The history of Jessamine County public education filled the meeting room at Central Bank on Wednesday, April 18, as dozens of former teachers greeted each other again and reminisced about eight decades of work in the schools.
The Jessamine County Retired Teachers Association sponsored the event that aimed to recognize the 58 retired Kentucky teachers 75 or older who live in the county. The 12 senior members present last week represented 290 years in education, with the other retirees present accounting for another 650.
The most senior of the honorees was Robin Fain, who turned 100 on April 14 and worked in the Jessamine County school system for 52 years. Underneath the chatter of 40 others in the room, Fain shared a lengthy conversation with 85-year-old Zeb Blankenship, who was principal of Jessamine County High School for 14 years.
“Some of the finest people I’ve ever known are in this room right now,” said current superintendent Lu Young, who was a student at the high school when Fain and Blankenship were working. “... I think it’s a nice legacy to get together and remember experiences that we had teaching. There’s a bond that happens in the profession that you can really sense today and feel.”
Many of those gathered had personal ties to events some might now consider ancient history. Fain was born the night the Titanic sank; Blankenship played one year of college basketball at the University of Kentucky under legendary coach Adolph Rupp — before the Wildcats had won any of their now-eight NCAA tournament championshxqips.
Mary Lee Higgs, now 83, was one of the first teachers at the junior high, which was remodeled recently and opened this year as home of the Jessamine Early Learning Village. Up until the renovation, the building had few windows and was easy to get lost in with its strange pod structure and hallways, Higgs said.
“If you kept going, you’d come back,” she said. “But you sure could get confused.”
While no one at Central Bank last week could match Fain’s 52 years in public education, June Lowry and Sue Megee come close.
Megee was not even one of the 12 senior members, as she has yet to turn 75 but has already amassed 50 years of teaching. The 87-year-old Lowry began teaching math at Wilmore High School in 1945 and taught for 27 years before retiring in 1981. She returned only two years later to substitute and volunteer for 20 more years. Lowry had children and even grandchildren of former students in class, and she saw many of her former students last week who had become former teachers.
“I felt I needed to be there; I felt good about trying to help them learn,” Lowry said. “And at junior-high age, a lot of children needed a little direction. So I really felt good just to be helping students.”
Although the memories and stories were different for each retired teacher at the reception, all had the same reason when asked why they had stayed in the profession — the people.
“The thing I enjoyed most about teaching was the children, and of course, the association with other teachers,” Higgs said. “But the children — that’s what keeps us all going.”