For a few years, Crystal was a stay-at-home mom with sons Brett and Derek, while her husband, Mike, worked in Tallapoosa, Ga., until his plant closed there after over 20 years. He now works for Anniston Water Works.
When both boys started school and preschool, Crystal began to feel lonely at home all day, so she began to substitute teach at Calhoun County Career Technical Center and then at Pleasant Valley elementary and high schools. It wasn’t long before she was called to sub between the two schools every day.
“I never thought about being a teacher, but everyone began telling me how good I was,” she said. “Finally, they convinced me to go back to school.”
Subbing led to her getting a job as an attendance secretary at Pleasant Valley High. While working she enrolled at Jacksonville State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree and, later, a master’s from the University of Alabama. Looking back on it, Crystal said she doesn’t know how she did it.
“A lot of people couldn’t believe I was working, going to school full time, still cooking and cleaning at home, going to all the boys’ games and doing other things with my family,” she said. “I was making good grades and even on the dean’s or president’s lists every semester. If Mike hadn’t helped I probably couldn’t have done it. He was and still is my support system. He took up the slack. The boys were good to help, too.”
Crystal said she hopes she set a good example for Brett and Derek.
“I think it showed my boys that it doesn’t matter how old you are, and even if you have kids and a family, you can still go to school and accomplish your goals,” she said. “If you really put your mind to it and work for something you can do it. Family and teaching are so important to me. I want to be a good influence and instill good things in my kids at school and in my own kids.”
This fall, she will begin her seventh year of teaching at Alexandria Elementary School. For the most part, she’s taught kindergarten, but this fall, she will teach third grade.
“I’m excited about teaching third,” she said. “It’s something new. I love teaching, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s really blessed my life. I like being able to teach the children in different ways. I like to teach beyond the classroom. I’m not a ‘normal’ teacher. When I say that, I like to do extra things for the children. We always adopt one or two soldiers a year and send them care packages, we make ornaments for nursing homes at Christmas, we recycle, and even hatch chickens. We do a lot of things that aren’t in the book.”
In spite of all the time Crystal spends with her students at school, she still has time for her own family. They’re avid Alabama football fans and always get season tickets. In fact, that’s one of their family traditions. This past year they became Jacksonville State University Gamecock fans because of Brett, who is 18. Brett is a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School and is attending JSU on academic and athletic scholarships. Derek, 16, will be a junior at Pleasant Valley this fall and plays baseball.
The Langstons also like to travel.
Crystal realizes that as Brett and Derek get older, some of their traditions might change, so she’s making the most of this time.
Crystal and her family live in the Angel community of Pleasant Valley. She was born and reared in Piedmont. She is the daughter of Sideria and Charlie Turner of Piedmont. Her brothers are Joey Kirkpatrick, a rocket scientist with NASA in Huntsville, and Jerrod, who lives near Crystal and works at Anniston Army Depot.
Crystal graduated from Piedmont High School. She and Mike met shortly after he had gotten out of the Navy and she was still in school. Mike was her high school sweetheart. They married shortly after she graduated and will celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary in August.
During Crystal’s childhood, her mother worked third shift at Standard-Coosa-Thatcher Cotton Mill in Piedmont. Her older brother was away at college. She wanted to help her mother, so she took on a lot of the responsibilities of her younger brother and she also learned to cook. In recent years, she’s gotten some recipes from Pinterest, but found she’s had to tweek quite a few of them to suit her family’s tastes.
Crystal gets a lot of compliments on her Crock Pot Lasagna. She said it’s easy and super good, so she likes to share it with others. She uses her crock pot as a staple during the school year to be able to still prepare a home cooked meal for her family on hectic days. Several years ago, she submitted her Fantastic Baked Chicken recipe to the Alabama Power Company recipe contest and won. This recipe is also a family favorite for the Langstons.
“I love to cook. A lot of people make banana pudding the easy way these days,” she said. “They don’t know how to make it the old fashioned way. It’s harder to make, but it’s so good.”
Brett and Derek like Doritos, so she prepares Dorito Bake fairly often for them.
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1 lb. ground beef
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce (I use Hunt’s 4 cheese in a can)
1 c. water
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
1 pkg. (8 oz.) mozzarella
¼ c. grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 T. chopped parsley (I use parsley flakes and garlic salt mixed)
6 lasagna noodles, uncooked (I use a few more)
Brown meat in skillet, drain. Stir in sauce and water. Mix ricotta, 1 ½ mozzarella, 2 T. parmesan, egg and parsley in separate bowl. Spoon 1 cup meat sauce into crockpot, top with layers of half each of the noodles, broken to fit, and cheese mixture. Cover with 2 cups of the remaining meat sauce.
Top with remaining noodles, broken to fit, cheese mixture and meat sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and cover with lid. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. (I just put mine on warm because I am at school all day and it’s perfect by supper). I warm some frozen garlic bread or breadsticks with it and open a bag of salad or make a salad and supper is done.
Fantastic Baked Chicken
Box of Stove Top stuffing mix
Grated parmesan cheese
1 stick butter (or ¼ c. butter)
1 ½ to 2 1/2 boneless chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush stuffing mix up by hand until you feel package become crumbs (some pieces will still be whole, which is fine, this is the way I do it because I still like the pieces, or, if you want it really fine, you can put it in a blender to make more of a crust) and set aside.
Cut fat off chicken and into pieces if you want, or, you can leave whole. Melt butter in microwave and then stir in 2 T. of garlic and stir. Pour stuffing mix in 9x12 baking dish, dip pieces of chicken in the garlic butter and then roll in the stuffing mix in pan until covered on both sides.
You will have to make it stick if you have a lot of pieces but if you did it like a crust it will stick on its own. When finished with all pieces, pour the excess butter over the pieces until all of them are wet (if you do not have a lot of butter left, add a little water to the butter so you can wet all the pieces and stuffing mix around and in between the pieces).
Sprinkle parmesan cheese all over the top of the whole dish. Cook for about an hour or until browned and done.
Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding
¾ c. sugar
2 T. flour
¼ t. salt
2 c. milk
3 eggs, separated
1 t. vanilla flavoring
Combine sugar, flour and salt in the top of a double boiler. (I use a skillet of water and then put a boiler in it just because it is more “even” that way.) Stir in milk and cook over boiling water, stirring until thick.
Beat up egg yolks and gradually stir in hot mixture and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Line a 1 quart casserole dish with vanilla wafers and top with sliced bananas (about 2 ½ to 3).
Pour part of custard over top and then repeat the layers again and pour rest of custard over top of that. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add ¼ c. sugar and beat until mixture forms stiff peaks and put on top of pudding (style it to make it pretty). Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 5 minutes.
1 lb. hamburger meat
1 big bag Doritos or nacho chips
28 oz. can enchilada sauce (whatever heat you want)
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat in skillet. Put half of meat in 8x12 baking dish. Cover meat with half the bag of Doritos. Pour half the can of sauce on top of this. Then repeat with rest . . . meat, Doritos, and sauce.
Top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until bubbling, cheese is melted and brown around edges. Serve with a salad. Can be doubled very easily or be done without meat for a snack.