Life-long Devotion to Learning and Sharing

What's so important about this and how should it work? Here's what Margaret Wallace said and did.

Williston Teacher Life-long Devotion to Learning and Sharing --- Margaret Wallace started her Levy County teaching career at the all-black Williston Vocational School at a time when electric typewriters were considered high-tech in any school. She will retire from fully integrated Williston High School in May where color televisions, multiple computers and graphing calculators are commonplace. Despite the social and technological changes, Wallace still has the same goal for her students, and it is posted on her classroom door: Enter to learn and depart to share.

Original article by Karen Voyles, Sun staff writer, The Gainsville Sun, dtd. Monday, April 22, 2002

After Retirement Margaret Wallace began teaching in 1963 at an all-black school.

Williston- When Margaret Wallace retire from teaching at the end of May, she will take from her classroom memories of three and sometimes four generations of students she has taught from some families.

Margaret Wallace also will be taking something else from her students – her firsthand perspective on a Chapter of American History.

Margaret paid much of her way through college with a very lo-tech job. She picked cotton with her parents. Try that today! In sharp contrast, she is ending her formal teaching career in a very high tech classroom, one that is outfitted with a television and computers that connect her to people in almost any part of the world.

Margaret is retiring from a classroom where black and white faces look up to her from adjacent desks, something she did not expect to see when she started teaching.

Witness to history Wallace is one of the few still teaching in North Central Florida who began their careers in all-black schools. The only other active teacher in Levy County with that shared history is Rosa Rutledge, who plans to retire next year. Wallace began teaching Physical Education at Williston Vocational School in 1963 and Rutledge arrived in 1965 to teach Business. The faculty included just two white teachers.

Although the federal Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, Levy County did not begin integrating until 1968. Up until then, the vocational school served black students in all grades from as far away as Chiefland, Bronson and Otter Creek. Following integration, it became Williston Middle School. Wallace remained while Rutledge accepted a transfer to Williston High School.

Lessons in life Her willingness to talk with her students and listen to them did not mean Wallace was a pushover. The occasional student who wanted to test her, quickly learned how far they could

Margaret Wallace

go, including a former” student, who most people at Williston High refer to today as Coach Robert Patterson.

“I was in the seventh grade when she paddled me,” Patterson said. “That let me know how far I could push her. I was the one who got caught in 'street shoes' on the gym floor.”

Some of the other lessons Patterson learned from Wallace included patience and a love of sports.

“I wanted to coach and she encouraged me”. “She encourages all of her students. She also taught me how to help kids get a second chance by talking with them and letting them know you care about them.”

The result of patience has been the same for Wallace and Patterson. They rarely send more than two or three students to the office in a school year.

After years of teaching Physical Education, Margaret was tapped to take over the county’s Adult Education Program in the late 1980’s. After 12 years in that arena, she returned to a high school classroom where she now teaches Life Management Skills and Environmental Science. Many of her lessons in Life Management come between classes or during lunch.

“We became friends last year, and she has been helping me make decisions about everyday things,” said junior Ryan Faglia who frequently eats lunch with Mrs. Wallace in her classroom. “She has taught me to think about what I want to do and how I can do it.”

Learning never stops Teaching students to think and making good sound decisions is something Mrs. Wallace said she can see is needed for them to succeed.

“We are no longer living in the industrial era where people are only looking for a finished product,” Wallace said. ”We are living in the information era where learning must be life-long. I tell my students they cannot confine their learning to the classroom because the world is a classroom.”

To reinforce her message, Mrs. Wallace has a sign hung on her classroom door: ”Enter to learn and depart to share.”

“I put that up there to challenge my students”. “Why learn something in here or out in the world and then keep it to yourself?”

Mrs. Wallace said she plans to share what she has learned from her students after she retires.

Whole language is so important to learning, and I want to incorporate grandparents into early child care – birth to three years – by reading”. “I’m not done teaching or learning, I’m just not going to be in a classroom anymore.” - Margaret Wallace, Life long Devotion to Learning and Sharing Email Margaret

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