Whether they were invoking the Almighty or pulling our loose teeth, Southern teachers left a lasting impression.
Seeing all those school buses roll again has made us nostalgic for our own schooldays, especially our Southern teachers. It’s not that people outside the South don’t remember their teachers—it’s just that we have such colorful memories of ours.
There was a time in the South when a school principal walked around with a paddle in his hip pocket, and the line between church and state was mighty fuzzy. The late Fannie Hinds—a legendary elementary school teacher in Shelby County, Alabama—was known to send particularly ill-behaved first-graders to her praying rail (it was actually a chalkboard tray if memory serves), where she would tell us, “I’ve done all I can do—just give it to the Lord.” Mrs. Hinds always referred to each former student as “one of my babies,” long after we qualified for the AARP, and we adored her.
Our Facebook Brain Trust recently shared stories about some of their most memorable “vintage” schoolteachers from back in the day—elementary school teachers, high school teachers, and college professors. Tell us about yours! Here are a few favorites:
“I had a major crush on my fifth-grade teacher—almost wore out my big sis’s vinyl 45 of ‘Just You,’ playing it over and over so I could write down the lyrics verbatim. Then I proudly delivered them to my teacher as a poem of my creation just for her. Never even occurred to me that she JUST MIGHT have heard the song, too.”
“Terry Roberson, who was first a teacher and then headmaster at our school, convinced me that I could do anything I set my mind to and challenged me to fly high. Later, when I became a teacher, my first principal, Andrew Wright, challenged me to find the uniqueness in every student and embrace and encourage that so they would develop a love of learning and a love of themselves.”
“When I came over from Cuba, school here was new and different to me. My first-grade teacher had a daughter close to my age, so she invited me to her house to play. That would probably violate rules today, but it was a kind and welcoming gesture.”
“I have had some coaches offer valuable life lessons . . . but I think they would lose their meaning once I edited them for mass consumption.” :)
“Everyone who went to Vincent High School will remember Mr. D.B. Smith, who carried the paddle in his back pocket.”
“My home economics teacher was Mrs. Virginia Sharbutt. She was a wonderful teacher and a gracious lady. I wanted to be like her when we graduated. She not only taught sewing and cooking, but home management, home decorating, child development, money management, etc. She did all of this with grace and beauty—always wore suits and heels to school.”
“On the first day of first grade in Mrs. Denny’s class, I was on the floor during nap time, playing with a string hanging down near my mat. All of a sudden, the Venetian blinds came tumbling down all around me! Mama had to come get me, and while she was there she re-hung the blinds. I'll bet Mrs. Denny was very glad when I moved on to second grade!”
“Mrs. Holston put some horrible fingernail polish on my nails so I would quit biting them. Of course I don’t remember if it worked.”
“I got called out in first grade for eating my cookie first at lunch. My parents also received a phone call from the teacher.”
“I had a high school teacher who would exclaim ‘Great balls of fire!’ when she was mad.”
“My fourth-grade teacher accidentally locked me in the classroom after school. When confronted by my mother, the teacher said she didn’t believe she could have done that because, ‘Cindy couldn’t have stayed quiet long enough for me to lock her in there.’ Guess I’ve had this talking problem for quite a while.”
“Waiting tables at a sports bar to put myself through Auburn, I spilled an entire pitcher of beer on my Econ 101 professor. Still got an ‘A’ in the class.”
“My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Hereford, had us say a Bible verse every Friday (this was public school). When we didn't have one prepared, we would stand up and say, ‘Jesus wept.’ It would make her so mad!”
“In my sixth-grade English class we had an assignment to write a long poem. I just copied the liner notes of the Beatles song ‘Michelle.’ All Mrs. Griffin said was, ‘I didn’t know you spoke French . . .’”
“Dear Mrs. Graham, my first-grade teacher at J.E. Robbins Elementary, would pull our loose teeth, thereby hastening the Tooth Fairy's visit. She had technique; it never, ever hurt (like it did when parents or my own efforts came into play). Long after we moved on to second grade and upward, we would return to her room for our tooth-pullings.”
WATCH: Things Southern Moms Say To Their Boys
You'd better believe Mama's looooong list of instructions to her boys can stretch clear to Texas when she sends them back to school. Those boys were raised right and they'd best act like it if they know what's good for them.