by Thomas Givens
There's nothing in this world like a master teacher.
In the fall of 1949 I entered 7th grade at Linn Consolidated High School in the Mississippi Delta. Whether the name of the school (HIGH school) is a misnomer or not, who cares? Back then the Linn school went through all 12 grades. I matriculated there from what was known back then as grammar school, into junior high, and on to high school.
We had to take classes with upperclassmen -- if they could be called that. They were definitely upper, because we 7th graders were so little. Also, back then we had a lot of male students who were, so to speak, late in their academic advancement. I was terrified with all these giants around me.
Needless to say, no one at Linn was to the manor born, we were all country.
Well into the middle of all this came Mrs. Mary Ann Bell Odom.
Now I would have thought that coming into a foreign environment like this country school would have been intimidating. Not for this lady.
Really, Linn was not backward by any means; the school was somewhat sophisticated with good facilities and really did not qualify as a "country school." There were sidewalks, a school water system, football field, gymnasium, agricultural and home-ec building, teachers' homes -- and the school building itself was a two story brick structure with steam heating and natural airconditioning. But we were different -- not what this city lady was accustomed to.
Miz Odom walked right in. This was her first teaching assignment, but boy! What a teacher.
Not long ago, she told me this Linn job was one of the first jobs she had applied for after graduating and she had been accepted. She had no idea where Linn was. She said when she was hired, she was told she would have to teach social studies even though she was an English teacher. I asked her if she had any reservations at all about walking into a strange enviroment. Her answer was, "No. I was there to teach."
Well, teach she did, and she did more than that. We all adored her, and I'm sure I'm not the only one from Linn who had a childhood crush on her. We lost her when she got pregnant during the school year and you know what that meant back then as far as job security. But this little 12 year old never gave up hope she'd come back.
What an influence a good teacher can have on a kid!
His memoirs are favorites at USADEEPSOUTH. Here are a few:
The Halfway Store
The Delta Theater
Memphis and the Delta
Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs
Write Tom at DeltaJudge2
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