Saturday, January 12, 2013

Former student, former teacher draw on rural roots to express appreciation for each cherished group

The massacre of young students in Newtown, Conn., last month continues to resonate, especially in the minds of many who grew up in small, rural communities where schools were an extension of families and neighborhoods.

"The stories of heroic actions by teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary made me think of the impact teachers have had in my life and the lives of other students I know," writes Betty Dotson-Lewis, who "grew up in a coal-mining community on a one-lane road in the remote mountains of rural West Virginia. Our school and church were the center of our lives. Religious activities took place in church; all other community activities were held at our school, including club meetings, dances and voting. Teachers were the leaders of our community."

Dotson-Lewis recalls how her first-grade teacher became a surrogate mother, and adds a line from her co-author, Kathleen Colley Slusher, a retired Kentucky teacher: "I was not surprised by the stories of sacrifice and bravery at Sandy Hook. Teachers and their students are truly family to each other; it is because of each other that they stand hand-in-hand even in the face of the unspeakable."

Each writer followed that prose with lists in a sort of blank verse, saying what they are or have accomplished "Because of Teachers" and "Because of Students." To read their inspiring words, in PDF on the site of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, click here.

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