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Catherine Taylor a teacher you don't forget
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Catherine Taylor a teacher you don't forget

I was a junior the year Hunt High School opened. It was a unique year of firsts with an inaugural football team, a new building still under construction and lots of new people to meet.

Along with many of my friends, I decided to take journalism that first year — 1978 — and ended up in Catherine Taylor’s class. When we’re young, we never consider how a simple decision can change our lives. But my decision to take that class instead of yearbook or another elective shaped my future. So did Cat Taylor.

Mrs. Taylor was a tiny dynamo. She could be calm and she could be feisty, sometimes in the same sentence. She could control a roomful of rowdy high school students with her evil-eye stare. And, oh, how we hated to get her mad. But at the same time, there were many in our group who lived to make her mad by doing things as simple as coming into class late, or sitting on a desk, or leaving the classroom in a mess.

When I read her obituary Tuesday morning, I closed my eyes and remembered her tiny self, arms crossed and leading a discussion in a very small workroom where we first met at Hunt. We, her journalism students, were deciding what to name Hunt’s student newspaper.

She led our discussions and our decision as we chose the name The Oracle, reflecting the time frame of our warrior mascot, and work got started on naming editors and writing stories and basically starting from scratch.

Some of the happiest years of my schooling were spent in my high school journalism classes those two years. I loved Mrs. Taylor, and I loved writing stories and seeing the newspaper come together. I also really loved the freedom of going out during class time and selling ads!

Although at the time I didn’t see it, Mrs. Taylor, who called me Li’l Lisa, challenged us on so many levels and helped me grow and mature as an adult as well as a writer. She gave me story ideas and writing lessons, sure, but she also taught me to be firm and to go after what I wanted, especially when it came to the quality of the newspaper.

She also encouraged me to challenge our principal, John W. Jones, when I wanted something for the newspaper. I remember one particular encounter in his office when I went to him for more funding. I was scared going in, and I argued a little more than I had planned, but I stated my case, just as Mrs. Taylor had coached me to do, and I won.

Mrs. Taylor also taught us how to be sneaky, circumventing school rules and selling candy on the side so we could buy things we needed for the paper, such as layout paper and lining tape for ads or extra pages in the next edition. Those were the old days, remember, before digital newspaper layout.

I was humbled and shocked when Mrs. Taylor named me editor-in-chief for my senior year. I worked hard and continued to learn, and when I got to Atlantic Christian College, it served me well; I was editor there for awhile, too.

I left ACC’s newspaper at graduation and came to work at The Wilson Times. I still saw Mrs. Taylor from time to time. She’d have business at the newspaper — often with her beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, her church or during her 16 years on the Wilson County Board of Education — and would stop in my office. I’d hear her coming down the hall saying, "Li’l Lisa!” (even though I wasn’t so little anymore!) and I’d know it was her. I was always so glad to see her.

A few years ago, my daughter was doing a photography project and took photos of Mrs. Taylor and her sweet husband, Roderick, having dinner in their home. It was the first and only time I visited her immaculate home, and on this particular visit I got to sample her delicious fried chicken and get a peek into her personal life. That was one of the last times I talked to her. I am so thankful for that short but sweet visit.

It’s amazing to me how a stranger can come into your life when you’re just a teenager and how her influence can stay with you for the rest of your life.

Thank you, Mrs. Taylor, for being my teacher and for believing in me. | 265-7810

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CEW said...

She was an excellent musician at Jackson Chapel, where in charge of the youth choir. She made singing fun, yet you learned a lot about about the dynamics and mechanics of the song and how to sing. She will be missed!!

Thursday, September 05, 2013 at 8:13 AM
Deborah Hammonds said...

Thanks for the article. It was just five month ago I called her and asked if she could write a reference for me for a teaching job in Tennessee. She did, and what a beautiful reference she gave. I got the job. I love you Mrs. Taylor and will miss you dearly. What a Great Role Model.

Thursday, September 05, 2013 at 9:36 PM
S. Denice Newton said...

I, too, loved the great Catherine Taylor. She was firm, tough, and effective. Heaven has indeed gained an angel.

Thursday, September 05, 2013 at 9:08 PM
Curmudgeon said...

Sounds like she changed a lot after she left Fike...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 8:13 PM
Vickie Boykin said...

This is a wonderful article, Lisa. Teachers REALLY do matter. I wish our politicians could see their value and make sure they are treated with respect and compensated for their hard work and dedication. Mrs. Taylor was awesome and Wilson is blessed to have many other teachers of high caliber who truly care about our children.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 7:16 PM
Paul Durham said...

I never had Mrs. Taylor for a teacher but I do remember her from my days at Hunt. She was certainly small but you didn't realize it when she was exerting her authority.
Reading her obituary, the word "pillar" comes to mind. This tiny woman accomplished so much and affected so many by just doing her thing. She gave herself to education and the results are evident by those she touched and inspired.
Great column, Lisa, on a wonderful lady.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 4:16 PM Lu-Ann Monson said...

Lisa, thank you for sharing your sentiments. Wilson is a better place because of Catherine. She was dedicated, committed, and an outstanding role model; she will truly be missed.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 4:12 PM Heather Wilkerson said...

Awesome job Lil' Lisa. Mrs. Taylor would be proud!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 2:43 PM Toshika Smith said...

Hi Lisa-
Catherine Taylor was one of my sorority sisters. Your tribute to her is absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 1:46 PM So True.. said...

I loved reading your story about Mrs. Taylor and your statment about It’s amazing to me how a stranger can come into your life and how her influence can stay with you for the rest of your life. Mrs. Taylor was one of those people who did that for me as well. She will be missed.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 9:38 AM Julia Pitt said...

Lisa, you are so right, Mrs. Taylor was one of the best teachers at Hunt. I loved her and her teaching skills really stuck with you. She was kind, compassionate, and caring, along with so many other adjectives that we could list, but to know her was to love her. Also, if you were fortunate to have been taught by her, the love went much deeper. She will truly be missed, and I considered her an angel.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 9:37 AM revhmb said...

Thank you Lisa. Your sentiments speak for so many of us, cross-generational, that were touched by the kind and generous spirit of this petite lady who possessed giant of a heart!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013 at 8:30 AM
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