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Old-fashioned good teacher still crucial to modern success

By Staff
In a matter of days, most area children will be returning to classrooms to begin a new year of learning. In an age where success is defined more and more by federal or state standards or test scores, we want to take a moment to salute what we still consider to be a crucial, if old-fashioned, element of a child’s success: The good teacher.
Education legislation and federally imposed standards are certainly well-intentioned. Every child should have as many opportunities as possible to reach his or her potential. But all of the legislation in the world will not take the place of a teacher who genuinely cares about a child’s success.
“I always said I wanted to send these children out of my classroom being the best little students they can possibly be, being as best equipped as possible for the next phase, because they deserve that,” said veteran educator Lima Barnett, in a recent interview with the Daily News. Barnett taught at Chocowinity Primary School for four decades before retiring a few months ago.
Her students — about a thousand of them over the last 36 years — think of her not just as an elementary school teacher. They think of her as the woman who did the bunny hop at Easter, who sang songs to them to help them remember their numbers and colors. Because of Lima Barnett, there are two generations of “songbirds” in Beaufort County.
But for the good teachers like Barnett, the job doesn’t end when the school bell rings on a weekday afternoon. There are countless hours spent planning lessons and grading papers, coming up with ways to make learning enjoyable, so students want to keep doing it. And there are hours spent worrying about those children — not just whether they can spell or add or read or do algebra — but worrying about their well-being.
We salute the teachers who go to work every day just waiting to see that “click.” We all know them. We all have our own Lima Barnett.
He’s Link Page, who taught one of us about the Vietnam War. She’s Ellen Arnold, a women’s studies professor. She’s Miss Marie Van Fossen, the third-grade teacher who is remembered as a sweet redhead with her own Corvette. They are Nancy Cotton and Deanie Dunbar and Jim Shumaker. We thank all of you. And all of the teachers like you. You are the ones who know that a child’s success is not something that happens by accident, but something that must be nurtured, and you rise to meet that challenge.