Teachers are a very important part of a student’s life, from the first day of school up to graduation. National Teachers Day was May 3 and throughout the United States, teachers were honored and recognized .
“Since I was a little girl I said ‘I wanted to be a teacher,’ for no special reason. I just wanted to be a teacher,” Altus resident Grace Dempsey said.
“Dempsey was born on a farm near McQueen, the oldest of six children. She graduated in 1941 with a Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics and a minor in Elementary Education, the same year she married George L. Dempsey.
Grace and George had two daughters, Elaine Hill and Carla Taylor. They both followed in their mother’s footsteps as teachers.
Her first teaching position was Home Economics teacher at the Ron Consolidated School in Harmon County. Dempsey began as an Altus Public School teacher in 1946 until 1984, a total of 38 years as an educator. She has seen many changes in education.
“All students started learning cursive penmanship in the third grade and today students don’t learn cursive writing at all,” she said. She also has memories of when children walked to school from all areas of Altus.
Dempsey taught in Altus at Wilson Elementary and Eugene Field. When asked her thoughts on the Altus Public Schools decision to convert elementary schools to grade centers, she said “I think it is a wonderful idea, because all the kids will meet on the first day of school as one class.”
Dempsey said to be a teacher you must be kind, patient, hard working, dedicated and understand that a teacher helps mold children’s lives through daily interaction.
Dempsey retired from teaching in 1984, and spent time with husband George, farming, traveling and fishing. George died in 2001, and Grace continued to live in their home until three years ago when she downsized to an apartment complex.
Today, Grace stays active and physically fit by dancing with the Oklahoma Silver Bells as a show member.
“We perform at a different Altus retirement home weekly, and I never miss the two weekly line dancing lessons,” she said.
She also enjoys her teacher retirement meetings, church activities, the AARP club and the American Legion Auxiliary. Grace volunteers as a teacher to foreigners who need help with the English language as well as other American customs.
“Today I see former students and their families and it makes me very happy,” said Dempsey, explaining that her favorite part of teaching was the children.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext.2077