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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 learning equation.
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 said.
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,” she said.
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 disagree.
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 





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