Folk Tales: Ex-teacher misses students
BY RYAN CLARK
3/5/2007 Kentucky Enquirer (Covington)
GRANTS LICK – She likes to say she’s old, that she can’t remember things too well.
It’s not entirely true.
She remembers how she taught schoolchildren for 48 years, and how she only had to spank one of them – just one – in all that time. That’s about 3,000 children all together, 3,000 little minds that were molded, at least in part, by this 90-year-old former teacher.
Meet Elizabeth Danner.
Yes, it’s true – she is 90 years old and she lives in Grants Lick with her extended family. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and began teaching at Highland Heights Elementary School in 1937. She’s outlived two husbands and beaten cancer.
Now she just likes to visit and talk.
“But it’s harder now,” she says. “I’ve outlived a lot of friends and family. I’d like for some of my students to say hello, but I don’t know if they’d remember me.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Danner’s story begins about 80 years ago, when she was Elizabeth Trapp, growing up in Alexandria. As a young girl, a teacher asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“A schoolteacher,” she said.
Even in high school, her knees would shake when she read in class. But a nice teacher told her she would only call on the nervous girl when she raised her hand and knew the answers.
“I wanted to be a teacher like that,” Danner says. “I wanted to help.”
She taught mathematics to students for 22 years in Kentucky, 19 years in Indiana and 18 months in Ohio. Then she substitute taught for another five years.
In the first week, she memorized all of her students’ names. “I used to have a phenomenal memory,” Danner says. “But I think I’ve lost about 90 percent of it.”
She is too modest. She can still remember the names of some students. She can remember arguing with parents over the importance of a newfangled gadget called a television. She can remember each of the names of the schools where she taught, and the principals who employed her.
But she wonders if her students remember.
In 1943, she became Elizabeth Maggard. In 1974, she became Elizabeth Danner. She never had children of her own, so in a way, her students became her children.
“I think maybe some people don’t know me because my last name changed a few times,” she says. “I think that if they knew who I was, maybe they’d stop by.”
Because over the course of almost 50 years and 3,000 children, surely she made a difference, probably in many lives.
I’m sure she’d like to know exactly how many.
The Kentucky Enquirer’s weekly Folk Tales column focuses on people in the community who have good stories to tell. If you know of someone in your community, let us know. Submit nominees to Ryan Clark by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.