Area educators impacted by teachers of their own

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; An educator who touches the life of a future teacher can have an almost endless influence on children.

And local educational leaders say there are a few men and women in their lives who have done just that.

For Robert Lewis Middle School Principal Bettye Bell, it&8217;s her godfather Marion Hayes whose hand has touched her administrative style.

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Hayes is a former superintendent, who taught Bell in the seventh grade.

&8220;He&8217;s always seemed to care about the person,&8221; Bell said. &8220;He was an outstanding teacher and a motivator in delivering his lessons. He kept our attention.

&8220;He didn&8217;t just teach, he lived what he taught, and for that I respect him to this very day.&8221;

Hayes is still on the call list when Bell encounters a challenge to overcome, she said.

Superintendent Anthony Morris has two of his high school teachers at the top of his list.

Leo Miller and Lee Thomas Jr. were science teachers who worked closely with the science club president &8212; Morris.

&8220;These guys had a quiet way about them,&8221; he said. &8220;They were very genuine, and they involved themselves in trying to help the whole child.&8221;

Both men were married to educators &8212; like Morris &8212; and both placed a heavy emphasis on family.

&8220;They were always, even outside the classroom, trying to find ways to help children,&8221; he said.

On a national scale, Morris studies the work of Lorraine Monroe, who became principal of Harlem&8217;s Frederick Douglass School and took it from poor attendance and low academic achievement to a spot among New York City&8217;s best high schools.

&8220;She has a no-nonsense approach in dealing with educating young people,&8221; Morris said. &8220;She&8217;s taken nothing and made something out of it.&8221;

He also respects Bill Cosby for his stance on family values and willingness to speak out on them.

Bell said the controversial first black Miss America Vanessa Williams is a positive black role model because she overcame adversity after the pageant to become a successful singer and actress.

Children need dig deeper into the civil rights movement and stay knowledgeable about current black leaders, Bell said.

&8220;Kids need to really learn more about the civil rights movement other than Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks,&8221; she said. &8220;What about the other people who were in the struggle. We only teach one side.&8221;

Morris and Bell both mentioned former Secretary of State Colin Powell as a modern-day role model.