Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Twenty-ninth Annual School Homecoming

On September 30, 2006, I witnessed a gathering of community like none I had ever seen: The Twenty-ninth Annual School Homecoming was held at CaCapon State park. Each year, former students of Mt. Wesley, Bath District, and Berkeley Springs High School meet on the last Sunday in September to enjoy lunch and to reminisce about their days as students.

I was honored to attend such an event and to be recognized by such a group; Morgan County’s teacher of the year is invited each year, but, as West Virginia Teacher of the Year, I was able to see just how many people were aware of and proud of me—I truly felt, witnessing the fellowship of a population of students and teachers, the support of the community in which I live. When I entered the building, Jay, one of the organizers, and her sister, Liz, immediately greeted me. Jay is a formidable woman, a former school librarian, with piercing dark eyes and an intense intelligence. Liz is fair haired and smiling, but equally sharp and a warm conversationalist; she was my escort for the entire afternoon, pinning a corsage to my sweater, showing me around, introducing me to guests, and generally making me feel very much at home.

The group gathered first to mingle in various parts of the lodge, drinking coffee and visiting with one another. As people were lined up to enter the dining room, I realized just how large the group was, and this came even clearer once we were seated. All the tables were filled in the very large room. The Class of 1956 sat at the head table, with 31 members in attendance. This year, they were guests of honor since 2006 marks their fiftieth anniversary; this was the first year they were invited to attend. The classes of 1946, 1936, and beyond were also recognized. Given that I graduated from high school only fourteen years ago, the idea of a fiftieth reunion is amazing to me. More amazing were the numbers of other classes represented, including two members of the class of 1928!

The meal was nice, standard fare for a buffet: salad, beef and chicken, potatoes, vegetables, rolls, coffee, and cake. The program was wonderful, including recitations by a member of the class of 1936, and introductions of the alumni of honor. When I was introduced and presented with an apple, the whole room applauded. Later, I walked to my car, stunned. I was touched to be recognized by such a community, awed to be in the presence of so many years of learning and experience. They are the legacy of education in Morgan County, evidencing its effect on generations past, and providing hope for the future.

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