Shinn column: Summing up a great teacher
In the end, it wasn’t about the numbers at all. It was about how much she loved us.
We buried Mrs. Ervin, our beloved high-school math teacher, on Thursday. Her family insisted that the service be a celebration of her life, an affirmation of the joy and just plain fun she brought to living.
The Rev. Dr. Kendal Mobley, pastor of Enon Baptist Church, said he never knew Elaine Ervin but he’d try his best to tell her story.
Those of us gathered who were her family, friends, colleagues and students ó we knew her.
Mobley said that Mrs. Ervin was a born teacher, that her calling was from God ó and this was most certainly true.
Even as students, we knew how pure-T crazy Mrs. Ervin was about her husband, Gerald. They raised two beautiful daughters, Jamie and Ashleigh. The last several months have been a hard road for all of them.
Mrs. Ervin was many things to many people, but most of all she was, as the church bulletin read, “a respected and adored teacher.”
She was named Teacher of the Year so many times that she finally declined the honor in order that someone else might have a chance.
Mrs. Ervin saw the best in each student, and she gave her whole self to us.
On Thursday, I sat with Jamie Cavin Gobble. We had Mrs. Ervin when we were classmates at South. So did Jamie’s husband, Chip, who was a year ahead of us.
When Jamie left her teaching job at West, she wrote a long letter to Mrs. Ervin, telling how much she meant as a teacher and later as a colleague.
Standing in the cemetery, Jamie remembered that it was harder to leave Mrs. Ervin that it was to leave West.
“She taught me how to teach,” Jamie said. “She was my mentor.”
Mrs. Ervin told her of the letter, “That was horrible! I cried all weekend!”
But she likely said those words with her famous mega-watt smile.
“I just loved her so much,” Jamie said. “I had forgotten all that until this week.”
Jamie and Chip’s son Evan is a rising sophomore at South. He had Mrs. Ervin both semesters last year, until she got sick.
“I just loved Mrs. Ervin,” was all Evan could manage to say before dissolving into tears, his mother holding him tight.
The reason Mrs. Ervin went from South to West (and later back to South after retirement) was because of another classmate of ours, Jamie Morgan.
“She was the reason I wanted to be a math teacher,” he said Thursday. Jamie is now CEO of the Rowan County YMCA.
“She took the job at West to open a position for me at South,” Jamie said.
Because of Mrs. Ervin’s influence, Jamie felt compelled to visit her in the hospital. Even though she had requested no visitors, Jamie drove to Charlotte one afternoon to deliver a card.
When he arrived, she was alone.
She told him she had been praying to God to send someone to talk to her. They spent an hour together, just the two of them.
“I just felt like God had led me there,” said Jamie, who served as a pallbearer. “I felt like I had to go. I am so thankful and so glad I got to see her.
“She made every student feel important.”