Arabella Copley of Fort Gay, Route 2, has been a teacher in the Wayne County schools for half a century. And despite the fact that she is now 71 years of age, Miss Copley is still an enthusiastic worker. She taught a successful term last year. In view of these unusual facts, the editor of this paper wrote Miss Copley last week requesting her to write an article for the Wayne County News. She very graciously agreed and below we are glad to publish her unsually interesting contribution. Editor's Note.
I am seventy-one years old and have taught school 50 years. I never went to school but very little after I was ten years old. I went one term to Mr. Frank Chapman and part of a term to Prof. McClure. They were both splendid teachers. My parents were anxious to give their children an education, but the Civil War came up and interfered with the schools; then my mother died and I had the care of the family. Most of my studying has been done at home. The greatest desire of my life was to get a good education, but I I failed but through no fault of my own. All these years I have felt the need of better training. I often think how much more good I could have done had I been better prepared.
I was sixteen years old when I taught my first school at the mouth of Dragg, fifty-five years ago in a large, old log Methodist church. Instead of comfortable seats and desks that the pupils have now, we had rough hewn logs resting on rocks against the walls to sit on. We had no black boards, pencils or tablets and very few books. A few children had slates, and among the older teachers, woe be upon the child caught making pictures on the slates!
I called the pupils in by rapping on the outside of the door with a switch. I had no certificate and only a verbal contract with the trustees. In a few weeks, the County Superintendent visited my school, walked up in the pulpit and sat down by me, picked up an old elementary spelling book, asked me a few questions, gave me some good advice, then wrote out a second grade certificate and gave it to me. We only had a term of four months and would probably not get all of our meager salary in a year. All of the schools I think in those days were taught in churches.
One cold, rainy day, old Bobby Hagar, a Methodist preacher, came in to fill his appointment. He preached to us, and when he knelt down to pray, a wet hungry hound sat in the door and howled dolefully.
He gave us a scolding because there were not more of us there and went on to the next appointment.
John Marcum taught the first school in Cassville. I'm talking of old times now, and he was simply John Marcum then, not Judge. If I remember right, he taught in a back room of an old store house, and his pupils sat on benches without any desks of any kind. Now they are planning to build a brick of some seven or eight rooms with all the modern conveniences at Fort Gay. They will have a splendid corps of teachers and a principal that all will be proud of. You will wonder when you pass by at play time where all of the children came from.
Some of the note-worthy developments since I first began teaching are the uniform examinations, which gives each teacher equal justice; free text books, which gives the poor child an opportunity to get an education; the graded schools that do so much to encourage the pupils to climb higher educationally; and the well equipped, comfortable houses; but the best of all advancements are our efficient, enthusiastic, well-trained teachers. I hope the young teachers as well as the old will always remember they are going out to train the rising generation for good citizens and that they will always set an example of truth, honesty, and industry before their pupils, for it is only by example we can really teach those virtues.
Transcription by June White
Wayne County News