Mrs. Verna Dunaway Radford’s career in the math classroom span decades at Marianna High School. From Mrs. Dunaway until 1970 and then Mrs. Radford, the one constant was her love of math and teaching. Students are usually a good indicator of a teacher’s impact on them, from the knowledge impacted on students to the personal concern shown for students.
With every teacher feature I write, I find out things about teachers that, although I know or knew a lot about them, I find out new things I didn’t know. Mrs. Dunaway-Radford was one of those teachers. She had to have been because of the number of requests The Jackson County Times had to feature her as our teacher feature.
Gina Collins had the pleasure of being in Mrs. Dunaway’s class in the early 60’s and has fond memories of her class, “She was always on top of things. Nothing got past her but that was in a good way. She could look out at the class as she was teaching and tell who was not ‘getting it’. I don’t know that I ever had a teacher like that before or after her. We had a boy in our class, Robbie, and he struggled with math but would never ask for help. You know boys back then had to be the stronger gender and he just sat in the back of the class and said nothing. One day Mrs. Dunaway called on him to come to the board, it was a chalkboard then and he told her quickly that there was nothing to erase. She assured him in a way only Mrs. Dunaway could that she was aware of that and he very sheepishly walked to the board. Then Mrs. Dunaway did the most out of character thing. She called on Dick who was the brains in the class and said, ‘Dick, I hear the kids think you’re the brains of this class so I want you to tell Robbie how to work this problem and he’s going to write exactly what you say on the board so the rest of the class who’s struggling can get it. See if you can help them out.’ Well, Dick didn’t have a clue either so Mrs. Dunaway worked through it with Robbie writing what she told him. And I left class that day believing Mrs. Dunaway had super powers and by year’s end, I was sure I was right.”
Roger Williams, long time resident of Marianna visits the Times office often and he remembers many of his teachers with Mrs. Dunaway being one of those, “Mrs. Dunaway was a sharp cookie and you better know she knew what was what. The little jitterbugs in the class didn’t last long with her, they’d be in the office requesting to move to an ‘easier’ class. Often, the office knew they’d be better off in another class rather than disrupting Mrs. Dunaway’s class because if you weren’t there to learn, you had no business in there. She was always a very kind lady, had a gift to teach math in a way that everyone understood it. Math is one of those subjects that you can’t always grasp but if you’d listen to her and ask questions when you didn’t understand, she’d give you every opportunity to be a math whiz. I had her for algebra I and then she moved midway my next year to the algebra II class so I actually had her for a year and a half, not because I failed but because I had told her one day, she was promoted. I remember she smiled about that.”
I remember I had Mrs. Edna Elrod in seventh grade for math, Mr. Belon Pierce in eighth grade and Mrs. Radford in the ninth grade. It was a given from my first six weeks in Mrs. Elrod’s class that I would have Mrs. Radford because Mrs. Elrod had already made that very clear, “You do well in my class and then you’ll have Mr. Pierce next year. When you get to ninth grade, you will have Mrs. Radford and you listen to her and you’ll be ready for trig and advanced math when you get to your senior year.” Truer words were never spoken. Mrs. Radford was an awesome teacher. She sometimes appeared thin on patience but if you looked around, you would see the reason why. As you’ve read, Mrs. Radford didn’t mess around in class, she was all business. She didn’t allow ‘yawning’ in class which was never an issue until she talked about it and then you would see many hands go in front of mouths to avoid her seeing the yawn. Her concept behind that was that if you were yawning, you were bored and her class was nothing close to boring.
A teacher who has the respect of her peers is one to admire but for one to have the respect and admiration of her peers and her students is one to cherish.