By Curt Yeomans
Gloria Householder, a gifted-learning teacher at Morrow Elementary School, says every spring when new teacher contracts are handed out for the next school year, that she has her mind set on sticking with her profession for just one more year.
But, she says, a year later she decides to stick around for yet another school year. She says she just can't put away the chalk and textbooks for good - not yet, at least.
Householder, 74, began her teaching career at Morrow Elementary School in 1959. It's the only school she has ever taught at. She did retire once, in the early 1990s, but decided she could not stay away from the education field and so, she came back a few years later.
The veteran teacher says by her estimates, she must have taught more than 1,200 Morrow children during her time in the classroom.
"I just love my kids," Householder says. "I think I'm going to leave, and then I say to myself 'One more year.' "
Householder recently signed a contract to come back to school in the fall for what will be her 44th year as a teacher.
"It's not often that you find a teacher that has stuck around as long as she has, but then again, education is a profession where some people get burned out fairly quickly," says Morrow Elementary School Principal Tim Foster. "For her to be around that long is astounding ... to say this is her 43rd year of teaching, you wouldn't know it by her level of enthusiasm."
Technology changes with times
As she watches her class of first- and second-graders read books and work on puzzles designed to challenge their minds, Householder reflects on the changes she has seen in the types of tools educators have at their disposal in a classroom. In 1959, Householder says teachers had "a film projector and a tape recorder, and that was pretty much it.
"We may have had a record player as well when I started, and if we didn't, then we got them not too long afterwards," Householder says. "Of course, these students probably don't even know what a record player is."
Over time, the technology changed, and eventually tools like the computer were introduced into the classroom. Householder says the computer has changed things dramatically, because now her students can do research with the computer in the classroom, and she now keeps her attendance records on the computer, instead of using a "big book" to keep track of who comes to class and who doesn't.
There is one thing Householder says she would like to teach with before she permanently retires from the teaching profession - the SmartBoard digital classroom technology. Clayton County Public Schools installed the technology in all of its schools in 2007.
The SmartBoard digital classroom allows teachers to use a white board in the front of a classroom from anywhere else in the room through the use of a hand-held writing slate, and an overhead projector. Anything a teacher writes on the slate will be projected onto the white board.
Householder says she has been trained on how to use the SmartBoard digital classroom technology, but she has not yet had an opportunity to use it as a teaching tool because she teaches in a modular classroom located on an activity field behind the school.
"They keep moving me back and forth between a regular classroom and a modular classroom every few years," Householder says. "I hope they move me back to a classroom in the building soon because I really want to be able to use the SmartBoard."
Back and forth on accreditation
In her time as a teacher, Householder has also seen the accreditation status of Clayton County Public Schools fluctuate between being accredited, and unaccredited. The school system, as a whole, had not yet obtained district-wide accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) when she started her career at Morrow Elementary School.
Householder says she recalls officials from across the school system working hard for several years in the early 1960s during the push to obtain district-wide SACS accreditation. District officials had to make several changes - including building a library for Morrow Elementary School - in order to get the school system in compliance with SACS' accreditation standards, she says.
"Everyone in the district was working long hours every day to make sure we got that accreditation," Householder says.
The school system got its accreditation in the 1960s, but the current decade brought challenges to that accredited status. SACS put the school system on probation in 2003 for governance issues involving the school board. The district got off of probation in 2005, but governance issues resurfaced and SACS revoked the school system's accreditation last fall.
The accreditation was restored May 1, but on a two-year probationary status. If district officials had not been able to make the necessary improvements to regain accreditation by Sept. 1, then the school system would have had to start over from scratch.
"I really hoped we would get it back without having to start from scratch because I remembered how much work we had to do to get it in the first place," Householder says.
Some things stay the same
Householder says there is one thing that has not changed throughout her career - the children. "They have the same needs now, as they did back in 1959, which is just learning to get along, learning basic skills and learning procedures," she says.
Householder's students say they enjoy having her as a teacher.
"She teaches me lots of stuff, and she give us activities to do like brain teasers," says second-grader Laney Launder, 8. "She's also taught us how to play chess."
Foster, Morrow Elementary's principal, says Householder has been an inspiration to other teachers and administrators at the school because of how long she has been teaching, and he is willing to keep her at Morrow Elementary School "for as long as she is willing to stay."
"I don't know what [it is], but whatever it is inside of her, it keeps bringing her back every year, and we really appreciate it," Foster says.