Grace Clark has had many titles during her 101 years, including mother, grandmother, sister, friend, wife and more. “Teacher” is the one we’re highlighting during the month of August.
Grace was born and raised in the Oklahoma City area, and it was her husband’s role as a Presbyterian minister that brought her to Kansas, in Yates Center initially.
“I didn’t necessarily set out to become a teacher. They were in need of substitutes, so I started out doing that. Then, some of the teachers I was substituting for moved, and I was offered a contract. I taught English and French.
My first full-time teaching position was in Anadarko, Oklahoma,” said Grace. “When we moved to Yates Center, it seemed like such a small town, so that took a while to get used to. Eventually he retired from ministry, but I wasn’t quite ready to retire from teaching, so I did that awhile longer.”
Grace and her husband had three children, one of whom has died. They have 10 grandchildren and enough great-grandchildren that Grace has lost count. Many more children have been impacted by Grace’s teaching, though. Probably more than she will ever know.
“Once someone gets what you’re trying to tell them, you can see it on their faces. It’s a wonderful feeling. And you develop a certain camaraderie with some students. You either have it or you don’t, but I never tried to be their equal. I had to establish myself in a superior position, and I saw some younger teachers try to get along with everyone. That’s not your job,” said Grace. “It’s awfully hard to teach someone how to be a teacher. If you’re a good teacher you’re going to change as you have more experience. I liked that. I felt like I was learning just as much as my students. I had an adult who wanted to be in the French class, and attended one semester. She said ‘I just wish your students realize how much you’re teaching them besides just French.’”
Grace’s students may not have realized how much they were learning at the time, but there’s no doubt they realized it later in life. Perhaps some of them even went on to become teachers themselves, and Grace continues to give words of advice to new teachers even today.
“Take it a day at a time and make the most of the day you’re in. Think too far ahead or spend all your time wishing the past was different and you don’t get anywhere. Live the day you’re in,” said Grace. “And actually, my husband was a minister, and had quite a number of responsibilities, so he taught me some things. Plan your day and get through that, and enjoy your children right where they are.”