Veteran teacher loved watching students grasp concepts

Published 1:18 am Friday, May 3, 2019

In 1978, Straughn High School’s Cindy Thompson began her teaching career in Colquitt, Ga. Forty years later, she is retiring from the classroom.

Thompson taught three years in Evergreen and five years at W.S. Harlan Elementary School before settling down at SHS for 29 years.

She said that her inspiration for teaching came from her seventh and eleventh grade English teacher in Andalusia, Joseph Wingard.

“In seventh grade, Mr. Wingard presented to me a love for English literature that I never forgot,” Thompson said. “I was fortunate enough to have him again in the eleventh grade. I was on top of the world when I was asked to sub for him one day in his classroom. I thought I had reached my goal.”

Thompson said that she doesn’t have a specific memory that is the best moment of her teaching career.

“The most memorable moments are when you can see on a kid’s face that they finally understand a concept,” Thompson said. “Or as I tell them, they are looking beyond the end of their nose and they can see.”

Teaching seniors is something that is an experience like no other, Thompson said.

“It involves so much more than Shakespeare, the Canterbury Tales, Macbeth and the dreaded research paper,” Thompson said. “Helping students transition into responsible young adults, ready to face the next adventure, whether it be schooling or the work force, is a daily trial.”

She said that the students are the best part of teaching, but getting them to see their potential is the most challenging part of her job.

“The children have always been the best part, absolutely,” Thompson said. “But the most complicated part has to be getting each student to see the potential that he or she has. I’m one of those types of people where, if you can make an ‘A,’ then you should make an ‘A,’ but if you can only make a ‘C,’ that is perfect.”

Thompson said if she could go back in time and speak to herself on the first day of teaching she would say that the kids have never changed.

“Kids are the same, no matter where you are,” Thompson said. “Of course, throughout the years, restrictions on the teacher have changed some, but to me, kids have not changed. Now, they do different things, but they are honestly still the same.”

Thompson said that she will miss the camaraderie with peers and the kids the most.

“Teaching has been my life,” Thompson said. “My son, Zane, often complained, “Mom, I can’t go anywhere where you have not taught someone,’ For the number of years I have taught that was probably true. It has been my life since I was 21.”

For new teachers, Thompson has some advice.

“Go into teaching with all of your heart,” Thompson said. “Always have an open mind and realize that education is not always going to be one size fits all.”

Thompson said that the community has definitely responded to her retiring.

“I have gotten at least 200 Facebook messages when the news got out,” Thompson said. “Just of people asking if I remembered them or thanking me for everything that I did. It’s very heartwarming.”

She said that there have been ups and downs in teaching, but the ups far outnumber the downs.

“I have always wished to have no responsibilities except to teach,” Thompson said. “No meetings, no needless paperwork, no searching for funds to pay for items and no ridiculous state requirements to try and come up with a teaching experience that fits a ‘one size fits all’ for students. My life has been teaching, and I have been so blessed to be a part of such a rewarding profession. I just hope that somewhere along the line, I have made an impact on my fellow peers, administrators and the wonderful thousands of students I have had the honor of working with in my career.”

The future for Thompson is wide open and she is excited for it.

“I want to have time for myself where I am not committed to being anywhere at a given time,” Thompson said. “The future looks bright.”