My parents graduated from Holly Pond in 1961. I graduated 20 years later from the same school. All of my dad's siblings graduated from Holly Pond, and many of my first cousins did, too. We often have discussions at our family gatherings about our education, the teachers we had, and the contributions our education made toward our successes in college and in our professions. We have degrees from UAB, the University of Alabama, UAH, Athens, and a few other colleges with which to compare and contrast. All of us agree that our small, rural, public school education prepared us for our college years.
As a public school teacher for 27 years, I would often reflect on my days inside the walls of Holly Pond School. At times I thought to myself that I might have just gotten lucky by having some very outstanding and influential teachers from 1969-1981. I cannot begin to mention all of the names of the adults who were a part of my life at Holly Pond, but there were many. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Peggy Ray, became a huge part of why I decided to become a teacher. I loved Mrs. Ray. To this day, I can still remember things I learned from her classroom and the books we read together. What a wonderful librarian we had in Mrs. Velita Foust. The Easterwoods, Felton and Polly, were my administrator and music teacher respectively. English classes and writing assignments at the college level became a piece of cake due to the strength of teaching from Mrs. Sandra Hill, Mrs. Tavia Smith, and Mr. James Hudson. There was no better biology and chemistry teacher than Mr. Jethro Harbison. History came to life with our mock courtroom activities and discussions with Coach Adams and Coach Lay. I do not think this was luck. Holly Pond School provided its students with a quality education.
Now, I am a retired teacher and am a supervisor for Athens State. I recently have been in Holly Pond School to observe my interns who were placed with classroom teachers at the elementary and middle schools. Having taught in Morgan County for 17 years and in Cullman City for eight years, and having my own children attend Cullman City Schools, I feel that I have a good idea of what a quality education is. I am here today to proclaim that a wonderful learning environment is still being provided at Holly Pond School. I was amazed at how well behaved the students were, how cordial and accepting of me the students were, and extremely impressed with some of the dynamic teaching I witnessed in several classrooms. I must mention one teacher in particular. Mrs. Robin Brannan has been teaching kindergarten for 30 years. One of my students was assigned to her. In all of my years of teaching, I don't think I have ever seen such an amazing atmosphere of education being fostered as what I witnessed each time I went to Mrs. Brannan's classroom. Parents of those students should be singing her praises. Kudos to you Robin. You should definitely be "Teacher of the Year."
My purpose in this letter is to let people know that good teachers are still out there, and they do care about children. I also want those who influenced me and made a difference in my life to know that they did. Teachers do not get to hear enough when they are doing a great job. Most of the time, they only hear about things that are negative. I salute all of my teachers. I salute all quality educators.
Finally, I salute the little school in Cullman County that sits nestled in its home at Holly Pond. Many of our lives were forever changed because of the people there who took enough time to care. I will never forget you.
Jamie Phillips Weathersby Smith