Several television advertisements for online K-12 public schools and virtual academies boast of classes taking place at home, on the road, or wherever an Internet connection can be found. Teacher support is available by telephone, online and even “face to face.”
But I believe that children growing up in such an environment will miss the opportunity my generation had to interact with and learn from faculty, classmates, and the cafeteria and janitorial staffs.
In the historical black community, our parents expected all of those named to share responsibility for our education, and many did. Determined that in spite of the segregated system in Miami’s Colored Towns, where students had secondhand books and few supplies, our school family gave us their best and expected the best from us. One example, at Phyliis Wheatley Elementary School, sixth grade teacher Agenoria Spearman Paschal used personal funds to purchase the world map needed for our lessons. In turn, she did not accept excuses from us for not learning the names and locations of the continents and major countries of the world.
The first week in junior high school at Booker T. Washington we learned a great secret: Every morning before school, one of the English teachers, Hazel Davis, posted in her classroom the “Thought For Today,” an inspirational quote. Students who were not assigned to her class found a way to quietly pass by her room to read it.
Down the hall her friend and my junior high school homeroom teacher, Blanche H. Dean, had her own way of interacting and inspiring students. Her humor, stern look and the directory with our parents telephone numbers helped us learn to communicate with her.
Attending senior high school in the same building meant running up and down familiar stairs with classmates I had known since first grade including Brenda Williams (Love), Ferris Rhodes, Ralph Dismuke, Kenneth McKinney, Samuel Hutchinson, Brenda Dunnell, Robert McKinney, Eugene Duncombe, Mary Marshall (Ingram), Barbara Brown and Ruth Canty.
By 11th grade, social studies teacher James Cash used Magruder’s American Government textbook to engage us. Unless forced to, I doubt that Mr. Cash would have used the online version of the book. Band Director Timothy O. Savage’s no-nonsense manner kept our attention.
Our homeroom teacher, and a 1960 senior class sponsor, Georgiana Johnson Bethel, continues to interact and inspire us. She not only attends our events she keeps in touch by telephone and email. By her own admission, her greatest accomplishment and satisfaction was derived from her 45-year career as a Business Education Teacher at Booker T. Washington (1946-1966) and Miami Beach Senior High (1967-1991).
At Booker T. she was a sponsor of the Business Club, Junior High School Y-Teens, and Junior and Senior High School Honor Societies. Booker T. Washington Senior High was closed at the end of the 1966 school year and the teachers were transferred to other schools. Mrs. Bethel in Business Education and Cecelia Chappell Johnson in Home Economics Education were moved to Beach High.
They were among the first black teachers to integrate that school. At Beach High, Mrs. Bethel helped sponsor the Future Business Leaders of America Club and the Intergroup Council, a group that fostered understanding of interracial issues.
For her dedication, Mrs. Bethel is one of the teachers who will be recognized at the 2012 Miami-Dade County Public Schools Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Monday, Oct. 8, at the New World Center on Miami Beach. Up front and personal, this event is open to the public.
For ticket information: www.newworld.com or 305.673-3331.