Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 11, 2013

Plenty of life lessons for this educator

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Teaching life lessons to a whole bunch of kids over the years, a few tears and plenty of hugs are a part of a longtime Pauls Valley educator who will soon leave the school house.

With more than three decades in a PV classroom as a teacher or administrator, current Jefferson Early Learning Center principal Jeanie Menefee has decided the time is right for this school year to be her last.

Never shy about showing her emotions, Menefee does get a few tears when thinking about bringing her career in the world of PV education to a close.

“I’ve always loved kids and loved being in the classroom,” Menefee said with her typical motherly glance over her principal’s desk at a school that houses local pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

“I will miss the kids a lot. If we walked into a classroom they would probably hug me,” she said about her young students.

“It’s been a great time. My life has been the school calendar for a long time.”

The longtime educator got her start here in Pauls Valley shortly after her marriage to Bill Menefee.

It was early in 1974 when she started working as a substitute teacher in a number of Pauls Valley classrooms.

“My first class I ever subbed for Brett Agee was in the class,” Jeanie said. That was a fifth grade class at Lee Elementary, and Agee is now a local attorney and a member of the PV Board of Education.

Then came her first full-time gig as Menefee was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Jefferson around that same time.

In those days it included half-day classes, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Each of the three PV elementary schools had kindergarten classes at that time.

“I never thought I wanted to teach kindergarten. I thought it would be the upper grades, but I loved it.”

Teaching the youngest of the students for about 2 1/2 years Menefee remembers things like playing stories for the kids on a record player.

On one particular day she remembers the winter weather kept them inside; so they had some fun with a snow ball fight using paper.

Ironically it was only recently when she received an email from a student in the class that one day.

“You never know how you touch their lives,” Jeanie said.

“Some of the kids still contact me these days and say things like, ‘Do you remember that time when...’

“You really do impact a child’s life. I would like to think it was positive.”

Her next job was as a local fourth grade teacher.

“It was one of my all time favorite grades,” she said. “They’re so eager to learn; they were so inquisitive. We had so many interesting projects.

“I had two words in those classes — cooperation and consideration. I would always go back to those two words with the kids.”

She was then asked to start a gifted program for elementary age students — something that got Menefee’s creative juices flowing.

“We did a lot of neat things,” she said. “I came up with the curriculum and introduced them to foreign languages, we wrote plays, things like that.”

Family first then took center stage for Menefee as her son was born followed by a daughter. She put her teaching career on hold for five years to be a stay-at-home mom.

During her break from the classroom Menefee got involved in the work to establish what is the Pauls Valley Foundation for Academic Excellence. It was a time she fondly remembers.

“We wanted everyone in the community to feel a part of this,” Jeanie said.

“Kids would bring like a quarter. So everyone was a part of that. It was a really exciting time.”

Next was an offer from Linda Pesterfield, then the principal at nearby Whitebead School. Menefee taught sixth grade there for a year.

After that she got her certification finished and was hired as the principal at Jackson Elementary. That was just over 20 years ago.

“We started a pre-kindergarten program. That was something I really wanted to do.”

Later she became the principal for the early learning center, which still to this days has pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

At that time her youngsters and the local alternative education program were housed in the two-story building at the current junior high. Classes for the young students later moved to its current Jefferson site.

Along with her students Menefee also remembers how great the PV community has been in supporting the local schools.

“Through all the years the people of this community have been so supportive,” she said. “I contend it was partnership — the parents, the businesses.

“The community is very supportive of the schools. It’s always been supportive.”