by Walter Redden
Mrs. Virginia Henry was a master teacher at a small rural Delta school in Pace, Mississippi. She didn't have as many degrees or honors as some of my other teachers over the years, but she was a master teacher every day in every respect during the time I was in her second grade class back around 1937.
I remember Miss Virginia well -- she made a huge impact on my life. The memories are still vivid.
Let us begin with the "store." Miss Virginia set aside a corner of our classroom and dedicated that space for a country grocery store. All items "for sale" were arranged on two shelves so a second grader could see and reach them. Cans and boxes had come from her pantry and were set up so we children could read the labels.
Miss Virginia permitted two students to go at one time to purchase various items from the store. One student acted as cashier. These positions rotated so everyone could be a consumer and also a cashier.
She had taken time to cut out play money -- coins -- from stiff paper so we could trade in the store. We didn't know it at the time, but she was teaching us math and on-the-job training.
We also had a daily newspaper written on the blackboard with white chalk. (That was before different colored chalk.) Each student was honored as editor at some point in the school year. When my turn came, Miss Virginia asked me to go home, get my goat and wagon and meet all the children on the playground. I lived very near the school -- only a five-minute walk.
After everyone had a chance to ride in the goat wagon, we returned to the classroom and wrote about our goat ride on the "Second Grade news" blackboard.
There were two adults in my second grade -- two Mexican men -- who had come to Mississippi from Mexico to pick cotton. They were sincere in their desire to learn English, and Miss Virginia was sincere in her desire to teach them. Though the men were in class for only three months, I still remember their names.
The Lord was ever present in our room. Miss Virginia taught a Bible verse to everyone and also made sure we knew a prayer of thanks or a blessing before we ate our meal.
How thankful I am, to this day, for Miss Virginia.
Walter Redden is a native of Pace, Mississippi, in the Delta. He retired from the textbook business and resides in Jackson, Mississippi, where he is active in church and community activities. He's a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
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