Women Who Paved the Way


I spend a good amount of my day with a group of fifth grade girls.  This year’s class is anything but balanced!  My homeroom has only four boys.  My boys are great!  They are sweet, hard working, polite, and too few to dampen the whiny, catty attitudes of my girls.

I watched my girls bicker this week, whine that they wanted to go see the nurse instead of working on their assignments, and argue with teachers incessantly.  I realized that they have a lack of strong role models in their lives.  That got me thinking about the strong women who inspired me during my formative years.  These women paved the way for my  successes over the past ten to fifteen years.

The most obvious women I should mention are my mother and grandmothers, but that is an entirely different blog reserved for Mother’s Day!  I hope the girls in my classroom can rely upon their mothers and grandmothers as I have mine!

Mrs. Martha Love- Mrs. Love, my eighth grade English teacher, became a driving force in my life far before the eighth grade.  On teacher work days, I helped her instead of my mother.  Let’s be honest. Who wants to help their own mother when they are ten years old?!

As I grew into my high school career, Mrs. Love remained active in my life.  She coached an academic English team on which I was a member.  We were never particularly good, but she constantly reminded us of the value of hard work, exposure to great literature, and the satisfaction that our best was good enough for her.

Mrs. Betsy Ely– I have my pick of many bits of advice she gave me over the years.  She was my 9th grade English teacher, public speaking coach, senior composition teacher, and another friend of my mother.  (See a theme?)

During the years I participated in the public speaking competitions, I remember many snow days when I really wanted to sleep late!  Instead, the phone would ring around 8:30.  Mrs. Ely would call and tell me to get to school to practice and prepare for competitions.  Despite my grumblings, I learned to value perseverance and determination.

I am not sure I showed any writing talent during my senior composition class.  I don’t recall ever thinking that I might actually write one day.  I certainly didn’t picture myself as a writing teacher.  However, the foundation laid by Mrs. Ely in this class certainly planted a seed that sprouted years later.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice from Mrs. Ely has to be her remark about traveling.  She always told us, if ever given the chance to travel, we should take it. Because of her advice, I took the opportunity to spend ten days in Hawaii and three weeks in London while I was in college.  I still have  a thing for traveling!  Just say, “Go!” and I am there!

Opal Horne-Perhaps the woman who had the greatest impact on my life was my great grandmother.  She passed away while I was doing my student teaching, but had been in really good healthy until that year.  Not only did she influence me, but she shaped the life of every woman in my family.  My daughter, though she will never know her great-great-grandmother, will be raised by many of the same beliefs and standards.

As a child, I saw her as a woman clinging to traditions.  She was quite set in her ways, and she would use terms that I thought were really old fashioned.  If I was working on homework, she always called it my “lessons.”

Now that I am an adult, and I have the perspective to look back and see an incredibly strong woman who led our family.  She outlived her parents, siblings, her husband, one of her daughters (my grandmother), a granddaughter (my mother’s sister), and many friends.

Clinging to her traditions, she attempted to teach us her incredible wealth of knowledge.  I wish we had listened!  I would love to know how she made homemade strawberry preserves, and we all would like her recipe for stewed oysters.

Her husband came back from war with an head injury leaving him a bitter, mean man.  That didn’t stop her a bit.  She raised her daughters, helped them with their own children, traveled with friends, and fearlessly lived her life until the end.

I am who I am today because of women such as these.  Who has paved the way for your life?



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