Sunday, September 4, 2016

A World Traveling Teacher's Life

Here is the text of a letter written by Ollie McGillivary, a St. Tammany Parish Public School teacher who traveled around the world, serving thousands of students in dozens of countries. 

Ollie McGillivary was born in rural St. Tammany on June 3, 1928. She walked about four miles daily to Pilgrim Rest School for three years before it became consolidated and was merged with Lee Road Consolidated School.

The parish line designated that for the fourth grade she attend the old Covington Grammar School in Covington (now the School System Central Office). She traveled by bus to the school and attended there from fourth through seventh grade. The bus she took was the only one picking up elementary and high school students at the time, since the area where she lived was not very populated, she explained in her letter. 

"After graduating seventh grade, I attended Elmer E. Lyon High School. While in high school, I was active in band, glee club, 4-H and drama club. After high school I received a legislative scholarship and attended Southeastern College. I borrowed money from the St. Tammany School Board to help me get through college, but the scholarship paid for textbooks only.

"I started college majoring in music. The only piano teacher I could find to teach me when I was in high school was at St. Scholastica.  I walked from Lyon High once a week to take the piano lesson, then I would walk to Columbia St. -Lee Road and catch a ride to my home.

"However, there were not many opportunities for music educators in the parish. After three years, I decided to switch my major to elementary education. Most of my hours could be used as a result. I only had to go an extra semester to become a certified elementary teacher. I graduated in 1951 certified in grades Kindergarten through sixth grade.

"While in college, I served on the Student Government, was president of the Future Teachers of America, active with Baptist Student Union center, serving on various committees, then was Louisiana State Editor for B.S.U. I was also a member of Alpha Sigma Tau and Phi Mu Alpha.

"After graduating from Southeastern I taught at Pearl River Elementary and Lee Road Consolidated. I decided to do graduate work and headed to the University of Vermont for a summer. Then, back to Covington. I didn't see many challenges, so I headed west, stopping in Denver, CO, en route to San Francisco.

"I did secretarial work for the Dean of the Law School at Denver University and met my future husband who was at S. U. completing his master’s degree.

"I returned to Covington in the fall and wed in January of 1953. My husband became a career officer in the U.S. Navy. Through his various military assignments and moves (some 28 times) I was given a multitude of opportunities to become active in community activities, churches and schools. This gave me a broad scope of all parts of the United States, Far East, Europe, Canada, Australia, and Mexico, etc.

"I helped with the Red Cross, Navy Relief, March of Dimes, Ombudsman, sponsored a "boat family" of 13 from Vietnam (while my husband was Commanding Officer in the Bay area.) I worked with abused family groups and helped teach on Indian Reservations in Oregon and Washington State. I also substituted in public schools in Washington State, California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Florida.

"When there was a need, I directed choirs, led church groups of young people, was in charge of Brownies and Boy Scout clubs. While my husband was at the Naval War College, I taught the Laubach method of learning English to foreign officials wives.

"In my travels I visited public schools in Europe and Australia. I also volunteered as a teacher in the National Schools of P. I., and I taught third and sixth grades for the Department of Defense while in the Far East.

"Because of my husband's duties, there were opportunities to entertain senior military officers and their wives, local mayors, politicians, dignitaries from foreign countries and embassies. While a naval officer's wife I taught full time in Pennsylvania for four years. We had two different deployments in this state. I did graduate work at Shippensburg State College. I taught fourth, fifth, and kindergarten in Pennsylvania and in Florida I taught first grade. For the Department of Defense, in the Far East I taught third and sixth grades for two years.

"I also took graduate courses from the University of Maryland. For two years, I attended the University of California-Berkley doing graduate work.

"Throughout our military life we were blessed to see great museums and explore many wonders of the world. With our two children we availed ourselves of the multitude of cultural activities, situations and opportunities on whatever base or surrounding area we were stationed.

"I returned to Covington in 1982 and became a kindergarten teacher at Lee Road Junior High School. Then I taught kindergarten, first and T-1 at Folsom Elementary.

"It has been my privilege to work with the Folsom community, Franklinton Heritage Manor, church and school.

"After Hurricane Katrina, I was gratefully given some 26 large trees to help replace the many trees lost on our school grounds. I put these things down in writing because God has so richly blessed me to have become a teacher, educator, wife and mother.

"My first teaching job was as a 10 year old in a country church teaching beginners four and five years old. I discovered then that somehow I was able to get the subject matter across to little ones. Thus, throughout my life so it's been. Let the student know you really care for them and that they can understand and learn. If you were successful with that concept, you were most likely going to be successful with the students (class) and have high achievers. It worked," she wrote.

"My life has been an amazing one for me. I am so grateful for having the opportunity of being blessed by God with good health and the opportunity afforded me by the St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in 1920-1921."

She was nominated for Teacher of the Year for the State of Pennsylvania, Florida and Louisiana, and was a Master Teacher in Pennsylvania and Florida. Her mother was also a teacher, serving at Pilgrim's Rest School in 1920 and 1921.