“He Dreamed Bigger Dreams For Us Than We Dreamed For Ourselves”
I was asked to write about my favorite teacher at Douglass and how thatteacher impacted my life. I have labored with this task for several daysnow. As I jogged my memory and reflected on times past, I came up with adifferent “favorite teacher” everyday. If you attended Douglass for anytime at all, you’ll understand that. All of our teachers were specialpeople. They paddled our butts if they had too, and they taught us newskills and an appreciation for knowledge and learning. More than that,they taught lessons about life itself.
I can’t overlook the things I learned in first and third grade from Mrs.Dobbins and from Mrs. Cora Cox. These were simple lessons like—learn toshare things; play fair; don’t hit people; put things back where you foundthem; clean up your mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’resorry when you hurt somebody; wash your hands before your eat; and lookboth ways before your cross the street. I still remember Mrs. Cox’sadmonishment—“don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.” Withwisdom like that, it’s no wonder she became a Tennessee teacher of the year.
How could I say the late Mr. V. O. Dobbins wasn’t a favorite teacher?Give the gentleman his due. For years, his leadership as principal definedthe blueprint for Douglass School. He created the momentum for apositive learning environment and a shared understanding among teachers andthe staff. He was publicly impressive and displayed energizing leadershipin our community. Can’t you hear him reciting one of his favorite poemsfrom memory. “IF” by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head whenall about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trustyourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubtingtoo;… “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth ofdistance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - whichis more - you'll be a Man my son!”
Perhaps one of the teachers who coached the Tigers or the Tigerettes downthrough the years was your favorite teacher. Among others, the listincludes C.C. Kizer, John Cox, Dan Palmer, Robert Deering, Shannon Jolley,Cora Cox, Queen E. Jackson, Wilbur C. Hendricks, and V.O. Dobbins, (andpossibly others I’ve never heard about). These teachers stressed anenduring lessons. When wearing the gold and blue, we were expected totriumph—to achieve decisive and significant victory and success regardlessof the difficulties or obstacle in front of us. That’s the spirit of aTiger!
How could I say that Mr. Howard Young wasn’t my favorite teacher? Incollege, I knew more about the life and works of William Shakespeare thanany of the students in my English Literature class. That was because ofMr. Young’s obsession with Shakespeare and his insistence that his studentslearn to love the man’s writings. And, nearly everyone I know who couldplay a musical instrument learned how to play under Mr. Young (or Dr.Shannon’s) tutelage. (I’ll always remember Mr. Young leading the DouglassMarching Band and those high stepping majorettes down Broad Street onThursday afternoon before the football game.)
As I narrowed my choices to a favorite teacher, I kept coming back to oneindividual--Oscar Roger Gill. Mr. Gill was my favorite teacher simplybecause of his personal style. He was competent, optimistic,inspirational, punctual, and a person of the utmost integrity. He didn’tbelieve in “N.S.T.” and he wouldn’t allow us to practice it either. If hesaid Student Council meeting begins at 7:45 a.m., he meant 7:45 am., andnot one second after that. He accepted nothing from us but our best. Hewas truly ahead of his time.
Oscar Gill could see potential in all of us. “He dreamed bigger dreams forus than we dreamed for ourselves.” Here are things I learned from thisforceful and energetic man. They have stayed with me all of my life.
You weren’t around Mr. Gill long before you discovered what he alreadyknew—that knowledge is power. I still hear his deep voice saying, “Youngpeople, you have to learn to read more.” He also stressed the importanceof reading between the lines to discern fact from fiction.
Mr. Gill was a dark complexioned man. Perhaps, for that reason alone, hewas extremely proud of his identity. I remember him telling my 7th gradehistory class—whether you become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or atruck driver, society will always view you as a black doctor, a blacklawyer, a black engineer, and so on. “Young people, get used to thatidea,” he would say. “Be proud of who you are and don’t let othersdiscredit who you are.”
Because he was a realist, Mr. Gill tried to protect us from racism becausehe knew all about it. He knew that racism wasn’t going away in oursociety. He also knew there wasn’t a racist behind every bush or behindevery negative experience that we might encounter in life. He recognizedthat our country was founded on many of the principles of bigotry. But,every scholarship we didn’t get, and every inferior good or service thatwas rendered should not be instinctively ascribed to racism. He encouragedus to learn and to grow from every incident we experienced.
Finally, Mr. Gill insisted that we always carry ourselves with dignity andrespect. I actually remember him showing the boys in my class how toshake hands with someone. “Walk with you head up, render a firm handshake,and look anyone, White or Black, directly into their eyes when you speak tothem,” he would say. “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y” was the motto of Douglass High. Oscar Roger Gill was theembodiment of that maxim. I really miss him and the others who providedleadership at Douglass. Don’t you?
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
There were three teachers at Douglass High School that really made a difference in my life.
The first person in my life at Douglass would have to be Oscar R. Gill, this man was determined that everyone that left Douglass would have a basic education. He would tell you every day that you could always do better. There was no such thing in his vocabulary as “I don’t Know”. Mr. Gill, was determined that you could achieve anything that you wanted to do as long as you were willing to prepare for it. He taught me that you always had to be one step ahead of the game that no matter what you thought you knew, that there was always more that you could learn. In my life today, I am still trying to learn more and achieve more knowledge because of the study skills that Mr. Gill taught me.
Then, there was Mr. Howard Young. The way he loved Literature and Poetry and the way he delivered it really struck a cord with me. From listening to him made me want to read and read with an understanding. I still love to read and it is one of my favorite past times. Sometimes when things seems to be going wrong, I can always pick up a book and start to read, and everything around me seems to change.
The next person that made a difference in my life at Douglass would have to be Robert Deering, our Football and Basketball coach. He instilled in me that life is not easy and that there will be a lot of tough barriers that you will have to overcome. That sometimes, you will have to play hurt, but you will still be in the game. And that to be in the game to the finish, you must give it all you got, and that way you can always come out a winner, because you know you never gave up. He taught me that you have to work hard to accomplish anything in life. He also instilled in me that even though you might be running uphill, you can always reach back and get that second breath and keep climbing.
Douglas (Doug) Releford
Thursday, March 22, 2007
From: Valorie Davis Thompson
Subject: Favorite Teachers
Mrs. Wilson, because she was so nice.
Ms. Charles , because she took me home with her on the weekends.
Mrs. Sneed, because she told my mom I was VERY VERY SMART .
Take your pick , I loved all 3!
Evangelist Valorie Davis Thompson
How well I remember Mr Young...he taught me English Lit in High School and I had one class under him when we infitrated Dobyns Bennett. Those were the days. Mr Young made reading fun and my reading has grown tremendously through the years.. he was also an awesome Band Director.. He took a 6th grade finger fumbler (me), and constucted me into a pretty good Sad player (at that time). We also had a concert Jazz band an we played a concert every year for the Comunity.. they would dress up and come like they were going to the symphony, just to hear us playing those "Dorsey" tunes (smile). And at football games, we could be standing on the field with white tennis shoes frozen to our feet.. split reeds, horns so cold we had to put them between our uniforms to get them warm enough to get a tune out and play "Kansas City" or "Tea For Two" to perfection LOL (and make a formation too). Yes, he was my favorite, along with Mr. Baylor (he had patience). Now Mr. Baylor would literally teach you 'til you got it, even if you had to run by his house to get it done.
Linda (Peaches) Bly
Calvin, I was only at Douglass from grade two to five, but I guess my favorite teacher at the time was Mrs. McKesson. I remember coming home every day telling Brenda and Charles about something we did in her class, or that she did in her class. She was very stern as I remember, but you really learned something (short division and long division). I was so proud once I got the hang of that stuff..
I also have burned in my memory Mr. Dobbins coming on the PA system informing us that Mr. Deering who was home sick that day, calling in to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and how Mr. Steele went to the auditorium and began playing softly over the PA system, as it was a really sad time in our history.. My mother cried for a solid week after that.
Thanks for the Memories..
Katherine Huff Blume
Calvin, I rember we came back to Kingsport after living in Boston I was in the 3rd grade and Mrs Webb was my teacher. I remember at the May Day Celebration, Mr. and Mrs. Webb doing the ball room dancing.. they glided all around the floor and I can remember thinking how elegant they were. She was one of my favorite teachers, she always kept me interested in my studies, and at one time I wanted to be a teacher just like her.
Shelia (Cartwright) Leeper
Calvin, My heart goes out to all who have contributed to this "Memory" & it has been a excellent source to reflect back on our younger days.
I guess I would have to say Mr. Gill , my French teacher stayed as a spot on my heart more than any other. He was a stern man like my father. Why I would think I could speak French is still a mystery to me, but I did, there was times I was so lost in his class, he would always tell me "TRY, TRY harder" and in my mind I'm thinking I am trying. I was Miss Douglass 1958-59, so coming to Douglass for my first High school days was really a special time in my life. I had major adjustments to endure coming from Rotherwood.
I remember Prof.( Mr.) Dobbins, he knew those of us coming into the school from other areas had a harder time adjusting, he always gave those pep talks about not letting others influence you, and I can really respect that now and it's something I pass on to my grandchildren. Because they will never get the one-on-one education we had at Douglass.. today, school is very different, but also very much needed to survive.
Thank you Calvin for asking me for input..
Leola Gray Johnson
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Dobbins. She was my first grade teacher and she is the one that I have never forgotten. She impressed a very mature and shy six y.o. She was very loving and knew exactly what it would take to help this distrustful little girl. She was nurturing and kind. She went beyond what was necessary and knew what it took to be a great teacher and not just someone that was just doing their job.
I knew, even back then, that this is someone that is special and I would never forget the things she taught me, that everything you learn does not necessarily come from a book and that learning can be fun.
Veronica Pierce Camp
Monday, March 19, 2007
Let me first applaud your efforts for the website. I was at Douglass from September 1955 until its closing after the summer of 1966, 1st grade through 10th. My teachers from 1st through 6th grade were Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Cox, Mrs. Webb, Mrs. Bowers, Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Hendricks consecutively.
After sixth grade, we had multiple teachers and a homeroom.
I often quote Coach Deering, bottom left, (who also was my science teacher) to kids I know, "Coming to school without a pencil is like a man going hunting and forgetting his gun."
Mr. Joseph Baylor, top right, who taught me chemistry ( in a real lab), once said and I've never forgotten, "Patience is a virtue we should all strive to obtain."
I distinctly remember, another time in class, a conversation between Mr.Baylor and Johnny Lee. Johnny asked Mr. Baylor if he believed in Predestination. At the time, I felt pleased just to be able to pronounce the word, let alone have enough cognitive curiosity and forethought to have some dialogue. They talked for several minutes, and I don't remember anyone else in the room joining in the exchange of ideas.
Good luck with the project and I will be talking with you again, soon!!
William Earl Evans
Friday, March 2, 2007
"Mr. Howard Young, Sr. was an absolute genius. He was my band teacher/instructor. He could play EVERY INSTRUMENT we had in our midst. I was so amazed by this man's passion for what he did. He was a symphony within himself! Good seed sown. I miss him and all the others as well.
Brenda Huff Bond