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Sylvia Strickland Ingram – teaching more than science

Carrie Schulz and Mrs. Ingram prepare for a program. Carrie Schulz and Mrs. Ingram prepare for a program.

Teachers come in every size, shape, color, and description.  Sylvia Strickland Ingram was a breath of fresh air to her high school students in the late sixties and early seventies.  The boys were smitten with her smile and the girls were eager to show her they could be a lady, just like she was. Below that pretty surface though, was a dedicated and knowledgeable teacher who brought science to life in the classroom and kept the students eager to learn more day after day.

From out of the box experiments such as foreign objects under the microscope to challenging students to give 110% on their science fair projects, Ingram was innovative in her teaching techniques.  

Iris Simmons remembers one of those innovative techniques, “Mrs. Ingram was always coming up with something to make you think science 24/7.  I remember she would tell us to wear a certain color on certain days.  She would tie the color into something scientific.  Green was of course energy because the sun’s energy grew plants and flowers.  Yellow was, and I don’t remember all the nuts and bolts to this one, but it had something to do with biology because of the disease jaundice that many babies were born with.  I would have never heard of jaundice had it not been for that.   Red was a color she said wear on Fridays because it was an ‘alert’ color, sirens and stuff.  She would tell us to make sure whatever we did on the weekend we didn’t shed blood which is red and cause sirens to be heading our way.  I remember she always smiled, never knew she had a bad day if she did.  Her husband was a coach there and sometimes he would come in and she would have him tie in certain drills they were doing in practice to a science lesson we were doing.  She could make science lesson out of anything.”

Kathy Childs Little had a different view of Mrs. Ingram’s class, “Mrs. Ingram always gave me a hard time because my daddy was the principal.  She would say, ‘Okay Miss Childs, let’s see if we can go the whole class today without talking to Pam.”  I would laugh because everyone that knows me knows I am not going to keep my mouth shut.  Then it would come science fair time and I’d start arguing about I didn’t want to do one.  She would look at me and say, “Now Kathy Childs, you are not going to waste your talent, you will put that mind to work and come up with a project.”  It wasn’t like I had a choice so one time, I came up with an art project because I did love art and she looked at me and smiled just as big as she could and said, “No argument from me, ole wise one.”  After I began teaching, I had an even greater appreciation for her patience with my smart mouth.”

Rosanne Harris joined the class midway through the year in 1970 and was immediately drawn to Mrs. Ingram, “I came from a larger school where all the teachers were older and the science teachers were what I thought were geeks or weirdos.  I walked into MHS that first day after I was registered and the first teacher I see going to my locker was Mrs. Ingram.  She asked me if she could help me find my locker and I said sure.  She told me her name and I almost swallowed my gum because she was on my schedule as my science teacher.  I asked her if there was another Mrs. Ingram at MHS and she told me that her husband taught and coached there.  I reluctantly asked her if he taught science thinking that must be who my teacher was. When she said no, he taught shop and PE, I remember thinking hallelujah I have hit the jackpot, got me an easy teacher because anybody that looked like that sure wasn’t going to have us dissecting pigs and mess like other science teachers did.  Such as to say, I was way off the mark.  But she made science as interesting as it could be for this could care less about school tenth grader.”  

Mrs. Ingram definitely left her mark on her students and all in a positive way.  She had a way of dealing with the most complicated students without losing them in the process.  Mrs. Ingram reached outside the classroom to those students searching and not knowing what it was they were searching.  She was a caring and knowledgeable teacher to one and all of the students who were fortunate enough to be assigned to her class.

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