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Ask a teacher: Teacher Appreciation Week with a former educator

teacher during teacher appreciation day

LaNelle Butler, a Buckner Villas resident, is a veteran of the education field. She taught for 36 years across the state of Texas, and as part of Teacher Appreciation Week is sharing her words of wisdom for teachers today.

What grades did you teach?

I taught mostly fourth and fifth grade social studies and math. I taught all over Texas, plus one year in New Mexico. When I first started teaching, I worked in Kermit, Texas, because they paid higher teacher salaries. Starting teachers made $3,400 a year!

What were you known for as a teacher?

Kids loved me! Math was my specialty.

What was the most rewarding part of being a teacher?

Seeing a child change over the year was the most rewarding. They learn to get along with each other better, and they take their studies more seriously. I don’t know if I did anything to facilitate that growth, or if it was just part of growing up, but I liked to see it.

What students were most memorable?

Tom Ford, the fashion designer, was in one of my fourth grade classes and I remember him well! He was like a little man, always coming to my desk to talk to me. He was very creative. A few years ago I sent him an email, and he immediately responded back. That was wonderful and fulfilling! He was a precious one.

Why did you become a teacher?

Growing up, I always admired my teachers. My fourth grade teacher especially planted the seed to want to go to college and become a teacher, but no one in my family had ever been to college. I started teaching the kids at church on Sunday nights, and that’s when it all began.

Why did you stay a teacher?

I never once thought of doing anything else. I loved it that much! My whole teaching career happened during a time of major social and institutional change, but the people made it worthwhile.

What advice do you have for teachers today?

Keep going! To be a teacher, you have to love to teach and you have to like kids. Stick with it even when it’s hard. The kids are worth it. I retired in 1991, and in all my years of teaching there was never a time that I didn’t love every child I taught.