Throwback Thursday — White Oak Nostalgia [PHOTOS]
With my alma mater in the news recently, I've found myself reflecting on my days at White Oak High School. Growing up in White Oak is an experience that I look back on with a grateful attitude.
I feel blessed to have received the education and the love that I felt while I attended school at White Oak. Many of the families that were active in the school at that time were deeply rooted in East Texas, and specifically in the little oil boom town just north of Kilgore.
Many of the kids in my class had parents that had also attended White Oak, and decided to raise their children in the tight-knit community that was centered around the school. The school was well funded by East Texas oil money, and was known for attracting top notch teachers and faculty members.
The school district is what prompted my parents to move our family into the community.
We were new to the community, but as I grew up in the school system and participated in class as well as various extra-curricular activities I soon became easily accepted. I worked hard to make good grades, learned to play in the band and participated in athletics.
Without sharing too many details, my childhood was less structured at home. Both of my parents worked odd hours. Then when they split, and remarried other people my life became even more complicated, but I was lucky. I was enrolled in a school that had a staff that truly cared about its students.
I knew I was loved at home, but I also knew I was loved at school by my teachers. They genuinely cared for me, pushed me and helped shape me into the person I am today. I developed personal relationships with many of them. They shared stories about their lives in class, and invited us to share as well.
I value the various exchanges that we shared over the years beyond measure. From Mrs. Travis, who watched me deal with my dad's Leukemia, and Mrs. Quinn, who invited radio DJs to come speak to our class in the fifth grade, to my middle school English teachers Mrs. Cline and Mrs. Terry who encouraged me to read literature that was typically taught at a high school level.
I knew that they cared. There were times where official lines were blurred. Some of my teachers cared enough to share their personal faith with me, and I was touched that they were fond enough of me to share. I never felt that I had to share their beliefs to be feel accepted and understood.
In middle school and high school, I spent more and more time at the school. I was participating in math and science meets on the weekends, and traveling with the band to perform at various events.
By the time I reached high school, my step-mother often that I had a key to the school. I was often there before classes began meeting early with school clubs, or staying late for band practice among other activities.
I loved being involved at White Oak High School, and throughout the four years that I spent there I became more and more active each year. This meant that I was spending more time with my teachers and the faculty than I was at home.
I not only respected my teachers for their authority and knowledge, but I appreciated them for who they were as human beings. Just thinking back on the times we shared outside of the traditional classroom brings tears to my eyes.
Each of my teachers had an impact on me. Mrs. Streck had an impact on me that I didn't realize would later become vital to my profession. One day during speech class, she explained that if we could learn to speak without a heavy accent we were likely to become more successful in whatever profession we pursued. I took her message to heart that day, not ever dreaming that some day I would make a career out of it.
Other teachers like Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Day and Mrs. Bardwell all taught me things that I carry with me daily. I observed how they treated each other and their students with kindness, acceptance and respect. I watched them give up time with their family to the success of their students, and got to know their wonderful families through the process.
I owe much of who I am today to the example that they set for me on a daily basis.
Seeing the community react to the scrutiny of Principal Noll's 'Thought For the Day' during morning announcements has caused me a great deal of anxiety. While I appreciate Principal Noll's efforts to reach out to his students on a personal level through his faith, I also understand that there may be students at White Oak High School who are uncomfortable receiving it.
I hope that the community and the school can see both sides of the situation with an open mind, and that they are able to show empathy towards one another through this difficult time.
I feel blessed to have received an education at White Oak High School, through the remarkable faculty and staff who shared their valuable time, knowledge and wisdom with me in and outside of the classroom.
Here's a look at some of my favorite times in and out of the classroom: