Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard
"Miz" LeDuke first entered my life when my daughter Kathy came home school her first year at the new LCHS with glowing accounts of her Latin teacher. She continued to feel the same way through 4 years of Latin. I believe it was the second year of the newly consolidated high school when Miss Catherine began her fabled Latin banquets. Such an inspired way to teach and build enthusiasm in what was quickly becoming a dying subject in high school.
The students researched clothing of the time, their roles as slaves and the dignitaries at the feasts, and food to be served. I was one of the many mothers behind the scenes in the kitchen, all the while enjoying the pageantry in the cafeteria. Students and parents made the tunics, costumes, and togas. Later I enjoyed the Latin and Spanish banquets as guest faculty and spouses.
One thing that amused Kathy in her 3rd year was the way Richard addressed his mother in class as "Miz LeDuke"!
After Kathy graduated in 1967 somehow Howard Guthrie persuaded me to "fill in as biology teacher until Christmas". The last time I had been in a biology classroom was 22 years before and the book had changed so in those intervening years. Two people helped make that year bearable for this neophyte -- James Neville and Catherine LeDuke.
Mr. LeDuke taught Chemistry and Physics in the afternoon after his mail route. At that time teachers could spend the balance of the lunch hour in the teacher' lounge instead of the cafeteria. James Neville regaled us all with his stories, some about his early teaching days and some great ones about his World War II experiences. He was a wonderful story teller and often had his audience laughing so hard we cried! He was a cherished colleague and made the last 2 periods of the day bearable for me!
Miss Catherine probably saw how at sea I was. She became my mentor and remained so while she was teaching. She had the ability to quietly move people with gentle but firm words. Her guidance helped change what started out as a daunting experience to some of the happiest, most fulfilling years of my life.
Over time our relationship deepened so that we became dear friends as well. She was kind enough to accompany me to my father's house in Destin at a very critical time in my father's life. For a period of about 2 weeks while I was with Daddy at the rehab hospital during the day, Catherine had her beach chair, her books, and enjoyed sitting on the beach of beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay. Words cannot express how indebted I am to her. Miss Catherine had her ever-present camera and the pictures she took at that time are so dear to me. In particular those of my Daddy, one with his usual big mischievous grin, another contemplative, a glimpse into his heart as it were.
"Miz LeDuke", Miss Catherine - 46 years, teacher, mentor, friend - yes, and angel - guiding, leading, resolute, firm, sensitive, caring above all.
June B. Dooley
July 15, 2009
Dear Cathie, Jimmy, Richard
Catherine LeDuke was at the heart of the best kept secret in public education in the 1960's and 1970's in Tennessee.
For a tiny school in a farming community with more poverty than wealth and well off the beaten path, the public schools of Lake County overachieved beyond anyone's reckoning because of a cadre of educators that exceeded any expectation one would reasonably have of such a place.
Scholars in Latin.....or anything else for that matter? From Lake County High School? In a little place like Tiptonville, Tennessee?
I was no scholar, to be sure, but I went to school with some of them and one of the finest, Debra Holliman, is now the second-ranking public school official in the county. But what I learned, was critical to a mastery of written English that is my stock in trade as a 30 year journalist now.
There was greatness in those classrooms. Catherine LeDuke, teaching Latin and Spanish. Her husband, James Neville, teaching chemistry. Ray Allison in English. June Dooley, the life sciences. James Welles, for all his subsequent troubles, made history real for his students. And Catherine's closest friend and co-star in the all-star lineup, Virginia Hayes, also in English.
They're all out of teaching now, and that's a shame.
The value of what they did wasn't realized until the college years. You see, kids from a tiny place that evoked either derisive laughter or blank stares on elite campuses surprised people. They performed and performed well at major universities. They've spread out all over the globe, their success today rooted in what they learned long ago.
It was a special time. From a student's standpoint, it was a time of grace and privilege we little understood then and can only fully comprehend now.