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Shinn column: It was a special place

by Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó It’s been 15 years since retired teachers from China Grove Elementary last gathered.
“Rogers, when are we gonna get together?” Narvie Wilson asked Sandra Rogers earlier this year.
Then Mrs. Wilson died. And Margaret Allison died. And Mrs. Rogers decided it was time for another get together.
(Can anyone ever call a teacher by her first name? Do teachers even have first names?)
So she and Becky Withers and Sue Dodd and Shirley Baucom got on the phone and called everyone they could think of ó and asked those people to make calls.
“We know we missed some people,” Mrs. Rogers said. “If would like to be included next year, get in touch with us.”
Nearly 3 dozen former faculty and staff members gathered Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in China Grove to visit and talk and eat and talk and look at old pictures and TALK!
And the food! You can’t believe how much food those women brought!
I was thrilled that Mrs. Rogers invited me. She was, after all, my first-grade teacher. There were lots of hugs and laughter and a few tears ó and talking, like I said.
My mom was invited because she was a teacher’s assistant in kindergarten for a semester. The teacher took naps with the children every day and needless to say, didn’t last long.
I also discovered that Mom put in a good word with retiring principal John Rudisill for Dr. Alan King to succeed him. I always knew she had pull but I didn’t know she had that much.
Even though he went on to become principal at South Rowan High School and later became an assistant superintendent, Dr. King said Tuesday that his fondest memories in education were at China Grove Elementary.
He arrived after the ladies had begun eating lunch.
“Is Deanie Jones here?” he asked as soon as he walked in. “You know you’re late when she’s here before you.”
Mrs. Jones, it seems, has a reputation for never arriving on time.
Dianne Heilig, the school’s longtime secretary, reports that the second year of retirement is just as fun as the first.
After the meal, Dr. King couldn’t resist saying a few words.
“It really was a special place,” Dr. King said of China Grove Elementary, as many teachers nodded.
“You were so willing to look at doing different things,” Dr. King told the teachers.
As an example, he recalled one April Fools Day, when he became custodian and Carl Wilkerson filled in as principal. Carl was nervous. He took the assignment seriously.
It really was a special place.
“I was there less than three years,” Anganetta Dover said, “but you all will not ever know how much your kindness and your love and your friendship has meant to me.”
Holly Lowder was at China Grove Elementary for 12 years. Now she teaches at Southeast Middle.
“When I started working at China Grove Elementary,” she said, “I was one of the youngest teachers, and now I’m one of the most experienced. And all of you look exactly the same!”
I’m betting that Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. Dodd and Mrs. Withers and Mrs. Baucom and their friends are already looking forward to next year’s reunion.

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