Friday, October 30, 2009

Throw a rock into a pond and the effect will be felt on all shores.

Sept. 20, 2009

Dear Miss Catherine,

I was pleased to read in the Banner some time ago that your children were looking for people to share their memories of you and Mr. LeDuke. You and I have visited several times through the years, and you already know that you have meant so very much to me. I'm glad to be able to have the opportunity to share some memories with you and with others who might read this.

My class was the last one to graduate from the old Tiptonville High School, that grand old multi-storied building that had graced the corner for so many years, but was literally falling down by the time we graduated in 1963. As children I recall swinging in the front yard of the old school with Ray Allison, Jeannie Hyde and others. What wonderful swings those were!

As I recall, I had you for freshman and junior English and for American History as a senior. There were lots of good teachers in Tiptonville, and going into high school shortly after Sputnik was launched, there was a first rate education available to anyone who chose to avail themselves of it.

But, you, Miss Catherine, were the best! Your teaching style and my learning style were perfectly matched. I loved your classes, and felt your genuine love and concern for every one of your students. I was a very strange teenager in that I ACTUALLY BELIEVED that adults knew more than I did, and that they truly did want the best for me. (Just how bizarre is that?!?!)

As adults, many of us have attended seminars, classes, etc. in which we were asked to speak of or just recall the most influential people in our lives. There are two that, without a doubt, made me into the person I have become. The first was my dear daddy, who died in 1984, and a very close second is you, Miss Catherine. The two of you taught me so many things about life and the love of learning. You were both on the same page as far as your character and philosophies were concerned, and I'm still trying to live up to the lessons you both taught me.

One thing I especially remember was that little blackboard you had in your room. It was really too small to use for teaching, and you would write a poem, quotation, bible verse, etc. on it and leave it there for some period of time before a new one would appear. Some in the class thought that you were being overly moralistic and "preachy", but not me. Did you know that I copied all of those down? I have them still.

One in particular I liked and have said over to myself many, many times since. In fact I wrote it on the blackboard of an adult Sunday School class I was teaching just a couple of weeks ago. It was this:

"Boys flying kites
Reel in their white winged birds,
But you can't do that
When you are flying words."

This was just the sort of poem my daddy would quote to me. He loved poetry, too, and taught me that it must be read aloud to be fully appreciated. I shared this with him, and he liked it a lot. It was a rule he lived by as I know it was a rule you lived by, too.

My husband and I are very active in our church, and one of the things I love to do, is to be the Lay Reader. I've been told often that I seem so relaxed speaking in front of groups. I always say that we can thank my high school teacher, Mrs. LeDuke for that.

You probably don't remember this, Miss Catherine, but one day you took me aside after class and said that you were going to call on me to do something in front of the class once a week, not as a punishment, but to help me become more confident. Sure sounded like a punishment to me, but again, I had that crazy notion that adults really did want to help me, and it was without a doubt, a God-send. I now have no difficulty doing anything in front of crowds of people, and have been blessed many times over because of your insight and care into what was needed by one terribly introverted teenager.

I got my first taste of success, and enjoyment in this endeavor when, toward the end of our junior year we were each given the assignment of reading a short story or book and then standing up and telling it to the class. Pondering what to read, my daddy suggested to me the short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton. What an excellent choice it was. I'd never read it and loved the story. I practically memorized it, and I remember the feeling I had when I knew that the whole class was hanging on every word I said. I'd NEVER had that kind of attention in my life. What a thrill! What power!

The story ends with a cliff-hanger, and when I got there, I just sat down. Frankie (now known as John) Rose and David Ramsey were practically yelling "What happened? What happened? No fair!" I loved it! Thank you, Miss Catherine. I was never nervous in front of a crowd after that.

Mr. LeDuke was just a hoot. I don't mean any disrespect by that. He was just plain fun as far as I was concerned. I had him in Chemistry and have always regretted that I didn't take Physics as well, but instead I took four years of the only language offered at that time - Latin - taught by Mr. LeDuke. There were not many of us who took four years of Latin, and Physics probably would have done me more good in the long run, but I have always enjoyed languages. As a result, I have always had a very good vocabulary, and can figure out the meaning of most words.

In fact, as a young adult, one of my sons said to me one day, that he wished I hadn't taught him so many big words! Some of his friends thought he was being snooty, but he was just speaking normally as far as he was concerned. Too bad, so sad to be smart and speak well.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line would be the same: The LeDukes were a blessing to countless numbers of young people and are/were loved more than they can ever know.

You have wonderful children who are willing to put this tribute together for you. Clearly you have blessed your children's lives as you have blessed the lives of all your students.....

My love and best regards,

Nita (Jones) Heard
Houston, Texas

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