Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris with retired educators
October 28, 2008 - Back Row - Union County Public Relations Jane Collins, Janice Cochran, GREA Public Information and Program Planning Beth Adams, Past Area Director for GREA, State Legislature Committee, State Building Committee Charles Adams, Betty Sexton, and Secretary Joyce Wyckoff. Front Row - GREA Treasurer Mary Barksdale, Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, and GREA President JoAnn Hamby.
Retired Educators Day in Blairsville, Georgia
Recently the state of Georgia and Union County celebrated Retired Educators Day. There are more than 60,000 retired educators in Georgia. These men and women continue to make positive contributions to society long after they leave the classrooms and school buildings.
Mr. Elmer Thompson is one example. With 35 years in public education, Thompson still contributes to the Blairsville community. Thompson is an active member of the Lion's Club and works with the eye glasses program. He is a Deacon at Ivy Log Baptist Church where he has been teaching adult Sunday school for 40 years.
Thompson has been married to his lovely wife, Christine, for 58 years. They have one child and a granddaughter who is studying at UGA to become a pharmacist. The Thompson's enjoy tending to a big vegetable garden every year and raising many varieties of day lilies. They grow enough to share with friends and neighbors.
Thompson has many interesting stories to tell. He started teaching in 1949 at a small school in Union County. The Bruce School , better known as Chigger Ridge, was one of 30 little grammar schools, grades 1 through 7, spread around the Union County. "Back then all you needed to teach was a high school diploma," says Thompson.
Knowing he had a strong desire to teach, Thompson started to prepare for changes. He attended night and weekend classes at Young Harris College and graduated in 1952. Thompson received a B.S. in Education in 1955, a Masters in Education in 1957, and went on to receive his E.D.S., Specialist in Education, from Peabody College in Nashville a few years later.
There were 30 grammar schools in Union County until 1955 when they consolidated into four: Ivy Log, Young Cane, Town Creek, and Blairsville. (Woody Gap was always separate.) There were approximately 200 students in each of these four schools. Thompson says, "That's also the year that buses began running and I became principal at Ivy Log."
Thompson served as principal and taught full time at Ivy Log for many years. "We had a lunch room and our own library. By then teachers were required to have a professional certificate."
There were four main subject areas in those days: math, social studies, science, and language arts. Thompson recalls, "We had a spacious playground and formed ball teams to play the other schools. Every year we took a field trip to a Chattanooga amusement park."
In 1969, Ivy Log, Young Cane, and Town Creek Schools were closed. The students were transferred to Blairsville. At first, it was a hard time for the children. Many fights broke out between "town kids" and "farm boys."
Thompson became Principle of the Union County Middle School in 1970, then moved to the Union County Elementary School as Principle in 1981. After many years in Education, Thompson retired in 1984. Thompson says "Teaching was a wonderful profession. My mother, Collie Anderson Thompson, was a teacher in a one room school house in North Carolina . I guess it runs in the family."
Thompson says that the joy of teaching is seeing the end results. "Nothing is like seeing a former student becoming an outstanding citizen of the community."
There are many fine educators in Union County. One of Elmer Thompson's students, Mrs. Betty Sexton taught Vocational Health Occupations at Union County High School for many years. Sexton has 25 years of experience as an educator, but she started out as a nurse.
In 1964, she graduated from the Georgia Baptist Hospital of Nursing and returned to Union County where she worked in an 11 bed hospital. In 1966 Sexton started the first Union County Health Department. Sexton left in 1969 to spend a year as the Director of Nursing in the Pediatric Adolescent Unit of the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville.
After a successful career as a nurse, Sexton returned to Blairsville, Georgia and started teaching the first Health Occupations class at Union County High School . She taught nursing, laboratory, dental, and physical therapy skills. When Sexton spotted students with aptitudes for health professions, she encouraged them to pursue higher education. "I have many students that went on to become nurses, EMT's, laboratory technologists, and respiratory therapists."
Since retirement, Sexton continues to contribute to the community. She works two days a week as a RN at the Union County Nursing Home. Residents are fond of this caring woman and many call her "Blondie". Sexton lives with her husband Edward, on a farm in the Track Rock area. She likes arts and crafts, reading a good book, cross stitch, and tole painting.
There are many fine educators living in our community. If you see a former teacher, please take time to say "Thanks for a job well done."