When it was time for school to begin this year, Willie Whitney of Manila admits it was difficult for her to be contented with reading a new novel. Her thoughts were on bulletin boards, lesson plans, and new journal topics -- just as it has been for the last 48 years. Whitney is a teacher from the top of her head to her toes. Throughout her almost half century career, she was searching for thought provoking topics that would leave lasting impressions on her students.
"As we grow up, we all have certain ideals, values, hopes, and dreams," Whitney said. "Throughout my forty-eight years of teaching, I was living my dreams. I wanted to encourage my students to have similar ideals, values, hopes, and dreams."
Teaching is what she always wanted to do. She said she was inspired by her teachers at Black Water -- Sikes Lorance, Spurlocks, and Shockley.
"Mr. Shockley had such confidence in my teaching ability that I was allowed to teach fifth grade while Miss Kunkel completed her summer training at Arkansas State. At the same time, I studied my tenth grade classes," Whitney said. "When I transferred to Manila in the middle of my sophomore year (our Black Water High School consolidated with Manila High School), I found that Mr. Holt was great as a geometry teacher and Miss Fowler (my English and journalism teacher) made American history come alive for me.
"Each year as a teacher, I recalled that I was once a student sitting where my students were sitting. Teaching students was a continuous learning process as I searched for ways to make the written words come alive for them as my teachers had done for me."
Mrs. Whitney was married to the late Guy Whitney, who was a Baptist minister and served as Director of Missions in Corning.
"Wherever Guy pastored a church, the Lord always directed me as I searched for a new school," Mrs. Whitney said.
Mrs. Whitney taught in Cooter, Leachville, Arbyrd, Greene County Tech, Walcott, Knobel, Oak Grove, England, Piggott, Rector (15 years), Manila, Marvell Academy and DeSoto High School.
It was not as easy for women or men to go to college 50 years ago as it is today. Mrs. Whitney said they worked their way through.
"Back then we could teach with 60 hours of college while we were completing our education," Whitney said.
Mrs. Whitney earned an AA from Southern Baptist College, and a BSE and MSE from Arkansas State University.
During that time she was raising her children, working in church, teaching, going to school and she managed to never miss a ballgame. In addition to all of that, she never entered a classroom to teach unprepared for the day's lessons.
In addition to teaching, she loves sports. In school she was a basketball player, softball player and even the ping pong champion.
Mrs. Whitney retired from teaching in the public school system in 1993. She has taught her last years at private schools in Marvell and DeSoto High School.
"I enjoyed teaching both in public and private schools. I think you have a little more freedom in private schools," she said. "The students and parents were very good to me at DeSoto. I had knee surgery and I was not sure about going back. One of my junior students called me and told me I had to come back for his senior year and said he would push me anywhere I needed to go in my wheelchair."
She did return and her young student was true to his word. Mrs. Whitney has a home in Manila but would stay in Helena throughout the week where she had a one room apartment with a refrigerator.
"The parents knew that I didn't have a kitchen and they were always bringing me food. When I was staying late to help a child, his or her parent would always bring my dinner," she said.
She has always enjoyed attending her students' ballgames and during the last home football game this year, she was named the Number one Fan of the year.
Whitney was surprised and honored when she was named Teacher of the Year at DeSoto.
She was presented a plaque. Several of her students wrote poems in her honor and she said she treasures each one.
By Legier Biederman
Mrs. Whitney's teaching is fun.
She has taught us about essays, poems, and puns.
She never yells or screams.
Her love radiates like sunbeams.
Mrs. Whitney is smart as can be;
She makes us learn all kinds of poetry.
She can always recognize it by ear.
In our journal is where our thoughts must go.
We write about our feelings of our friend and our foe.
By Ryan Hall
Mrs. Whitney really stimulates my mind
"Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined."
This difficult class makes me think,
The year has gone by in just a blind.
Just when I start to let down my guard,
She turns up the heat and makes it really hard.
Mrs. Whitney ahs set my mind into gear,
And I know that I will miss her in the next year.
Mrs. Whitney-My Heroine
By Farrah L. Fielder
When I see her in the morning, I smile
Because I know that she will be fair.
She always goes that extra mile
To show us how much she really cares.
I have never met a woman so kind
Or one so full of love.
I know that I do not often find
A teacher sent from above.
She is my angel-so full of grace
And joy I hope to have.
Every time I see her happy face,
She makes me very glad.
By Bernie Crowley
Mrs. Whitney's teaching style is grand;
She rapidly answers questions of the raised hand.
Her replies are always true,
And we hate for her to be blue.
Unlike an ex-teacher named Morris
Mrs. Whitney never has bored us.
In her class we do the best we can do.
We cover so much, but we'll never get through.
Mrs. Whitney's children are Judy Pohlod of St. Louis, Guy Whitney of Hot Springs and Marvin Whitney of St. Louis.
Mrs. Whitney said she was privileged to take a trip to London in March with her son Guy, and his wife, Loretta. Mrs. Whitney's granddaughter, Katie, was studying in London and they all enjoyed a grand tour.
"It was something to visit the places that I had taught about all of the years," she said.
She especially enjoyed visiting Shakespeare's birthplace, Canterbury, The Poets Corner, several castles, Stone Henge, the cathedrals, Buchingham Palace, and Oxford University to name a few. They went to several plays while they were there. She said everything was much more expensive there than here.
Mrs. Whitney will add her trip to England to her 48 years of teaching memories.
Next to teaching, Mrs. Whitney enjoys reading and has read 40 novels since school began this year. She does plan to attend some of the home basketball games and maybe do some substitute teaching.
She is still very active in the EHC and Business Women and teaching a Sunday School Class and a Discipleship Class at the Blackwater Baptist Church. Blackwater Church is in the community she grew up in. Her parents helped start the church in the 1920's.
"I have been in a lot of good churches through the years but there is a sweet spirit at Blackwater and it is home," she said.