“Russellville High School - Those Wonderful Years”…
Jeanette McClennon (Smith)
There are so many challenges for schools today, which reminds me of a different time in a connective-cohesive environment. With this reality, my focus has been on those wonderful years at Russellville High (Berkeley County). So many great memories linger, experiences that prepared me socially and academically for future endeavors. The connection with teachers was inspiring. We learned valuable lessons. We were fortunate students within the confines of our phenomenal, inspirational educators. Guidance afforded, priceless.
I. A. Jefferson was Principal • tall statue, broad shoulders and incredibly long arms. Our Parents referred to him as “Bulldog”. He became renowned for his football stardom at South Carolina State University (SCSU Bulldogs in Orangeburg, S. C.). I understand he fiercely earned his nickname. His leadership was outstanding. Then again, as students, we exhibited expected behavior. Respect for authority was a reflection on your family.
Mr. Jefferson, alone, likely could have kept school order. However, the administrator‟s assistants were assigned to JG Green and P.P. Greene. While they assisted in administrative duties, the priority was teaching. Mr. JG Green taught science, and Mr. P.P. Greene taught algebra. Flexible roles were necessary.
Our school was a close knitted community. Our neighbor ( we called him “Tamp” outside of school), Nathaniel Wallace, was an excellent teacher. Within the walls of his classroom, Mr. Wallace taught geometry. I struggled because I was uninterested in learning measurements.
Two well-remembered teachers, my dad‟s close friends: Rev. Robert Mack and Rev. Thomas Myers. Rev. Mack, known for his ability to “nip „things‟ in the bud,” followed up rumors that would possibly upset the unwritten honor code. Rev. Mack would organize an assembly, and he was the Presenter. Rev. Myers was one of those early grassroots organizers in the community. Dynamic in the classroom, taught civic, and U.S. History, using in part the Socratic method, which kept us alert and motivated. He aligned class discussions with our cultural experiences!
[Mr.] Hill, Mallard, Carter, Edwards, George, Cooper, Addison. Teachers impacting lives by
instilling leadership qualities and introducing opportunities to us for a lifetime. Mr. Hill supervised high school bus drivers. Walter Hill was strict, however, very pleasant and patient. In the late 60s and early 70s, 11th & 12th-grade students with average to excellent academic records could take the bus driver's exam, pass it, and meet the eligibility requirements to drive a school bus. Drivers maintaining safety protocols were paid $35.00 monthly. I was one of three girls in my class driving the big, yellow school bus packed with elementary, middle, and high school students. Understandably, collaboration with parents was necessary. It was a tremendous responsibility for a teenager!
Another great teacher & mentor was our band teacher, Mr. James Edwards. I played the piano, therefore, obtaining the skills of playing my saxophone came easy to me. It was exhilarating going into the band room to blend the sounds of musical instruments. Mr. Edwards prepared us for half-time shows, marching in county-wide parades, and seasonal concerts. While he was extraordinarily talented and skillful in instruction, direction, and discipline, laughter was a daily occurrence in band class. The jokes were consistent, and we were the targets. We laughed to tears! I believe Mr. Edwards could have easily become famous as a stand-up comedian. He had an infectious sense of humor & an ironclad personality!
On the other end of our music department was Mr. Donzie George. He taught piano lessons, directed the choir, and prepared us for school-wide performances. He, too, exhibited outstanding skills and talents. I loved his accent, which was distinctive to the area he was from The Rocky Mountains of North Carolina. I often tried imitating his voice, distinct & rhythmic. To this day, I mimic how he spoke, his voice modulation, and his tone.
Mr. Benjamin Cooper taught business math. Sway, swag, & style. With a genuinely caring approach, he efficiently implemented strategies for what educators tackle today, fidelity and individualized instruction. As you entered the building, Mr. Cooper‟s classroom was the first door on the right. I visualize his room, the blackboard, and where I sat.
A calm, quiet demeanor, exemplifying a memorable presence, was one of two biology teachers, David Addison. He greeted you with a generous smile. Amazingly, a simple smile can affect you.
I did not have any classes or academic communication with Mr. Addison. However, I knew he [also] was a beloved teacher.
During those high school years, we looked forward to lunch & recess. Many of us girls often wandered into the “Ag” shop during recess ~ females were not allowed to schedule agricultural or shop classes.
Ernest Mallard and Ed Carter kept an open-door policy and found time during planning periods to chat with us. They listened and gave advice, guiding vessels, challenging us to think about our decisions and social attitudes~ hearing, reflecting, and emphasizing the importance of attending college. Mr. Mallard & Mr. Carter's voices echo still, “don‟t sell yourself short”! “Be respectful to yourself first.” “Use your full potential.” I left those visits feeling confident. Talks were frequent.
Never, ever forget Rev. Croker. First day and a continuous review: Pay attention to words that sound alike (homophones).
[you‟re ~~your] [it‟s~~ it's ] [I ~~eye]
[flower ~~flour ]. [hour~~our]__••
He taught English. To this day, I can diagram a sentence just like he did and Identify the parts of speech. You had to pay attention because if he sensed you appeared bored, it became your turn to demonstrate and recite in front of the class some rule in the English language.
Calling on all Dragons as nowadays we can “click on Google”, and review our rules.
We were eager to hold hands with our boyfriends, even though „holding hands‟ was considered a behavioral concern. [Ms] Vice, Middleton, Rembert, Hill, Ladson, and Cooper stood in the halls during class changes watching with piercing-squinch eyes. All excellent teachers in their subject disciplines and behavioral specialist in their own right. Our behaviors were entrusted to them while at school. Girls were to act ladylike. Therefore, we paid attention to facial expressions and pointing fingers. Inappropriate behavior was not tolerated. We knew teachers would quickly show up to your home for a conference. According to our parents, the teacher was always right. There was utmost respect in our school community.
I honorably mention Mrs. Rembert. She was our only Foreign language teacher at Russellville High School. She taught French. I remember her stern, persistent personality. Many students took French by interest, selection, or the potential to attend higher learning.
I sit quietly in my space to critique those wonderful years at Russellville High School. Teachers were nurturing; they explored talents, provided an atmosphere for social-emotional growth, and created the necessary environment to enhance learning. Yes, I‟ve thought of a different time when students understood consequences and accountability. When we felt secure at school. Teachers, indeed, were respected and appreciated. It all seems beautifully surreal!
Present name of high school ~ Timberland High School 1996 ~ Current
St. Stephen High School - 1971-1996
Russellville High School ~ 1954-1972
Jeanette McClennon, Author
“Character Educational Messaging”
She has written and published articles
•The Guidance Approach To Teaching