While preparing my thoughts for this month’s article, my mind drifted back to the early 1990s. Dr. Bob Eaker, Dean of MTSU’s College of Education at the time, called to make an appointment. His only clue to what we would talk about was that Dr. James Walker, the university president, had an exciting idea that would be a hallmark for the teaching profession and for MTSU.
When Bob (personal friend) and I met, he explained that Dr. Walker, ever being a visionary, wanted to establish a Tennessee Teacher’s Hall of Fame on the local campus, to be housed initially in the Learning Resource Center. He said that Dr. Walker wanted the Hall of Fame to honor and recognize classroom teachers throughout the state who have made a difference in the lives of their students and the teaching profession. Dr. Walker even dreamed of having a one-room school house on the university campus that would serve as an educational museum and Hall of Fame where the inductees would be enshrined.
It didn’t take much to convince me that Bob and Dr. Walker were pursuing a good idea. Then Bob had a question. Would I serve on the founding Board of Governors, representing the chambers of commerce in the state? Other proposed representatives on the Board would be major professional organizations, such as the Tennessee Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, The Tennessee Education Association, The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, the Tennessee Parent Teacher Organization, The Tennessee School Boards Association, the Tennessee State Board of Education, and the Tennessee State Department of Education, in addition to representatives of MTSU.
I was flattered to say the least; but not confident that I would be the best choice since larger chambers such as Memphis and Nashville had many talented professionals. Then, Bob asked if I would serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the first induction ceremony since I had a 21-year background in radio broadcasting. How could I say no to Bob? He explained that the ceremony would be a gala at Opryland Hotel, complete with great food and entertainment.
Our Board of Governors later met and began to review those recommended for possible induction during the inaugural ceremony. Two choices that we unanimously agreed on immediately were Ruth Bowdoin and Terry Weeks from Murfreesboro. Mrs. Bowdoin had a 38-year career in education and is best known for developing Classroom on Wheels, a program to reach at-risk preschool children. Terry Weeks became a noted teacher at Central Middle School, also was named Tennessee Teacher of the Year, and then later, the National Teacher of the Year. He was the first Tennessean to be honored with the national award.
During the induction ceremony, each recipient’s career was spotlighted through a video that chronicled his or her accomplishments, complete with interviews of people who were influenced by the honoree. It truly was a prestigious event.
Since then, many outstanding teachers, including some from Murfreesboro and Rutherford County have been inducted into the Teachers Hall of Fame. While I no longer serve on the Board of Governors, I congratulate all of the inductees, and also encourage those who have chosen the teaching profession, because it takes a special person to be a good educator.
Looking back to my own school days, there are several heroes that come to mind, such as my first grade teacher, Alice Foster, along with Sue Conger Tenpenny, Ione Calhoun, and especially my elementary school basketball coach, Ben Adamson. I had an opportunity to visit with him a few years back before he passed away. We reminisced about our team winning the county basketball tournament in 1959.
He surprised me by offering the trophy as a gift. Since the school was closed nearly 50-years-ago, Mr. Ben had kept it in his home. I cried as the trophy passed from his hands to mine. And while its worth is only modest at best, the trophy is priceless to me.
I consider Mr. Ben and the others whom I referenced to be members of my personal Teachers Hall of Fame.