Three women who taught school for a total of 84 years were recognized Saturday for their distinguished service by the Bate School Alumni Association during ceremonies at Danville High School.
The event was part of the 15th Biennial Reunion and Centennial Commemoration that began Friday and continued Saturday night with a dinner and dance at Danville Country Club.
Jewell Gayton-Lay of Harrodsburg, Mary Agnes Riffe of Trotwood, Ohio, and Dolores Revely-Alston of Xenia, Ohio, received framed certificates. Mrs. Alston was unable to attend.
Lay taught science for 34 years, including 29 years at Bate, Danville Bate Junior High and Danville Bate Middle schools. “She inspired students in biology, chemistry, science and science exploration,” said Dr. Marcus M. Stallworth, who made the introduction. She was a master teacher, earning her Master of Arts Degree in education at University of Kentucky and Rank I from Eastern Kentucky University.
“She demonstrated excellent content knowledge, classroom management, differentiated instruction, cultural responsiveness, and high rigor and relevance in her daily teaching practices,” Stallworth said. “Mrs. Lay could spot a student chewing gum or off-task (goofing off) while her face was toward the chalkboard and back toward hers students. She would say, ‘You better get rid of that gum,’ or, ‘You better get to work.’”
Lay, a native of Burgin, was educated at Burgin Elementary and West Side High School in Harrodsburg where she graduated with honors. She completed her education and got a Bachelor of Arts degree in science education from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and joined the scholarship ranks of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
She began her teaching career in 1951 in a one-room school at Burgin Elementary. A year later, she joined the faculty at West Side High and taught science until 1956, then joined the Bate School faculty as an elementary science teacher, then moved on to the high school level teaching biology, general science and chemistry. After a Supreme Court ruling that separate but equal schools were unconstitutional, the Danville Independent Schools began to desegregate. Lay was named science teacher at Bate Junior High School. She taught at Bate until her retirement in 1986.
Riffe spent 26 years as a classroom teacher prior to her retirement in 1969. She began her career in 1955 after she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education at Kentucky State University. She also completed graduate school with classes at University of Dayton and Indiana University. She was a lifetime member of the national Hellenic Society, Alpha Kappa Alpa Sorority.
She took a fifth grade teacher position in 1955 at Bate School alongside her sister, Ruby, who was teaching the sixth grade.
Riffe was quoted as saying, “It was my first job, and I was so proud of it, especially being a teacher. The staff made it very nice for me because we all worked together so well.” While at Bate, Riffe helped organize several elementary school plays and also was active in the Kentucky Education Association.
Riffe stayed at Bate until 1965 when Bate became a junior high school. She transferred to Shawnee Elementary in Louisville, then after two years she returned to Danville to teacher at Toliver Elementary for a year. She moved on in 1969 and held several teaching positions in the Dayton, Ohio, public schools for 16 years prior to retirement in 1986.
A native of Hustonville, Riffe attended schools in Hustonville and Lincoln County High School before she moved with her family to Danville. She graduated at Bate High in 1949.
She belongs to the Ohio Teachers Retirement System and the Summit Christian Church in Trotwood.
Alston is a 1951 graduate of Bate High School and continued her education at Central State University in Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in social welfare. She is a lifetime member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
She returned to Danville to become a third-grade teacher at Bate School where her sister, Rita, also was a teacher. After two years at Bate, and seeing of the unfair treatment of Negro students receiving used books from the white children and the disparate pay scales between Negro and white teachers, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to advance her career.
Alston continued her teaching in Xenia, Ohio, while completing her professional studies and earned a Master of Education degree at Central State. She retired in 1987 after teaching 24 years in Kentucky and Ohio. She is currently a member of the Greene County Retired Teachers Association.
She also is active with Links Inc. as a social welfare advocate for people in Xenia and Wilberforce communities. The organization is non-profit and is based on the idea of combining friendship and community service. She also is a member of the Altrusa Club of Xenia, a volunteer at Greene Memorial Hospital, the local food pantry and at the Friends of Payne Theological Seminary and Friends of Greene County Library.
She also is a foundation member of the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, a life member of Central State University Alumni Association, a legacy member of Central State and member of the CSU alumni Hall of Fame.
She plays bridge with a club that donates proceeds to nonprofit organizations, and is a member and serves as secretary of the Holy Trinity AME Church.
Twelve members of the Class of 1962 attended the reunion. Of the 21 graduates, 19 are still living. Six of the teachers in 1962, who attended the reunion — Lay and Riffe, Ruby Kavanaugh, Erskine Byson and Helen Fisher Frye, were recognized.