Many enter into a profession hoping to have a long career but very few can say they’ve worked in the same place for 50 years.
“So I took this job and was going to stay a couple years, but then I stayed 50.”
Mary Laura Slappey began her teaching career at Electra High School. The same high school from which she graduated from a few years earlier.
“I took this job because I graduated at midterm and needed the job and didn’t have one at the time,” Slappey said. “When I began I taught Spanish and freshmen English.
Besides the new students entering her classes year after year, Slappey said not much has changed in her five decades of teaching.
“There are lots of memories and lots of kids who were really special and I’m teaching third generation now. So I’ve had their parents, grandparents,” Slappey said.
Electra High School Prinicpal Michael Stevens said that sort of longevity from a teacher is somewhat uncommon.
“It’s very important because it provides consistency for our students,” Stevens said. “It provides somebody for them to go to, talk to, to confide in and it just helps build school moral to have teachers around that for 50 years.”
That moral is just one of the things Stevens said they’ll miss about Slappey.
“There’s been speculation if she was going to retire last year or the year before and it’s always been this bunch of kids coming up that’s going to graduate,” Stevens said. “She wanted to see them graduate and then finally she’s just gonna hang it up.”
“I’ll miss the kids and I’ll miss my colleagues,” Slappey said. “Very much because some of my colleagues I’ve taught.”
One of those colleagues and students is English teacher Lindsay Lemon.
“It has been an interesting experience,” Lemon said. “I still can’t call her by her first name. She’s asked me to but I can’t do it.”
Lemon said Slappey is an incredible teacher who not only loves her students but also the job she’s done for half a century.
“It comes through in everything she does. It’s just one of those things that if I could ever have a fraction of the impact that she’s had on her students on my students I will have had a successful career,” Lemon said.
“You have a great deal of influence over kids and you have to think about what you’re doing and what you’re saying, how you present yourself, and that type of thing,” Slappey said.
“She has been an inspiration to absolute generations of Electra Tigers and I’m just so proud that I had her as a teacher, that I had her as a colleague and now she’s my friend,” Lemon said.
A friend who knows what teaching is all about.
“I think I have touched lives and I’m glad I was able to do that,” Slappey said.