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Remembering Miss Winston

By Mike Watson

Thank you Vonnie Kolbenschlag for sharing the wonderful poem by Miss Noma Dix Winston. It has more meaning to me each time I read it, and as another has stated, when read aloud it seems to take on more dramatic prominence, more meaning.

In addition, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the stories and laudatory comments on Miss Winston, and her worthwhile contributions to American History and her guidance of many student minds, as well as her forays into the literary realm. I only regret I did not arrive on Lindsey Wilson Hill before her retirement. Thus, I missed her instruction in the classroom. However, I did receive her guidance in other ways through our interactions in several arenas for the remainder of her life here in Columbia.

Beginning in August 1984, I began teaching History at Anderson County High in Lawrenceburg. Having been taught well by my history teachers at Sparksville Grade Center, Adair County High, Lindsey Wilson and Campbellsville Colleges, I was well versed in my subject, if not quite so well in classroom management--that changed quickly. Though that was a different time and the worst problems encountered on a daily basis were gum chewing, paper wad tossing, and the occasional altercations in the hallways. Therefore, I was not too far out of my depth and learned as much daily about the classroom as my students did of history.

I believe it was 1987 that I was contacted by Mrs. Frances Hancock. She notified me that I was to receive the DAR's American History Teacher Award that year, given by the local chapter, Jane Lampton Daughters of the American Revolution. I was both honored and terrified! I was invited to speak at the next meeting and make remarks on some aspect of the United States Constitution, it being September. Constitution Month, and the 200th anniversary.

Agonizing over a topic, I was told to contact Miss Winston for guidance. She suggested I choose a signer of the document and give a biographical sketch. This I prepared, having selected Gouverneur Morris, a leading figure in the era from New York. I knew little about his life, but researched him deeply and prepared a thirty minute presentation, which I intended to give without notes--only an outline.

When the day arrived, the meeting convened in the Adair County Public Library. I knew every person present--all six of them. All teachers save one, some of my own, in fact. Present were: Mrs. Minnie Cobrin Rubarts, Miss Marie Collins, Miss Noma Dix Winston, Mrs. Mary Dunbar, Mrs. Frances S. Hancock, and Miss Cyrintha Terry. I was nervous, but gave my presentation without faltering, as I recall. Meeting the gaze of each, as we are taught in public speaking, but particularly Miss Collins and Mrs. Hancock, my anchors to reality. And watching Miss Winston's reactions, for she "assigned" the subject.

All went well. After the meeting and refreshments I was preparing to go, clutching my coveted plaque, and Miss Winston took me aside and said--and I paraphrase: "Remember to pronounce his name 'Goo-ver-neer' not 'Gov-er-nor.'" She smiled, patted me on the hand and added, "You did fine. I look forward to next time."

I rather think I was taken-to-the-woodshed in the nicest way that day, and have made it a practice to check my pronunciation thoroughly since that time. If I've made errors since, my listeners didn't show it, or at least didn't correct me. I appreciate the correction from Miss Winston. I have spoken to the DAR at least four times in the ensuing years, at least two times more with Miss Winston in attendance.

This story was posted on 2020-09-28 08:09:06
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