- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

SAPULPA, Okla. (AP) - Loretta Hight is retiring after 50 years as a high school English teacher to spend more time with her husband of 50 years.

“He has given up a lot in allowing me to continue teaching. He just wants me around,” she said. The couple recently celebrated their golden anniversary.

Hight grew up in Guymon, graduated from Oklahoma Panhandle State University (then known as Panhandle A&M;) and began her career in Loyal, a small town in Kingfisher County. She then taught in Drummond for two years before beginning her 46-year tenure teaching English at Sapulpa High School.

Hight remembers that when she was in sixth grade, she was asked to go to the third-grade classroom and read a book to students while the teacher was out of the classroom.

“I don’t know if it was from that point on or what, but I’ve known ever since before I got to high school that that was what I was going to do. I felt that is what God called me to do,” she told the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1uiJB7S).

Not one to boast, she reluctantly recalls former students who have told her she changed their lives.

One student told her the change for him came when Hight advised him: “There is no student who is going to come into my classroom and just sit. You are going to work if you are going to be here.”

The Hights never had children, but in actuality, she’s had thousands.

“I’ve had a hundred-and-something every day,” she said.

There have been major societal changes since Hight entered the classroom in 1964.

“There has just been a change in attitude toward how a person should conduct himself and how he shouldn’t,” she said.

This year, she overheard one of her students telling another: “You do what you’re supposed to do because it’s the right thing to do.”

Hight said she called the girl’s mother and told her she appreciated her daughter’s attitude.

“I don’t think teachers are as respected as they used to be. But conversely, we were held to very, very high standards, too,” she said.

“Back then, we wouldn’t park in front of a liquor store or near one. It was not until quite a few years into my career that females were allowed to wear slacks. We dressed up in go-to-church clothes every day. Men weren’t allowed to have facial hair.”

Hight has strong opinions on teaching and learning.

“My job is to teach. On the other side of the coin, the student’s job is to learn.

“And the parent’s job is to supervise the student in his learning,” she said.

“We need more emphasis on the learning part. We keep hearing ‘teach, teach, teach.’ Well, I can do that. But I can’t learn for them.”

Early in her time at Sapulpa High, one of Hight’s students gave her an artificial plant at the end of the school year and told her she appreciated her.

She has treasured the plant ever since and placed it the classroom where she could see it every day to remind her of the importance of her work.

“It is so humbling to have a person you have helped come back and let you know you made a difference in their life,” Hight said.

Many have wondered how she survived as a teacher for half a century.

In her forthright manner, she replied, “I just did what I do.”

___

Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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