Faith, Hope and 50 Years
Local teacher marks milestone
By: rachele smith
If it’s true that teachers change lives, then Sarah Scott has transformed the lives of thousands.
Scott, a kindergarten teacher at Denham Springs Elementary, recently retired after 50 years of teaching with the Livingston Parish School System.
During the past five decades, she has taught multiple generations, and rarely a day goes by that she doesn’t see at least one of her former students around town. “I go here or there, and I always see someone,” she said, smiling.
Scott’s teaching career began in 1967 at West Livingston High School, a public school serving black students during segregation. “Back then, there weren’t many jobs for black women,” the 73-year-old said, explaining that the limited choices mostly included domestic help or education.
“My mother worked as a housekeeper. She worked so hard, and she started taking in ironing to make more money. She would come home and tell me to wake her up in 15 minutes (following a nap). But I would feel sorry for her and let her sleep longer,” Scott admitted.
Knowing that she didn’t want to pursue the same type of work as her mom, and after briefly considering the military (simply because she loved the look of uniforms), Scott decided to become a teacher. She enrolled at Southern University, where she would later complete a master’s degree in education.
Looking back, it was a decision Scott was almost born to make. Indeed, in her early years of schooling, from first to 12th grade, she studied hard and only missed one day of school. (She stayed home that day at the request of a teacher who thought Scott was getting sick.) “I always obeyed and followed the rules,” she said.
As a teacher, Scott continued to do her best, demonstrating a strong work ethic on the job, where she first began teaching core subjects such as math and social studies. She also cultivated a joyful attitude and a desire to “do whatever was needed,” important traits she said she learned from her faith community at First Church of God in Christ in Denham Springs.
“I was born into church,” she said, explaining how her faith always provided hope, which “would stop you from hating” when you were not being treated fairly. In 1970, Scott began what would become the first of 47½ years teaching at Denham Springs Elementary. That year also marked the integration of schools in Denham Springs.
“It (integration) was so peaceful, not like what other places experienced,” Scott added. The principal, who sets the tone for the school, “bent over backwards to make us feel comfortable,” she said.
Did faith play a role during this time? For Scott, it did.
“You need to let your light shine,” she said, noting that it is important to not just talk about the Gospels, but to “walk the talk,” too. Choosing to love rather than hate is essential in anything you do, she said, and while it played a key role during integration, the idea continued to affect her teaching through the years.
She remembers a 6th grade student who was always in troiuble. “I would keep him in at recess, and we just talked,” she said. “(Later), he wrote me the nicest note.”
In 1978, Scott began devoting some of her time outside of the classroom to the U.S. Army Reserves, finally giving in to her love of uniforms. She said a relative told her it wasn’t too late to join, and as she thought about those comments at her home later, she noticed the phone book just happened to be opened to the army recruitment office. “Wasn’t that something?” she said, laughing. Scott ultimately joined the reserves, where she was assigned writing letters and completing work for the company commanders. She retired after 26 years.
Scott’s willingness to do what was needed on the job was highlighted in 1981 when, at the request of her principal (who needed to fill a teaching spot), she began teaching kindergarten. Scott enjoyed working with the younger children and stayed at this post; however, several years ago, a health scare almost ended her career. Again, she turned to her faith, asking God what to do. She said his answer proved that she would make it to her 50th year in the classroom. “He’s a good God,” she said.
Now that she is retired, Scott hopes to spend more time with her family, which includes two grown sons, nine grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and a godchild that she raised. She is recently widowed. She also plans to remain active in her church, where she still serves as a Sunday school teacher, a church coordinator and secretary, district representative and state Prayer and Bible Band president.
In addition, she helps lead Camp Empowerment, a free one-week summer camp for kids, and she has served on the Martin Luther King Task Force and as chairwoman of the King Day Scholarship Committee. Scott was one of the first organizers of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March and celebration in Denham Springs.
In July, State Representative J. Rogers Pope, who retired as Superintendent of Schools in Livingston Parish, presented Scott with a proclamation honoring her 50-plus years in the classroom. “I didn’t expect this,” she said, humbly. “It was a wonderful honor.”