Remembering Mrs. Powell
Published 9:39 am Thursday, April 21, 2011
To the Editor:
It was fall of the year 1971. Students crowded the old halls with their wooden floors while changing classes at Ahoskie High School on Academy Street. For the most fortunate among us, it was time for eleventh-grade English class, taught by Mrs. Dot Powell.
Filing in the door of her classroom, the students knew they were in for a stimulating and demanding fifty-five minutes. Mrs. Powell was ready for us, with her flashing, intelligent eyes and high energy. Quickly we got to work, dissecting the symbolism of The Scarlet Letter. Did anyone ever realize there WAS so much symbolism in a single book? No day-dreaming went on; there wasn’t time for it, with Mrs. Powell’s rapid questions being fired around the room. Ideas began to percolate as students thought, “Do I dare add to this discussion?” Our teacher accepted all comments and used them to provoke more thoughts. How satisfying to read a classic together and gain a feeling of mastery!
Mrs. Powell even made grammar interesting, helping us uncover the mysteries of conjunctive adverbs and adjectival clauses. Again came the questions; again students thought hard and tried to please her with correct answers. Her diminutive stature loomed large in our eyes.
English teachers have it hard among educators. Every afternoon they leave school weighed down with multiple writing assignments to tackle during the evening. How brain-deadening to have to wade through the students’ amateurish efforts! Yet Mrs. Powell assigned us numerous short stories, essays, and book analyses, knowing that the ability to write was necessary to succeed in college and in life.
At the end of that academic year, 1971-1972, the aging campus on Academy Street was abandoned for the new high school at the edge of town. It was also Mrs. Powell’s last year of teaching high school. But the students who were privileged to have sat in her classroom were impacted for the rest of their lives.
Linda Viser Lee
AHS Class of 1973