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By Betty Lou (Epps) Moore
I began school at Goodhope when I was 5 years old. My four brothers and a sister all went here. For the first three years all eight grades were in one room.
When I started 4th grade, another teacher, Luna Newton, was hired for the upper grades. It was at first planned for the grades to be divided 1-4 and 5-8, but on the first day of school they decided to put the 4th grade with the upper grades.
Clair Lakey was the lower grade teacher and I really wanted to stay with her, but Mr. Newton was a wonderful teacher. I had him for three years and hated to see him leave. I always had good teachers and I’m sure that is why I liked school so much.
I remember on my first day of school that the teacher had an older student pass out readers to each grade. I took my “Dick and Jane” primer up to her desk, laid it down and told her I didn’t know how to read. I don’t know why I thought I was there.
One of my best friends, Dora Jo (Lethco) Mahan and I started together and graduated high school together. It just happened that we did not always go to college together, but we both got our degree from SMS (now Missouri State University) at the same time in 1962.
I can’t remember school being dismissed often for bad weather but I do remember my older brother, Gene, carrying me home on his shoulders after a big snow.
I married between my junior and senior year in high school. I took the Teacher Training class taught by Mr. Parker and I decided that I definitely wanted to be a teacher. I went to college at SMS (now MSU) and taught at Excelsior my first year.
A few days after school was out, my first child was born. Two and a half years later my next son arrived. I had no desire to be anything other than a wife and mother. But the drought in Missouri in the early 1950s made it almost impossible to make a living on the farm and since I could get a few more college hours and start teaching, it was decided that was what I should do.
I did not want to leave my boys, and I did a lot of crying about it, but my husband’s relatives were very good babysitters, which would last for the next 25 years as three more children – two sons and a daughter – were born to our family.
The decision to go back to teaching was hard for me but as I look back I know God had a hand in it and I thank Him for it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
In 1955 and 1956 I taught at the Elliott School, which was north of Highway 14 east of Ava near the present Route AB. My eldest son, Dwain, was in my first grade class, along with Otis McFarlin.
In the spring of 1956, the Elliott district, along with several others, was consolidated into the Ava School District. Since there were not enough buildings available in Ava, we continued another year at Elliott, but we were a part of Ava School system.
In the fall of 1957 I started teaching first grade in Ava. Cassie Christy and Bessie Kellogg were my co-workers. We had about 35 to 40 students each.
The term “mentor” was not used a lot then, but Mrs. Christy was definitely a mentor to me, not only as a teacher, but as a Christian lady. I continued going to college in the summers and took extension classes at night until I got my degree.
In the spring of 1962, Elementary Principal Dewey Bilyeu, in a meeting with the first grade teachers, told us that the school board was considering starting a kindergarten class in the school. Since I had had a class called Kindergarten Theory as part of my primary college requirement, I told him he needed to read a paper I had written for a class assignment. The paper was entitled, “The Ideal Kindergarten.”
Mr. Bilyeu later asked me if I would be the kindergarten teacher.
The first kindergarten class started in August 1962. We had two half-day classes. This worked fine for some people in the district, but transportation was a big issue.
The morning class could ride a bus in at morning but had to be picked up at noon. The afternoon class had to be brought in, but they could ride the bus home.
This proved to be unhandy and unfair to people living a long distance from school.
Just after school was out in 1965, Superintendent O.T. Tallent got word that the Head Start program was available to the Ava School. There was a week-long training session in Columbia that those taking part had to attend.
Six of us from Ava, including Clyde Bell, the elementary principal, and five teachers, attended meetings, which began at 7 a.m. and did not end until 9:30 p.m., and till noon on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mr. Talent was working on this end lining up students who would be entering kindergarten in the fall to attend, and a teacher’s aide, for the eight-week session.
That was the beginning of the Head Start Program as we now know it.
The next summer three aides and myself attended an eight-week session in Columbia.
Later there was a limit set on Head Start and I had the regular kindergarten students in the main building and the others were in four houses located on the northeast part of the elementary playground.
The Follow Through program was started after Head Start was taken out of the public schools.
Eventually, kindergarten was put into the Follow Through program. We had one teacher and an aide in each classroom. As time went on the Follow Through program was phased out and we had four kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten was here to stay.
There have been many changes in the education field since I started first grade in 1936. One of the best in my thinking is smaller class sizes. I told a principal that I had 42 children in my first 1st grade class and he said a teacher could not handle that many of today’s students, but I think we do what we have to.
One of my proudest moments was when I retired in 1993. Mayor James (Bud) Norman proclaimed Betty Moore Day in Ava.
I had many good friends, pupils and parents who made it all possible.