Shaping a Life: A Teacher’s Lifelong Impact

Last Updated by Kate Spears on

This week on the WCTE Get Ready To Learn radio, we reminisce about some special memories held dear in the heart of our host Cindy Putman. Join us as we step back in time and relive some wonderful memories from Cindy's time at Parkview Elementary School in Cookeville. In honor of National Teacher's Appreciation Week, we salute all educators who have impacted their students' lives in a thoughtful, positive way. 

A little girl was  in a portable classroom at Parkview Elementary School. This was a grave concern for her parents because schools were overcrowded and a portable classroom seemed like something straight out of the world of The Jetson. Separate from the main school building, traveling outside to gym, music, library and lunch in all sorts of weather just didn’t seem proper for 4th graders.

The year was 1966 and a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Charlene Huddleston was the one selected to teach these students. She was a southern lady, soft spoken and engaging. Her dresses were starched and ironed and she always wore heels and hose, with a light sweater draped loosely around her shoulders.

In the portable classroom, Mrs. Huddleston proceeded to change the world for a group of 4th graders. That year she taught all the regular lessons but there was more. She also did art, music, and storytime. She was gifted to make everything seem fun and exciting. That little 4th grade girl could not wait to get to school each day.

Mrs. Huddleston made everyone feel safe, loved , respected and most of all, smart. And learning wasn’t just relegated to the classroom. The 4th grade girl and her class also did projects at home with their families. Years before educators would understand the impact of parental engagement for families, Mrs. Huddleston knew how valuable it would be for her students.

Around their snack bar in the family kitchen, the little 4th grade girl, along with her mom and dad created, designed and constructed a home from the future. Using simple, everyday items like shoe boxes, paper towel rolls, and cereal boxes, they constructed the dwelling, complete with wax paper windows and a roof covered with colored popcorn kernels. 

.Mrs. Huddleston was right-time spent with family makes for very fulfilled students. This was a special memory. However, the most wonderful part of 4th grade  was what happened after lunch.

After lunch Mrs. Huddleston walked her students back to the portable classroom. Past Mr. Ferrell the principal, Mrs. Street the school secretary, and Mr. Loftis the librarian-all smiling and waving at the students- walking silently in a row.

Once inside the portable everyone knew exactly what to do. Find a seat, put down your heads and listen. It was storytime. During this time of each day, Mrs. Huddleston would always reach onto her desk for a chapter book.  She sat in her wooden straight-back chair and the magic happened.  

Everyone was silent and the sound of her words washed over the students. Charlotte’s Web was the story of the moment. Fern and Wilbur, love and loss, life and death all in our little portable classroom. Her voice transported us to Zucker’s farm the moment she read the last word tears began to fall. Everyone cried and Mrs. Huddleston gave hugs and Kleenex to her students.

Life was happening in that portable classroom at Parkview Elementary School. The faces are etched upon the 4th grade student’s heart- Cheryl Ann, Freddie, Greg, Donnie, Jill, Vonette, Pam, William, Natalie, Sharon, Patsy, Patty, Carson, Vicky, and so many more who shaped the days.

Just a simple story about a young girl, and her adventures. But we can never underestimate the impact these simple things can have. In this case, a teacher, a portable classroom and memories that creep in when the book Charlotte’s Web is mentioned.  

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Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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