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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Career Week with Celia Yeary - The Military, a Boarding School, and Me.


Imagine my surprise when I landed a teaching position in a co-ed military boarding school run by the Southern Baptists. I know…you’re thinking I must have been crazy. The fact was that in a university town teachers were in abundance and the public schools wouldn’t even talk to me. Oh, they allowed me to fill out an application, but then placed with others in a file cabinet burgeoning to the point of exploding.

I applied at the boarding school, too, not having a clue about the workings of such a place. I talked with the Vice President in charge of hiring, and after he told me the faculty roster had filled, I went home with no job.

We’d just moved to the Central Texas town where my husband had taken a professorship at the university. September rolled around, our children began school, and I had nothing to do. In previous years, I taught in a public school, and I felt lost with no students.

The next week, the Vice President of the military school called, saying they were in desperate need of a part-time science teacher. It seems a last-minute surge of students had enrolled. He asked, no, he practically begged me to take the job. School had begun and a secretary or somebody had been placed in the classroom until a teacher arrived. No one wanted to teach part-time, he said, plus…are you ready? My students would be 7th and 8th graders. Oh, no, I groaned to myself. Junior High kids! I’ll tell you, it takes a special teacher to enjoy this age-group, and I am not one of them. I liked the older kids, those whom an adult could actually talk to, and those who could take up for themselves, and did not require so much discipline.

But what could I do? He promised—sort of—that next year a full-time position for a biology teacher would open up and I’d be first in line. This clenched the deal, and I girded my loins for the year-long battle with 13-year-olds.

Just as the students in all grades had much to learn concerning the rules and regulations of living in dormitories run by military personnel, teachers had to learn how the entire system worked.

I first learned the meaning of “mandatory.” Wednesday morning chapel was mandatory for teachers, as well as, the student body. So was proper dress—faculty men had to wear belts with their pants, could not wear athletic shoes or jeans, and had to have a good haircut. If the boys must have their heads buzzed, at least the men could be presentable. Little was said to the females. I guess we already had enough sense to do the right thing.

Every event was mandatory, especially if the President and his wife threw a party…or reception. At least the students—male and female—learned how to dress up and mind their manners. The girls learned proper deportment and where to place her hand on her date’s arm. The dormitory personnel drilled the cadets on what to say and how to say it, how to walk with a female on his arm, and always to say yes, ma’am and no, ma’am. Oh, and they learned to open doors for ladies. Yep. That was so ingrained in them I didn’t open a door all the years I taught there.

For receptions and holiday parties, the girls wore formals and white gloves. You heard me. The faculty also wore formal attire, and I was ready to start a revolution if white gloves for us would also be mandatory. Thankfully, we got away with that one.

Once a year, the entire corps prepared for inspection. Army personnel arrived from somewhere to conduct the three-day affair. This included every aspect of dormitory life, as well as military life. The school fell into a time-warp, where little happened while the inspection occurred. The cadets came to class carrying a polish cloth and a small can of Brasso. Instead of listening to me discuss photosynthesis, they discreetly polished their buckles to be ready on the spot. You never saw so many shined shoes, pressed and creased uniforms, and clean fingernails.

On the big day, the entire corps of four companies marched onto the football field and stood in formation for upwards to two hours. The faculty wandered out there and sat in the bleachers, watching a thorough inspection procedure that resembled something akin to paint drying.

Graduation at the school spanned three days. No, we didn’t have just a ceremony, we had parents’ breakfast, awards ceremony in the big chapel, entertainment by the choir, Senior girls’ passing the torch (green ribbons) to Junior girls, the Rose and Sabre ceremony at the senior gates, opened only once during the year; then Baccalaureate, and finally on Monday morning, graduation. The girls wore long white dresses and carried a bouquet of red roses, held just so in their arms; the cadets wore dress blues. The faculty wore the caps and gowns—interesting, huh? The only reason I worked for a master’s degree was to wear a hood instead of a little white collar, signifying only a Bachelor’s degree. Graduation ceremonies were quite impressive.

Explaining my experiences during all those years is a difficult task. Young people arrived with all kinds of baggage, literally and figuratively, and most—I say “most” because there were always those who could not obey at all--graduated with heads held high, transformed from non-performing students to grand successes. That’s what we did best—change attitudes. Loyalty to the school runs deep and powerful among the graduates as well as the faculty.

The best thing that happened to me when I left the school was to have the honor of “trooping the lines” during the Pass-and-Review on graduation weekend. An Army jeep was provided, and I stood in the back holding on to a horizontal bar, while the entire Corps stood at attention and saluted me. Oh, wow. What can I say? I loved those kids, and have kept up with many of them. Successes? Oh, yes, in one form or another, and almost everyone did just fine.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief glimpse of my teaching career. I wouldn’t take anything for those years. Often, I look around and yearn for some young man to say, “Here, ma’am, let me get that door for you.”

Celia's latest novel, a Western Historical called Texas Blue, will be released by The Wild Rose Press on January 29 2010.
Blurb: 'When Buck Cameron finally found Marilee Weston and her young daughter, he believed the pretty, young woman did not fit the character description he was given. The County Judge back home said she was not fit to raise the child, who he claimed was his. Now Buck faced a dilemma. Should he disobey orders and rescue both of them from isolation? He would, because there wasn’t enough money in the world to exchange for a child. All he had to do was convince Marilee of his good intentions—she and her daughter would safe be with him in Nacogdoches.
Rejected and abandoned by her father, Marilee Weston let the pain of betrayal make her strong. Now, she needed a way out of the forest, where she had lived for five years. But the towering pines and fear of the unknown imprisoned her, and loneliness and heartbreak suffocated her. How could she find a new life for herself and young daughter? She couldn’t. Not without help. But would this alluring stranger free her, or prove to be even more dangerous?'

36 comments:

Bekki Lynn said...

Welcome, Celia!

Thanks for sharing your experience teaching in a military school. What an experience, and a differnce from public school.

I laughed when you said you didn't want to teach junior high kids, that older kids were more your comfort zone. Those kids can sure keep you on your toes. Did you find they softened your view on relating to them under this type of a regime, or did you still feel the older ones were more to your liking?

Linda Banche said...

Hi Celia, great post, and your book sounds good, too.

Bess McBride said...

You are always so interesting, Celia. Is that a new photo? You look lovely!

Bess McBride

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Celia,
Sounds like teaching there changed your attitude from Oh, NO, to Oh, Yeah!!! LOL I love the way you recount your experiences. Surely there's a book in there somewhere.
Your new book cover is beautiful and I'm looking forward to this one.
Congrats and best wishes on the coming release.

Celia Yeary said...

BEKKI LYNN--You know, those Middle School kids did soften me a little. While I still preferred the older ones, those younger kids were so vulnerable and needy. Even today, I remember some with fondness. Thanks for reading--Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LINDA--thanks bunches!! Celia

Celia Yeary said...

BESS-I look lovely? Gee whiz, will you be my friend???? Thanks so much for reading--Celia

Celia Yeary said...

REBECCA-I absolutely loved the Academy and the military ways. It made me a big supporter of everything military. When I see a soldier in uniform, I want to salute!Thanks for you comment--Celia

Cheryl said...

CELIA!!!

That is really interesting! You have taught at some interesting places, and I bet you have really known some interesting kids in that time. What experiences! Well, I don't know if I have it in me to dress up like you had to do and attend all those functions. I have always been a rebel at heart--I think I'm kind of like Hailey Mills in The Trouble With Angels--yep, I'm 52 but still rebelling. LOL Your book looks wonderful, too. Can't wait to get it.

Cheryl

Celia Yeary said...

CHERYL! Hey! Well, I can tell, you, it was so much fun and so very different. I taught there 17 years, and loved every minute. I have such memories, yes...I could write a book! But I won't. Thanks for stopping by--Celia

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Celia, thanks for sharing your teaching experience at a military school. It is fascinating and amazing, no doubt about it. There are definitely lots of positives, the learned manners being one.

Your cover is fantastic. Congrats on your nest release.

Linda Swift said...

Celia, you simply must use the milirary school as a setting for a romance book. You'd not have to do any research, you know. I can relate to the junior high teaching. My first job was with those kds, too, and I was hoping for lower elementary. But I came to love those kids, not grownup and not babies but some miserable place in between. Once again our lives have a parallel. But a military academy run by Southern Baptists? I didn't know they did that? Can't wait to read Texas Blue. Wishing you great success with this book.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Celia, this is fascinating. What an experience, and I can completly understand such fond memories! I'm wondering what the difference would be between this and other military/cadet training. Would these young people be destined to be officers and the like?
I know I mentioned to you once before that I think it was some of these young people who came to Edinburgh one time as part of the international festival and tattoo. They charmed just everyone.
Thanks so much for sharing this with us, it obviously meant and still means so much to you. :)

Jane x

Lindsay Townsend said...

Amazing, Celia! Very interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing this.

Looking forward to your upcoming release - remember to blog it on the pinkie.

Love your pic! And I covet your jewellery! very pretty.

Maggie Toussaint said...

cool post, Celia. I always love learning about your teaching career. You are one gutsy lady.

And this is my first time to the HEA blog. I love the color contrasts and the author line-up!

Celia Yeary said...

SAVANNA--Thank You! I enjoyed writing this, and relaly hoped readers would like it. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LINDA S.--I think the Academy is the only one like it in the world. the military was used only for discipline and a different learning experience. None of these cadets were commissioned as those from strictly military adademies. First, it was a Southern Baptist boarding school--co-ed from the beginning--then the military came in. It's history began in 1908--very old school. thank you for commenting--I always look forward to see you reply. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

JANE--thanks bunches for inviting me on this beautiful blog. I absolutely love it! Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LINDSAY--definitely, I'll remember the Pink blog! And thanks for the compliment--it was by accident zi chose my "pink" photo for this beautiful Pink blog.And jewelry? I have a drawer full!!!Celia

Celia Yeary said...

MAGGIE--Don't you love this pink HEA? I think I've seen it one time. The author line-up is so fabulous, they should promote this site to beat the band! Thanks for stopping by. Celia

LK Hunsaker said...

Celia, military lifestyle does grow on you quickly, doesn't it? There's much to be said for learning proper attitude and respect.

Junior high, yikes. I think I'd prefer that to high school, though.

Bobbie said...

I enjoyed reading about your military school experiences. As many others have said there must be a book in there just waiting. I am looking forward to your next book. I must get this in Way to Sister-in-Law.

Diane Craver said...

Very interesting,Celia. I enjoyed your article. The funny thing is it reminded me of teaching at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home where I met my husband. It was supposed to be mostly orphans but when we were hired, it had changed to 95% were actually wards of the state and their parents were alive. We lived on campus, too, except in a separate building.

Military was a big part and they did marches in their uniforms.

Celia Yeary said...

LORAINE- Oh, no, give me hihg school kids any day. But I will say times have changed. I'm not sure I could teach in today's schools. Thanks for the comment! Celia

Celia Yeary said...

BOBBIE! Anyone reading these posts, Bobbie is my dear sister-in-law. I'm so pleased you replied--it means a lot to me--and I certainly hope you'll read my next book. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

DIANE--You had an interesting, unique career, too. I've never heard of such an orphans home. Very interesting that it turned out the majority actually had parents. Thanks for commenting. Celia

liana laverentz said...

Yet another fascinating chapter in your life, Celia! I love reading your stories, you bring them to life so well! Have a great day!

liana laverentz said...

What a great blog, and so beautiful, too. Kudos to whoever designed it! This looks like a really fun bunch!

bick said...

hey mrs. yeary, bick rodgers here. biology was my fav class at sma...besides sports! congrats!

gosscj said...

Hi Celia,
It was intersting to read this and see how you presented our lives at school to those who had "no idea" where you were coming from. Thanks for leaving out all the GOOD STUFF about the faculty!

To the rest of you, I'm an outsider who taught with Celia for lo those many years. How much am I offered to write the "rest of the story"?

Carolyn

john said...

Celia,

Wow! You did a great job painting the picture of what academy life was like. Even though I didn't really reach my full potential while I was there, the academy had a truly positive impact on me as I got older. Thanks for being part of that experience. I didn't realize you're writing books now. I'll will be sure to pick up a copy.

Best regards,

John

Mona Risk said...

What a great place to teach Celia. It brought back memories. We always wore white gloves and curtsied to Mother Sueprior at official ceremonies at the Nun's school where I spent twelve years.

But I can understand you not wanting to teach 7th or 8th graders. I did it as substitute teacher for science and chemistry and almopst cried at the end of each day. They drove me insane.

charlotte said...

Great to read your perspective on the Academy! Strange and wonderful place. Loved your Biology class which gave me a foundation for my life as a registered nurse and a homeschool mom of eight...might show a little academy baggage there; Former Boarding School Student Who Won't Let Her Children Leave Home! Ha! Well, three of them have flown the nest and are doing well...5 to go!
Can't wait to read your book!
Blessings,
Charlotte Wilson Slack (1980)

Adam said...

Hello Celia,

You are absolutely correct about the loyalty which we have to the Academy. My wife graduated from a regular public school and doesn't have near the fondness or contact with her friends which I have with the Academy.

For those who want the story of what it was like to be a Cadet just let me know. I was also a student of Celia's back then, 8th grade.

Adam said...

I also meant to add that many of us did pursue military careers, I retired from the Air Force just last year.

Russell said...

Having been one of your first year junior high students, I can say that you made learning more fun and less of a chore.