"We've had some fine teachers and we've had some not so fine," mused Col. West Hamilton, as he looked out over the audience of educators and friends. During most of his "91 plus" years, Hamilton has been an educator and a crusader for quality education in Washington's school system.
Last week, he and 27 other retired teachers attending ceremonies at the Sheraton Park Hotel were recognized for their contributions to the D.C. school system and their impact on the lives of individual students.
At the First Annual Retired Teachers Luncheon, they were presented with certificates citing them as former "master educators" in the city public school system. School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed praised the former teachers at the ceremony sponsored by the Junior Citizens Corps.
The corps is a minority-operated youth agency founded in 1944 with the purpose of curbing juvenile delinquency. It organizes educational programs and youth clubs, sponsored by private citizens, to redirect anti-social and problem youth (aged 10-21) back into the school system and into meaningful positions in the community.
Many notable Washingtonians, includng Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and real estate developer H. R. Crawford, were troubled youth aided by educators and other citizens involved in the corps. program, said JCC Executive Director James R. Conaway.
Conaway said Crawford came to the JCC last winter with the proposal to honor retired teachers after reflecting on the influence teachers had on his life. He had just served as pall bearer at the funeral of a local educator and a large number of teachers had been present at the funeral service, continued Conaway. Out of that occasion, the tribute to teachers was born.
Superintendent Reed described how a teacher had helped him with an identity problem when he was a teen-ager in his native St. Louis.As tears ran down his cheeks, Reed told the hushed audience about his life as one of 17 children, his hard-working parents and the respect he acquired for his family with the help of an eighth grade teacher.
Entertainment at the luncheon was provided by a five piece brass quintet from the D.C. Youth Orchestra. Other speakers included JCC officials Jonathan L. Eugene, president, and Dr. Matthew J. Whitehead, a board member.
The retired teachers were aged 55 and older. In fact, Marie D. Perry, who acted as spokesman for the teachers who were honored, said she had been taught by some of the teachers who were being honored with her. The honoress were selected from a list of 240 nominees.
Those honored were Angela Anderson, Cato W. Adams, Charles Baltimore, Howard Cranfored, Marion DeBerry, Estelle Epstein, Elsie J. Hamilton, Col. Hamilton, Clotil M. Houston, Mary G. Hundley, Jehu L. Hunter, Theodore W. McIntyre, Bertha MCNeill, Marea S. Ogle, Marie D. Perry, Vida L. Porter, Doris Quander, Evangeline Queen, Lillian J. Riley, Isabelle Selden, Winston Turner, Van Dyke Walker, Bernard L. Walton, Thelma Reid Whitehead, Blanche K. Williams, Elizabeth Williamson and Rosalind A. Winston.