It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Kristen Clary, a retired teacher from Lincoln Heights Elementary School. However, my sadness was compounded ten fold by that of my twenty-two year old son and nineteen year old daughter, both former students of Mrs. Clary.
Having lived in Morristown almost my entire life, there have been many issues throughout the years that made me contemplate writing a letter to the editor. However, the passing of this wonderful teacher, in my mind and my children’s hearts, deserved notice beyond that of an obituary. Being a teacher myself for the past twenty-five years, I pray each day that my student’s will learn at least one thing in my class. While I can only hope that prayer is answered for my students, I can guarantee it was answered for Kristen Clary’s students.
When my children talk about Mrs. Clary, they talk about what a wonderful experience it was to absorb her enthusiasm for learning, especially science. Not many teachers would fall in love with a hissing cockroach, but Mrs. Clary treated the one her class had as a pet as if it were the fluffiest and cutest kitten. Her creativity and talent made her classroom a place full of wonder and imagination. When I was teaching in Hamblen County, Mrs. Clary read a story during inservice about a little boy whose mother had died and how he gave his teacher a half empty bottle of perfume because it was his mother’s perfume. She read it with such emotion that there was not a dry eye in the auditorium. Even the burly coaches became emotional and scrambled to find newspapers to pretend they were reading so they could cover up their faces.
However, her gift of teaching was second only to her pride as a mother. She shared her family and her life with her students and it made them relate to her even more. My daughter remembers her son coming to school and using his extraordinary talent as an artist to help decorate her classroom. Although I have never met her children, I always felt that I knew them through her enthusiasm and love.
The last time I saw her, I told her how much she meant to my children.
My son graduated with highest honors and is now a junior at ETSU and my daughter is a sophomore at Carson-Newman on a full academic scholarship. I am so glad that I got the chance to let her know the difference she made in their lives and I encourage anyone reading this to pass along kudos to those teachers who have made a difference in your lives or your children’s lives. I always tell my own students that they will always remember their best teacher and their worst teacher. I can assure you that Mrs. Clary was definitely one of the best.