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May 16, 2001
What I did on my vacation ...
By Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
May 16, 2001
She became a teacher at age 7
Public education is coming under a lot of criticism these days. I suspect most of the critics are products of public education. If that is true, the critics need to be careful, else their criticism may reflect on them rather than on public education.
I, too, attended government schools (the critics don't call 'em public anymore), and I received a fantastic education. I am so smart, in fact, that I can solve all of our schools' problems in one paragraph. Ready?
Give me parents who parent, teachers who teach, and kids who want to learn. Everybody else stay out of the way.
I am convinced that there are more good parents, teachers and students than there are bad parents, teachers and students. If I didn't believe that, I would put a period at the end of this sentence and throw in the towel. I ain't (Miss Audrey didn't teach me that) throwing in the towel.
Let's narrow this down to one real, live, wonder educator. The future of public education is in the good hands of a 19-year-old who has been a teacher most of her life. Meet Wendy Brookshire of Pendergrass, a 2000 graduate of Jackson County Comprehensive High School, daughter of David and Barbara, sister of 9-year-old Ansley.
From here on out, for the most part, this is Wendy's column. Notice how she turns my somewhat negative beginning into something positively beautiful. Notice also how many times she says, "It's not easy, but it is worth it."
She begins, "As a young child, I knew what I wanted to be. And I knew I had the potential to succeed.
"The dream I chose to chase was to become an elementary school teacher. I am currently pursuing that dream at Gainesville College. It is not an easy road, but it will be worth it."
(Wendy became a teacher at the age of 7. Her student, at the time, was 5.)
"My pupil was my cousin who lived next door. There were also those who were stuffed and had no age. (Stuffed animals, no doubt.) We held class at the dollhouse in the back yard.
"The dollhouse was hot and stuffy, but we did not mind. We were only children, and children do not seem to notice how hot or cold the weather is. It was worth being out in the hot and cold, pretending I was a teacher. We had such a great time-until school ended.
"School ended because my pupil (he was 9 then) died in an automobile accident. I could no longer hold class in the hot, stuffy dollhouse without him. When he died, I vowed that I would successfully complete my dream of being a teacher in a real school, and not pretend anymore.
"I worked my way through elementary school, and the changes that come with middle school, and the triumphs and defeats of high school. If the teacher asked someone to write an answer or math problem on the board, I was the first to raise my hand. I wanted to show my ability to write in a straight line.
"In high school I was overwhelmed with trying to fit in. I was a cheerleader and elected to the freshmen and sophomore homecoming courts. I was Miss Sophomore. This short-lived 'fame' did not change me because I knew who I was and where I came from.
"I did not cheer my junior year. I knew that, in order to have a car, I would have to work. I joined the Youth Apprenticeship Program."
(This is a program where a student and employer sign a 2,000-hour contract. The student agrees to complete 2,000 hours of work, while continuing to attend school and make passing grades.)
"I worked at the local Farm Bureau. I was an office assistant. I took care of filing, answering phones, customer service (always with a smile), and receiving and transmitting payments. I really enjoyed working at the Farm Bureau. I learned a lot about insurance-and about my life. I learned to budget my expenses-and my emotions. I learned a sense of self-respect-and dignity. It was hard at times because some of the customers were just downright rude. But it was worth it.
"I did not set many social goals in high school. They were so unpredictable. It depended on who you dated, what you wore, and who your friends were.
"Academically, I wanted to be valedictorian-or at least salutatorian. Those goals were out of my reach, however, since I played around my first year in high school."
(But Wendy did graduate with honors, was named to Who's Who Among American High School Students and accepted by the National Beta Club and the Spanish Honor Society. She easily earned a Hope scholarship and was awarded the Dean's scholarship by Gainesville College. Last month she was named recipient of the A.T. Sharpton-JEMC scholarship.)
"My parents were overwhelmed with joy that their little girl, who was now growing up, had achieved a scholarship. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.
"Now that I am in college, it is a whole new world. I did not experience culture shock, but I did experience 'homework shock." I do not recall ever being bombarded with so much work. I have stayed awake many nights putting finishing touches on a presentation for a particular class.
"It seems like a dream to finally be in college and on the road to catching that dream I dreamed so long ago. It seems right at my fingertips, and if I just hold on a little longer...It has been a hard road, but it is going to be worth it.
"I am planning to finish my core classes and graduate from Gainesville College. My future plans are to attend and graduate with honors from the University of Georgia or Piedmont College with a major in elementary or early childhood education. I plan to continue my education and earn my master's degree. I hope to get a teaching job at a school in Jackson County.
"I would like to make a difference in a child's life. If it means being the ears that listen, the eyes that see, or the arms and heart that comfort, I want to be that special teacher that will always be remember. I want my students to feel safe in my class and to learn beyond what is on the curriculum."
I don't have kids in school anymore, and my grandkids will be out when Wendy gets that Jackson County job. If I have any great- grandkids, I hope they come under Wendy's influence. Their future, and the future of public education, will be in good hands.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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