After 43 years of teaching in the St. Clair County school system, Betty Gunn is retiring. She has always taught in the Odenville community, teaching at St. Clair County School when she started in 1975.
“As the community grew, so did the new schools that were built,” Gunn said. First, it was the elementary school, and SCCHS remained fifth grade through 12th grade.”
Gunn said next came the middle school, and as the community continued to grow, there was an intermediate school division, so today, there are four schools in the Odenville community.
“When I first started teaching, I taught eighth- and ninth-grade math,” she said. “Mainly, it was ninth-grade and it was general math and geometry. Today, it is strictly eighth-grade.”
Gunn said she decided to retire because her family needs her.
“I was caretaker of my mom for the past six years until she passed in December,” Gunn said. “My husband is sick, and I have three grandchildren.”
Gunn said as a teacher, she made a full commitment and never wanted to miss a day of work.
“That was not fair to my students,” she said. “When I could not guarantee that I could be at school 180 days per school year, then I knew it was time to retire. God has given me the strength to be here for these students all 43 years.”
Not many teachers can say they spent a 43-year career all in one community.
“Odenville is like my second home,” she said. “I actually have spent more time here in Odenville than I have at my home in Forestdale.”
Gunn is a 1970 graduate of Carver High School. She earned a B.S. degree in education from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas.
St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Joey Ray hired her in 1975 as a math teacher at SCCHS. Gunn earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1983.
When asked what the biggest change in teaching has been in the past 40 years, Gunn said it would definitely have to be the parental support.
“In 1975, parents held kids accountable,” Gunn said. “Today, parents expect me to hold their child accountable. Parents today do not realize that, ultimately, they are the ones in charge. If your child does not do what you tell them to do at home, what makes you think they are going to do what I tell them to do at school? We have to support each other. We have to rebuild the trust and the mutual respect between home and school.”
Gunn and her husband, George, have been married 43 years.
“I started teaching in August 1975, and we married in December 1975,” she said.
They have two children and three grandchildren.
When asked what she will miss the most as she gets set to retire May 24, Gunn said the school and the community.
“I have so many ties with this community, and they are my second family,” she said. “I’ve been blessed, and I adopted this community and this school many years ago. It has been a fantastic 43 years. I’m very thankful for all of the support. Thank you for allowing me to spend the time with the children of this community. Hopefully, I made a difference. If I didn’t make a difference, it is not because I didn’t try. I believe teaching has been my ministry. God intended for me to be a teacher. I believe that will all sincerity.”
Reach Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org.