Mrs. Dorothy Ellison Remembers
Her Years at Dora
|I talked to several people
before I interviewed Mrs. Dorothy Ellison. Everyone I spoke with classified
her as a great teacher….one that made a difference in their
lives. Some said that she was caring and always seemed to take a personal
interest in them. One former student said she made science fun. Educators
have come to understand that fun is an essential ingredient in the
Mrs. Ellison taught school for 30 years after graduating from Judson
College in 1941. She did work in a science lab during World War II.
The government operated the chemistry control laboratory during the
war and she worked with other science teachers and engineers. Mrs.
Ellison said she really enjoyed that environment, but she missed the
sea of faces of the students….”I missed the classroom,”
She started teaching at Dora in the fall of 1952 and she retired from
Dora 1977. She taught Biology to every tenth grader that came through
Dora for many years…until the numbers became overwhelming and
help was hired. She really enjoyed teaching the boys and girls that
came to Dora, especially the seniors. The seniors were more mature
and easier to reach. When I asked her if she ever had problems with
any of the students, she had to think a long while to come up with
and instances where students behaved badly.
Mrs. Dorothy Ellison
| “I taught in the golden age of teaching,” she said
“I rarely had a problem with children or parents.” I told
her that my mother was typical of mothers then and they took a dim
view of bad behavior. She agreed. She did recall one instance where
she thought she was going to have a problem with a parent who had
come with the intension of complaining about her. When she was called
to the office, she picked up her grade book and went to meet the upset
parent. “Why is my son not doing well in your class, he has
always done well in school,” the man questioned. When she began
to show the parent the grade book, the man asked about all the X’s
in the book and she said those were the days he had your permission
to miss class. The man had an odd look on his face and told her the
young man had not had their permission to miss any classes. “He
came with the intension of complaining,” she said “but
he wound up staunchly backing me up.” She said the man left
and the young boy never missed another class.
The only time she ever spanked a student was when another young man
in junior high needed more attention than was appropriate and was
misbehaving so she sent him to the office and the principal sent him
home and he could only return to school if he brought a parent. The
boys’ father brought the boy back and demanded that she paddle
the boy. Mrs. Ellison said the man was about seven feet tall. She
said that she did not want to do it, but the man and the principal
insisted so she did. “My hand was so weak I couldn’t hold
a pencil for the rest of the day,” she said. “I know it
must have been in my mind, but my hand was weak for a long time.”
|She said that she saw the boy years later and he had
grown up to be as big as his father. When he saw her, he gave her
a big bear hug and told her how much he appreciated her. She asked
him if he remember that incident and he said that he did. “What
you didn’t know was that it hurt me more than it hurt you,”
My wife Jilda says that Mrs. Ellison is one of the kindest, most gentle
people she has ever known. That is a statement with which few would
Mrs. Ellison told a story about a time when she was called to the
office during class. She had a room full boys, with only one girl,
and she considered the wisdom of leaving them unattended but she did
go to the office and it was some kind of mistake because when she
got to the office, no one had called for her.
||So she went back to the room and the class seemed more
studious than usual. One of the boys asked her for something that
they knew she kept in a lower desk drawer and when she opened the
drawer, a live bird sprang out of the drawer right in her face and
scared the living daylights out of her. “Yes, they ALL got a
big laugh out of that,” she said with a big smile.
A story that was sent to me by Helen Wires Talley Class of 65: “The
bell had just rung and we had settled down for our Biology class.
A visitor came in to talk to Mrs. Ellison. While she was standing
in front of the class talking to the visitor, she had to sneeze. When
she sneezed the button on her skirt came flying off, like a rocket,
and rolled under my chair. Needless to say we laughed all through
the class, including Mrs. Ellison.”
I asked Mrs. Ellison if she remembered that and she said that she
had almost forgotten but that she did remember it.
|I asked her about the early years at Dora
and she said that when she started teaching Biology at Dora that the
labs had practically nothing. The only thing in the lab that worked
was tiny de-natured alcohol burners. They needed more equipment, so
Mr. Gant encouraged her to start getting lab fees, which enabled them
to buy pieces of equipment to make the learning experience better.
Later they were able to apply for grants through Title III program.
The lab grew to be the best-equipped lab in the county. Each student
had their own microscope and other equipment and the class shared
more powerful microscopes. She was quick to say that she did not want
to take credit for all the improvements, but said she was proud to
play a part in making it happen.
When Mrs. Ellsion was getting ready to retire, she was showing the
principal Mr. Crump all of the equipment and as she left, he gave
her one of the little alcohol burners. As a result of her work in
the sciences (teaching Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), she received
a State and National Award as Outstanding Science Teacher. “I’m
not sure I deserved it any more than other people,” she said
“but I was pleased to receive it.”
Mrs. Ellison with Princess Sally
| What has Mrs. Ellison been doing since retirement? She was appointed
to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Sumiton Library and she was
later appointed to serve as the Chairperson of the Carl Elliott Regional
Library System. This included all the libraries in Walker and Winston
Counties. She also served on the Board of Trustees for five years
for the State Public Library Services. The Sumiton Methodist appointed
her secretary/treasurer for their church.
When asked what advice she had for younger teachers today, she said
that it was important to take a personal interest in each and every
student. Help the students to set and work towards goals. She said
that it would make all the difference in the world.
She says that she meets former students everywhere she goes. I love
my students. “They always tell me about their children and the
grandchildren,” she says “seeing them and hearing their
stories is my payday.”
Mrs. Ellison is expecting her first great-grandchild in November.