Q: How does it feel being inducted in the Alabama Independent School Association’s Hall of Fame?
A: This is truly a humbling experience. I spent 32 years of my life in independent school education at Saint James School and a total of 36 years in public and independent education. So, receiving this award was truly an honor; to know the state valued the work I did all those years for students. I have been recognized by the mayor, the Alabama Senate, and state professional organizations as well as The University of Alabama, my alma mater. This award, however, was special because it came from my peers around the state.
Q: How did your Crestview High School career influence your passion for education?
A: From the time I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I thought those young adolescent years were difficult for teachers and administrators to understand and I wanted to devote my career to understanding young students. My Crestview teachers, no doubt, prepared me well and were great role models. From my elementary to junior high to high school teachers, they were simply the best. In my neighborhood on Pearl Street, we used to play school all the time. It simply was in my blood and I knew early on that education was what I was destined to do. I can remember great teachers at the high school. Teachers like band director Louis Lindsay and history teacher Elizabeth Majors, as well as English teachers like Florence Bumgarner were simply the best. They influenced me not only as role models but as tough, challenging teachers who taught me content and prepared me well for college. We were expected to work and to work hard. They also were supportive in teaching us basic time management skills as well as study skills. We worked hard. It was expected and we wanted to do well for these teachers. I can remember counselor Forney Osborne calling me in to say my test scores gave me many choices for college and that was a relief!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my parents and the influence they had over us four children. They moved to Crestview before I was born from the country nearby in Dorcas so that we would have a chance at a splendid education. It was a top priority for them and they sent all four of us to college. Dad worked hard as a civil service employee at Eglin Air Force Base and when he retired, he worked for the state and then the county to continue to fund our educational goals. My mom was a stay at home mom and occasionally substituted at the schools. They supported baton lessons, piano lessons, and my brother’s athletic endeavors. Growing up on Pearl Street was the best!
Q: What was it like growing up in Crestview?
A: I am actually trying to write a book of sorts about this experience. Growing up in Crestview was simply the best. I grew up on Pearl Street and my friends in the neighborhood all played together and we represented a span of ages. We rode our bikes all over the place, played circus and games all the time, especially in the hot summers. Crestview High School and Northwood Elementary were close by so we often walked or rode our bikes, picking blueberries in the fields on the way. The football stadium was behind Pearl Street and twirling the baton was my favorite thing to do as well as Friday night football games. I actually remember the old Crestview High School burning next to Highway 90 and 85 intersection. I was a small child and vividly remember the early morning fire as everyone in town showed up! We had a great hobby shop downtown that Mr. and Mrs. Shultz owned as well as a 5 and Dime store and a movie theatre. My family was active at First Methodist Church and I was involved in the youth group there. I took piano lessons from Nellie Fleming and baton lessons from Penny Janoski and then I ended up teaching baton lessons. I adored my big brother, Ray, who was quite the athlete, and can remember watching all his football, basketball, and baseball games. My big sisters, Betty and Doris, were such role models as well. We were a happy family and growing up in Crestview was simply the best. The older I get, the more I value the experience.
Q: Do you visit Crestview often? Are there any must-see spots during your visits?
A: I was actually down a couple of weeks ago to have lunch with some high school girlfriends who I grew up with. My brother, Ray, and his family live there so when I go down, I always visit with them. Recently, he and I took flowers to our parents’ graves and we commented (and hope they heard us) of how proud we hoped they were of our decisions, careers, families, etc. They were responsible for the great family foundation we had growing up. I go once a year to the McCallum reunion (my mother was a McCallum) held near Crestview. I also try to attend the class reunions. About five years ago, I went to the band reunion at Crestview High (75th anniversary) and marched with the band at halftime! I still have a baton and even twirled at a Saint James pep rally for my students! Must see spots include the house where I grew up at 1320 North Pearl Street, the schools, and I love seeing the downtown shops. I have fallen in love with The Wild Olive Restaurant, which is located in the home where a relative of mine used to live.
It was a treat to help organize The Nuts and Bolts of Middle Level Educational Symposium several years ago held yearly at Destin Middle School. I am honored to have been asked back this year to do a presentation for participants and did so for years.
We also spend a week each summer at the beach with our children and grandchildren and I want them to know where my roots are. They love it, of course, and hear all kinds of Crestview stories from me. Bill and I often drive down for two or three days at a time to visit. The area simply pulls me back to home.
Q: What advice do you give to a Crestview High School student?
A: I would advise all students (and my niece Alicia Bolton Humphrey is a counselor there by the way) to work hard. A solid work ethic will go a long way towards success. I would also tell them to go as far as they can with their education as it simply opens doors for success. I would encourage them to become well rounded as well. While academics is critical, participating in extracurricular activities is worthwhile, as long as you are giving them your best. Practicing hard at band, drama, chorus, athletics, or whatever you are involved in molds you into a much more interesting person and in college, one who can grasp academics from different angles. The different experiences are valuable in teaching leadership qualities and we need good leaders for the future. I would also advise students to be kind and treat others with respect. Pay attention to the little decisions you make as they often become the bigger decisions down the road. Making good decisions opens many doors for you in the future. Finally, I would say that taking care of yourself and how you look and having self-respect is a powerful message to others. You can be a teenager and have all the fun in the world but think twice before you develop bad habits that are harmful to you and your health and risk you keeping doors open for success.
Q: What education-related accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: Certainly the Hall of Fame recognition was special but I am also deeply touched by The Board of Directors at Saint James School naming the middle school after me. The honor was one that is still sinking in and since my journey as a 12-year-old to dedicate my life to young adolescents, it was truly a highlight in my career. The thousands of students I have worked with was pure joy and this was for them as well. I was also recently inducted into The University of Alabama’s Women of the Capstone and that was an honor as well; to know my professional career was valued by my university.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Growing up in Crestview, Florida was a true blessing. When you grow up in a small town, your life is molded by so many people around you in addition to your family. I can never say thank you enough to all my friends, neighbors, teachers, church family, and those who employed me for summer jobs. From the courthouse employers to the lawyer, Pearl Adams, who hired me one summer. All of those experiences help prepare you for college and for life. There was an expectation to be the best and I am grateful that I can honestly say, I have done my best, thanks to wonderful town of Crestview and its schools. I am proud to be a Crestview High School graduate!