My Dearest…Mary

Mary and Me… Celebrating Mary’s 100th birthday!!!

Mary Towers has been an inspiration to both; my professional and personal life…

Our story begins when I was hired by Mr. Bill Irby, principal of Alachua Elementary School, in Alachua, Florida; in the fall of nineteen seventy-three… I was hired for a paraprofessional position…

Before then, I had been a beginning teacher at Browning Pearce Elementary, in Palatka, Florida… traveling ninety miles daily… Alachua Elementary was fifteen miles from my home; so I accepted this position… I was assigned to tutor first grade students who needed extra support…Hoping that if a teaching position would become available…I would be hired…

Mary was one of the five teachers I was to assist in an open classroom; Learning Community A… LCA, as it was called; housed five classrooms, four of which were first grade and one was kindergarten; with over one hundred students separated only by partitions…I was to be placed with my small group, in the middle of this very large room divided by furniture and mobile chalkboards… Believe it or not, it it was not all that noisy…

On my very first day, I will never forget how I met Mary… I was walking through the unit, being introduced by the team leader, Chris Hirsch, to the teachers of the team in LCA… Mary being one of them, was very busy with a particular student…A little girl in her class was in the bathroom dealing with intestinal worms, and Mary was taking care of this most challenging situation…How impressed I was by how Mary was managing such a situation …

It was then, after a year, my wish came true…I did get reassigned to teach a first grade class!

And then, opening up the very next year in nineteen and seventy-five; one of the most special of my teaching opportunities opened up!

I was to team with Mary Towers, a professional relationship lasting nine years…. ending in 1984…when Mary retired…

This special opportunity arose in the summer of seventy-five, when Mr.Irby, offered me a co-teaching position with Mary, in a newly federally funded, early childhood education program called ECPC… The Early Childhood Preventative Curriculum Program...

This innovative program was designed as an intervention for diverse, young children who were screened in kindergarten, exhibiting difficulties with their learning…

This center based program was designed with no more than sixteen students, assisted by a full-time aide who would be responsible for the reinforcement associated with specific activities; that would build upon the deficits, diagnostically determined through pre and post tests through the child’s auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile learning styles…

Mary and I each had our own group of children assisted by our full time aide.. Our class was housed within the large classroom in LCA…which now had mobilized walls separating each of the five classrooms; providing the children less distractions…

Our morning time was devoted to four specific centers that incorporated the curriculum:

Reading; Follow Up Reading, and Language Arts activities: Listening; and last “Willy Worm” an aide directed center with specific activities prescribed by the pre and post testing…

The reading curriculum utilized, the Sullivan Programmed Readers…a successful program of the time…. teaching children decoding skills in reading context within a linguistic progression of sound-symbol relationships...

Teaching those nine years with Mary really flew by!!…Sadly both our Team and ECPC Program ended with Mary’s retirement... Mary and I can look back and be quite proud of what our children accomplished from the Early Childhood Preventative Curriculum Program…

Many of our children went on to have successful lives; some going into local politics and a few playing collegiate and professional football…

Mary made this for me…when she retired…1984….

June 5, 1984…..Mary’s Retirement…

As I have reflect on our years together, this special relationship provided me the knowledge and experiences I learned from teaching with Mary…enabling me to evolve into a strong teacher…

Not only has Mary been such an influence on me professionally…Personally, Mary has been a guiding support even more so…

Having lost my mother when I was a senior in high school…I always felt a little lost…Mary was close in age to what my mother’s age would have been…And having such a warm connection with Mary…I always believed my mother, placed Mary in my life for a special reason…I have felt blessed to have Mary in my corner for these forty plus years…

Through the many years I have learned so much about Mary’s beautiful family; especially now that her husband’s recent passing,..Her four children never leave her side…

Mary will be one hundred this year, and she still lives in the same house that she and her husband built after World War II; on land that has been in her family for generations … There are always family gatherings with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, other family members and close friends …

What I dearly appreciate truly about Mary is about service and sacrifice, pertaining to her husband Frank Towers ….their story; how they met and married during World War II…Frank was a true hero of the War…He was a commissioned officer in the 30th Infantry Division during the Invasion at Normandy and helped in the liberation of the Jewish Holocaust survivors on a train from the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp….

Mary was still actively involved in my life even in her early nineties…The years passing we have kept our special lunches just to keep in touch…

Then when I began teaching at Idylwild in 20O7…She and her husband offered to assist me in my move to be closer to Idylwild…Utilizing their large van and Frank’s technological skills….with my computer…

Mary would even volunteer in my classroom…I so loved and appreciated her help…

She did so much: she would help any child that needed assistance with their math or reading; at home she would make all the children flash cards for reading practice; bring in much needed school supplies; make our individual math packets…
Our children and Idywild loved her…And in 2011 Idywild nominated Mary for “Volunteer of the Year…

With my retirement in 2015…I have moved to Palm Coast, to be closer to the ocean…

I am still loving and appreciating Mary…

And… so looking forward to coming back to Gainesville; spring and fall…celebrating our friendship with our special lunch dates…

Thank you Dearest…Mary♥️

Along My Teaching Journey…

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, on March 18th, 1972, just three days after my twenty-third birthday… I was so ready to influence; moreover make a difference for our children… Being a mother of a two year old, I was so excited to make that impact!

I was so willing to travel ninety miles a day to teach at an elementary school in a diverse community…So, on April 1, 1972, I began this journey, to Browning Pearce Elementary in Palatka, Florida… At the time, we had just gone through integration, and that particular school had two campuses… One originally being the school for African American students, was now the school’s intermediate grades…And I was to finish the year in a fourth grade…

Boy, how unready I was… Yet so very excited…It was the last ten weeks of school, and I was assigned to take over a for a seasoned teacher, who was relocating to Tallahassee to be with her husband …

I might have cried most days feeling overwhelmed, however with the wonderful assistant principal, and a caring colleague…I made it through!! Learning so very much ; This challenging opportunity was just my beginning!!!

The next year I was then assigned to teach kindergarten …Not being certified, I was required to get early childhood classes from my alma mater, University of Florida, to be certified in early childhood … This wonderful placement was an opportunity for such growth… My love for young children, and an appreciation of diversity thrived…Many of whom had been migrants

My next opportunity in my teaching career lead me a little closer to home, now I was only traveling about 30 miles a day to a newly integrated community elementary school… Alachua Elementary…Another diverse population of young children…first working as a paraprofessional, then teaching first graders….

This placement was for sixteen years, from seventy four to ninty; These were exciting times for public education and children coming from diversity… I felt my passion for teaching flourish …The federal government was providing programs and resources for our children…
At Alachua…I have some of my fondest memories in my years of teaching…I had the wonderful opportunity of team teaching with Mary Towers, a seasoned teacher…We taught together for nine wonderful years…teaching  high risk first graders…in one such federally funded program…“Early Childhood Preventative Curriculum”,ECPC…

I learned so much about the developmental ablities of young children with the challenges they may face…  However, with a smaller class size, and the extra assistance of an aide… And curriculum developmentally appropriate….I was to learn later, that many of our children grew into successful adults…

Upon Mary’s retirement in 1984, which tremendously impacted my growth …

I had another strong influence on my career, team teaching with Wetona Johnson…We taught together for five years…teaching first grade in Chapter I; Another federally funded program giving young children extra reinforcement in reading and math skills…

I must also thank the the two principals I worked under at Alachua Elementary School, who guided this growth…

First of whom was Mr. Bill Irby…A man of tremendous integrity… When Mr. Irby retired…this wonderful community even built an elementary school in his honor…
The second was another strong leader, Mrs. Pansy Post…who became principal of Alachua when Mr. Irby retired…Mrs. Post brought such a creative flair to Alachua…

I must again acknowledge and appreciate these opportunities that instilled such values making me the strong teacher I was to became; sixteen glorious years at Alachua Elementary …

I was now forty years old…a seasoned teacher ready for my next learning opportunity…And now I was closer to home, by less than five miles… Terwilliger Elementary…A neighborhood school enriched with diversity….A wonderful blend of students…This was nineteen eighty-nine, and public education was changing, not for the better… Here in Florida, we especially felt this impact with the “No Children Left Behind Act” thanks to our Governor, Jeb Bush… If it weren’t for the blend of wonderfully talented and professional teachers; and that mixture of diverse students, these years were filled with such blessings… I was able to teach upper level students: a year in fourth grade, and five years at fifth grade…Both were great… I also had the opportunity to teach second grade for five years…Even taking an educational sabbatical where I was able to attend the University of Florida in graduate level courses in counseling education…

However, due to health issues, I retired in 2002… after thirty years… I was so proud of my years of inspiring and influencing children…

I still had more to accomplish in my teaching career….More children needed my influence, especially in the times we were heading, in the twenty first century…

So, I was so blessed to be able to resume my teaching career in 2008…at Idywild Elementary, a diverse population of children where many of my students were from challenging homes situations….

I was back teaching first grade…. where, with the many years of experience, I was able to provide my children a strong, structured, safe and loving classroom…. Moreover, with a strong support staff providing our children the best education we were able…And, given these times of less funds…more testing and developmentally inappropriate curriculum…

Our children were successful!!!

As for me…What a gift I was given…to be able to teach eight more years, thirty-eight in all …I then felt I was ready to  retire from my teaching career …in 2015…

These last eight years at Idywild turned out to be my most rewarding…I truly felt I had made that difference I so hoped when I began this journey!!!

And now have the time advocating for our children, and their right to a strong public school education….

The Hearts of the School…

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I have learned through all my experiences as a teacher, there are those special individuals besides the classroom teacher that enhance a warm and caring climate …for children…One of those is a strong support staffThese special people interact with the children out side of the classroom… And their interactions are extremely beneficial to the care and welfare of children…

The first I need to recognize are those busy, caring office personnel; never too busy, to handle the many situations that occur each and everyday… Even before the day officially starts…These wonderful people utilize their talents to answer concerns that adults may have, and that particular child needing assistance, and moreover they will always find the time to wipe away the tears when a child needs some love…The office personnel are most times, the first to meet parents and make that initial important contact, even before they meet with their child’s classroom teacher…

Another caring person we teachers can not say enough about is the importance of the school nurse… she or he is that loving pair of hands that is there for those medical needs of children … Along with the many medical talents and duties a school nurse is responsible for, besides the dispensing of the medications and taking care of cuts and scrapes … is taking that extra time to be a good listener to that child in need or just may need to look for a warm jacket on a cold morning to finding dry clothes if a little one has an accident…

A warm and caring climate would not be successful without the caring support of the custodial staff...They not only have the important task of keeping the school clean and safe…Being many times understaffed, they are utilized to their full talents and capacity…They also are another pair of hands or heart, when a child needs just that…love…

Through my experiences. I must add how the cafeteria and cafeteria staff affect the climate of the school…They are the providers of nutritious meals for the children prepared with love and care… The cafeteria is that meeting place in the mornings where all the children are provided breakfast… For many children this meal is free and most need to get the day started on that full tummy…and warm hearts…Helping with their success in the classroom…

Lunch time too is a very important part of the children’s day… The cafeteria staff provides another nutritious meal, however now due to government constrains will no longer be so nutritious, and may be no longer free for those children in need… Lunch time is a favorite time for children to socialize appropriately… Caring support staff monitors children’s needs giving them loving attention…

In addition, I can not forget the many other support teachers who reinforce curriculum… providing academic support for those children in need, and moreover another loving heart…

When children have the opportunity to play out doors, a strong Physical Education Program provides just the right skills children need to learn; how to play cooperatively with a love and appreciation for good health through their exerciseHowever, because of funds and schedules, this may just be once a week… A physical education teacher provides this important knowledge and the necessary skills children need with the awareness of each child’s abilities and development…

However, children may get another opportunity to free play at recess, which they need and love…and gives them more time to practice cooperation and social skills … This free play time releases their pent up energy from the hours in the classroom…Sadly, recess may not be allowed due to governmental constraints…

Art and music are wonderful programs where children have an opportunity to utilize their creativity and release emotions constructively… These creatively talented, loving teachers who teach the arts, give their time to children to enable free expression …Many children who may not be strong in academics, may find success, love and passion through the arts!!!! Music and art teachers are a strong support to enhance this creativity and free expression children…

We can not forget to recognize bus drivers who are a special group of men and women… who are responsible for children getting to and from school each day…Our bus drivers must take extra precautions for the welfare of children…. Children safety is the utmost importance…Children may have had a hard morning or a challenging day… The bus driver, with a loving heart and driving skills, must utilize all his or her talents making sure the children will arrive safe and sound…And we must say thank you!

A warm and caring school climate impacts the hearts of children hopefully enabling them to have a successful education….And feel loved!!!

Our Season of Thanks….

2c3d19e6946923cbac75990147e20316This time of year, back in the day…My classroom was the place for fun that inhanced our  learning….We had time to incorporate into the  curriculum,  learning through special art  and  creative poetry projects that were made for our parents, as holiday gifts…

We truly enjoyed taking  two special  field trips to  magical places that our  children got to experience first hand: visiting a pumpkin patch farm and  the viewing of the Nutcracker Ballet…Some of our children would never have had those opportunities…What learning!

We spent a great deal of time learning and appreciating different cultures and how they celebrated the season…And finally,  the children couldn’t wait for the culmination of the celebration of the season with our holiday cookie exchange…Then off for winter break!!!

It is my hope that  our public school teachers continue these beautiful traditions for our children…As we know, there are those children who especially need to know the Beauty of the Season…

This could be a Season of Miracles…

School Spirit…

With the beginning of a new school year, and the start of my second year since retiring…I am ready to reflect on those many wonderful memories …

The one I do hold dearly is that all through my thirty-eight years…I truly appreciate my children allowing me such a wonderful platform where I could utilize my unique sense of drama and creative talents into my teaching..

In today’s challenging times, with fewer resources, and many demands of teaching; even after these many years; It was the children’s love and innocence that provided me with passion to inspire them utilizing my enthusiasm and my strong sense of spirit…

They were a wonderful audience where each day was unique… And led to my success I felt as a teacher…

It was always my goal to find the fun… And now, I can recollect those moments of fun a teacher shares with his or her children… Through this captive audience, my children allowed me to keep my spirit alive…Keeping “the child in me alive”…

When I first began teaching in the early “Seventies”, I was young and fresh; our curriculum allowed time for the fun…We got to bake more often…Play and theater was a big part of the day…I myself enjoyed the opportunity to use drama in the classroom… I felt like I was playing a role, putting on a performance…to engage with the children…Never a dull moment…Each day was a new beginning….The years flew right on by….

Teaching the children of today, has certainly become much more serious… than just the “play”… I have needed to become a strong, positive role model… incorporating “my spirit’ to get their attention…even to manage behavioral issues…

For many of the children, I was their one positive constant in their lives… Utilizing my drama and creative spirit to reach them, even for that moment…Hopefully touching their lives forever…

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New Year…New Beginnings 2015

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It is my belief that each new year can be a chance to start fresh; an opportunity to reflect on what is working or what needs to be modified to help better achieve the the goals set for my students…

This New Year…2015…my final year of teaching, gives me my chance to give my students this opportunity to give it my all…

This New Year…with all the challenges and demands, my students deserve no less than the best…I can only advocate that those with the  power felt the same…