Hattie Lou Hamilton knew grammar as well as Betty Crocker knew cooking and baking. She was capable of correcting a paper in a matter of minutes, fluffing it up to read like a literary piece of art.
According to Diane Anderson, “Mrs. Hamilton was the best. She would read to us and it was like she was a part of the story as if she were one of the characters. Her grammar was impeccable. I remember feeling so embarrassed because I had heard her correct someone when she asked them how they were doing and they said, ‘good’. She replied, ‘You’re doing well, you’re not a tasty treat.’ A few weeks later she had asked me that same question in the hallway and I answered ‘good’ before I even realized it and she saw that I was embarrassed. She quickly said, ‘Diane, habits were not formed in a day and they won’t be lost in a week. The fact that you realized the mistake, is 75% of the battle. I am very proud of you.’ From that point on, she was the best teacher ever in my eyes. She was so sensitive and caring, asked how you were and not just from a school standpoint. She would ask how things were at home too.”
Carol Bailey had a slightly different version of Hamilton, “Billy was the class clown and had been since grade school. Most teachers reeled him in early in the year and kept him in tow. He and Mrs. Hamilton clashed like oil and water from day one. He came into class one day and was about five minutes after the tardy bell rang getting there. He didn’t offer any excuse, just sat down at his desk. She looked at him, and with the look that only Mrs. Hamilton could give you said, ‘Mr. (Carol chose not to say his last name) I do not allow late arriving students in my class as they are a disruption to those who care enough about their education to arrive on time.’ Billy never hesitated with a comeback and said to her in so many words, that she had missed the boat of not letting him in class when she didn’t lock the door. She picked up her yardstick and headed in his direction. We had no idea what to expect and could only imagine what she was going to do. She got to his desk and asked him to stand up. He did and you could tell he thought he was fixing to get it. She stood the yardstick beside him and measured his height. She said to him ‘If I were you I would grow a little taller than five-six before I crossed a teacher who’s survived the war, survived the depression, and raised three children alone.’ Billy looked at her and apologized, saying he did not know she had been through all of that. At that time, she laughed, and said, ‘Young man I never said I had, I just offered you some advice.’ The entire class started laughing, with Billy not being very happy that she had put him in his place. But he was never late to her class again.”
Bette Lipford who graduated in 1961 said Mrs. Hamilton made her choice to become a teacher a very simple one, “Most girls when they are little all want to be teachers when they grow up. I never liked chalkboards, hated the sound of chalk on them, and didn’t like the dust. I was probably the only child who never jumped up and down hollering, ‘let me dust the erasers’ because that just wasn’t something I ever want to do. When I got to Mrs. Hamilton’s class, I had struggled with English teachers it seemed like forever. I don’t know what it was about her, but when I walked in that class, I felt like she cared about me, it was like she picked me as her project or something. I had never had a teacher single me out and talk with me about what I wanted to do after high school, where I wanted to live, my parents, my brother and sister, just everything. I can remember I contracted a virus and was out of school a week. By Wednesday of that week, she was knocking on our door and asking if she could see me. My mom told her I was sick and she might not want to be near me. I could hear Mrs. Hamilton’s voice, ‘Don’t you worry about me, I have been around sick kids for 25 years, another sick child certainly will not do me any harm.’ She came right in my room, hugged my neck and asked me how I was feeling. She told me her room was empty fourth period without my smile. I don’t know that I have ever felt so loved by a teacher. I spent 35 years in the classroom and every year I taught, I strived to find one student that I felt I could make a difference in because she certainly made a difference in my life.”
Teachers are oftentimes not appreciated when they go outside the norm by parents or students who do not yet see where they are headed in their lessons, but more often than not, they are searching for a way to reach a child and get the most out of what he has to give. Jackson County has been truly blessed with awesome teachers, coaches, and administrators.
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