I know you aren’t supposed to admit to having favorites, but one of my favorite Facebook friends is Yolanda Henderson. Now, you other 4,999 Facebook friends don’t need to fret. I love y’all, too. And before you unfriend me, I did say that Yolanda was ONE of my favorites. There’s enough love to go around.
But Yolanda is so special, I think, because she is always so positive. I have never seen a mean-spirited post from her, which is way more than I can say about myself. She is one of the world’s biggest Falcons fans, and she still manages to stay positive. Plus, she doesn’t eat meat and is always posting pictures of her vegetarian specialties that look tasty, but come on girl — eat a steak sometimes.
Yolanda is old Covington. Dempsey Henderson. Hattie. Charles. The great Methodist bishop, Cornelius Henderson. Those are her people. She is a graduate of Newton County High School and Brenau University and owns her own real estate company. She is good folks, understand.
And I told you all of that to tell you this. Last week Yolanda posted an interesting question on her Facebook page. It was something to the effect of, “I’d give anything to still be working .. (where)?”
Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to respond. My answer was R.L. Cousins Middle School in the 1970s. Same rules as with the favorite Facebook comment. I have worked a lot of places that I enjoyed — even loved. I taught at Heritage High School longer than anywhere, for instance, and my heart will always be there. I loved working for Randy Bradberry and Tommy Stringer at Loganville. The happiest summers of my life were at Bert Adams Scout Reservation. Camp Jamison. Yes, ma’am. Heck, I even enjoyed working in the Osprey Mill.
But Cousins Middle School was my first teaching and coaching job, and honesty compels me to admit that I have never felt more at one with another place.
I worked with so many wonderful people and learned so much. Robert Clements hired me, and he was one of the smartest and most gifted educators I have ever encountered. I don’t know how he put up with me. Joe Croom was our assistant principal. He had taught me physical science, chemistry and physics in high school. I have never loved anyone more than I loved Joe Croom.
T.K. Adams was my mentor and was the kindest and gentlest and most humble person one could encounter. Carolyn Hardeman. Frances Beale. Florence Webb. I couldn’t have hand-picked a better faculty to help get me started on a 38-year career in education.
But the thing that made those years so magical was the wonderful young people that I got to teach and coach. I won’t name names here because too many people would be left out. My first assignment was teaching Life Science to seventh-graders. Man, what fun we had, and I learned a lot more than they did, in self-defense. I had to stay up late every night studying what I was supposed to teach the next day.
I was determined to be the best teacher ever. I was going to teach those kids everything I knew. I did, too. It took about a week. After that I was scrambling.
“Biotic Communities.” That was one of the projects we did. Students were supposed to stake out an area near their homes and sit and observe nature for a specified period of time every afternoon and report what they saw. I don’t know if they learned anything or not, but I got some interesting reports. I also remember showing a lot of film-strips, and once we created a huge stuffed animal zoo. Everyone brought their favorite plush toy and we labeled them according to class, phylum and all that stuff and put them in pipe-cleaner cages. Like I said, we had fun.
But I was hired, to be honest, not as Mr. Huckaby, science teacher, but as Coach Huckaby, and for three years I coached the mighty Cousins Rams football and boys basketball teams, and I will wager there has never been a group that meant more to one another, had a better time, made more memories, or won more games than we did. We worked hard and played harder and laughed and cried and loved together.
Road trips. Nature Boy. Hollering practice. Championships and even a few losses.
I can remember almost every game we played and every face of every kid in our programs. There are far too many to recall in this space. I have taught many of those students’ children and a couple of their grandchildren. Sadly, I have helped bury many of them. Way too many of them.
That was 50 years ago. It seems like last week.
Yes, Yolanda — I would give anything to be teaching and coaching at R.L. Cousins in the ’70s again. Thanks for asking — and for being you.