busiest person to ensure that a given task will be completed, then I would venture to suppose that Jackson is a very popular individual.
On behalf of all of us who were sufficiently privileged to have had you as a teacher, regardless of where or when that may have been, I thank you profusely for your guidance, encouragement, and most of all, patience, in providing us rambunctious young people with what we needed to have to grow into productive citizens.
Thank you, Mrs. J, for all that you have done (and evidently continue to do) for the people (the young ones of the past and the old ones of the present) of Richmond County.