ARAB, Ala. - Some people love to work. Some people live to work. We found a woman in Marshall County who is still going strong in the classroom. Joan Scott is a teacher. But she’s more than that. Leah Keith is Scott’s principal. “She is the matriarch of Arab Primary School,” Keith said about Scott. “She's been here longer than anybody.”
Scott’s mother was a teacher too. She taught at Grassy in Marshall County. Joan Scott taught first grade for 40 years. “I started when I was 20,” she recalls. She had 18 kids in her class. “Honest to goodness. That was the hardest year I've ever seen,” she said laughing.
60 years later, she’s still going. “I am, and I still enjoy it. I really enjoy it,” she said. “I think inside of every child, there is something that somebody needs to pull out. You know they've all got talent.” She obviously has a talent to do that. “I don't whether I do or not, but I love to try,” she said.
Principal Keith says the lesson here is how big a difference Joan Scott has made in their community. “She's taught lots of people in this community how to read over the past 60 years,” Keith says. That includes doctors, lawyers, judges and teachers.
At least five of those former students are now teachers at Arab Primary. Scarlett Hyman now teaches second grade. “I remember building little log cabin houses to go along with the books we were reading,” she said. “And it was always a fun environment.” Erika Foster smiled when she told us, “She was not only my first-grade teacher, but she was my dad's first grade teacher.”
Andrea Baker followed in Mrs. Scott’s footsteps. “That's right,” she said. “I did follow in Joan's footsteps. Now whether or not I could fill those is a different story.” Dana Camp teaches preschool. “When I became a teacher here, she kind of took me under her wing and was always just a huge source of encouragement for me,” she recalls.
They’ve all watched Joan Scott always put her students first. “She uses time that she's really not on the clock,” Janna Gibbs said proudly. “She will come back and do private tutoring, never charges them a dime.” Pam Hawkins was in Scott's class in 1962. She also happens to be her niece. “Even if we were in a restaurant, we would get a napkin and a pen, and we would write words. We would spell and draw pictures,” the reading teacher recalls.
Joan Scott has seen a lot of changes in the 60 years she's been in the classroom. “But there's one thing that hasn't changed and that's every child needs a teacher,” Scott said. When I asked her if she’s ever thought about retiring, she laughed and said, “No. I told them, I said probably I might die here and if I do, it will be as good a place as any because I've spent the majority of my life in a school building.” She continued, “I’m just so lucky and so thankful that I have been able to do this.”
Joan Scott also worked with people who had dropped out of high school to get their GED. She did that for five years and says it was some of the most rewarding work she ever did because a lot of those students went on to get nursing degrees and other jobs.