By Gwen Sisson
It’s a family thing for the Hemphill’s, but Sunday dinner can get a little out of hand at times!
This “Family Full of Teachers” makes learning a priority and inspires one another for the betterment of themselves and their students.
When her oldest daughter was a senior in high school, the two began taking college classes together and both eventually graduated from Mississippi State University. The two younger sisters also went in to elementary education, and now all four ladies work in the Louisville Municipal School District. Dad gets in on the fun too. He enjoys mentoring and helping out where he can in the classroom. As the Hemphill’s say, “it’s a family affair.”
Cindy Hemphill knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in the fourth grade at Fair Elementary School. She loved her teacher, Mrs. Marshall Legan.
“She went beyond the classroom to teach her students,” Hemphill said. “During that year, she made a lasting impact on me when she taught our class to care about the needs of others by giving a helping hand to a family with a son that had a terminal illness.”
Mrs. Legan also made a very personal impact on Hemphill when she took her to Duck’s Dress Shop to buy a new dress after Hemphill had lost her home in a fire.
“Mrs. Legan believed in rewarding her students for a job well done,” Hemphill said. “She gave her students that had mastered their multiplication facts an ice cream bar. Instead of the ice cream, she gave me five cents (that was the cost of the ice cream back then) because I was moving to Columbus before the multiplication celebration. She always had a smile and an encouraging word. Mrs. Legan is probably the reason I love teaching fourth grade.”
Hemphill has taught fourth grade at Louisville Elementary since 1996. She graduated from Louisville High School and Mississippi State University. Hemphill worked as an assistant and substitute at Nanih Waiya for two years before she was “called” into the field of education.
“I can vividly remember the day I came home to tell Larry, my husband, that I was going to go back to school to teach after being out of school for 20 years,” Hemphill said. “After the initial shock, he pitched in with cleaning, cooking, and helping with the girls.”
Larry has been a big part of Hemphill’s success in the classroom. She said Larry has been a “prayer warrior” throughout her career. And usually every Friday afternoon after class, Larry comes to the classroom to help Hemphill by placing the next week’s work in the students’ folders, washing desks or boards, or stapling papers.
Last year, Larry was a mentor a child in Hemphill’s classroom, and that child made honor roll the last nine weeks.
“As you can see, education is truly a family affair,” Hemphill said. “I wasn’t surprised when my daughters chose education as a career. They had always ‘played school,’ so I know they must have enjoyed school. They also had inspiring teachers at Nanih Waiya who went the extra mile to make the difference. I love hearing over our Sunday dinners the new ideas and strategies they are using in their classrooms. We share a lot!”
Sometimes Hemphill said she hears her students say, ” We did this in Mrs. Wallace’s class or Mrs. Garrard’s class!” Hemphill has not had any of Mrs. Chappell’s students, but she said she is looking forward to it.
Hemphill’s daughters are Amanda Wallace who also works at Louisville Elementary; Ashley Chappell who works at Fair Elementary; and Brandy Garrard works at Nanih Waiya. All of the girls credit their mom for inspiring them to become teachers.
But Brandi Garrard said that both of her parents inspired her to become a teacher.
“They’ve always taught me to choose a profession that I could make a difference,” Garrard said. “My daddy has always told us, ‘Don’t do your job for man’s rewards, but do it for God’s glory.’ I can’t leave out thanking my daddy! He has put up with listening to the ongoing faculty meetings, MSTAR evaluations, and QDI Data Discussions at our kitchen table during every Sunday lunch. We all just tell him that it’s cheaper than paying for therapy!”
Hemphill and Garrard literally began their educational journey together. Hemphill was working at Nanih Waiya as an assistant teacher during Garrard’s senior year and decided to further her education by pursuing her degree in Elementary Education.
“We both started taking college classes at night at the Vo-Tech during my senior year,” Garrard said. “We attended ECCC and finished at Mississippi State University. Many ask what was it like to go to college with your own mother? On one hand it was great because she always took better notes than I did. On the other hand, she always knew when a project or paper was due. But I have to say I couldn’t be prouder of my mama! She has worked extremely hard to achieve her dream of an education, and I got a front row seat!”
For Garrard, Nanih Waiya was her “calling.”
“I guess you could say it all started one early morning walking across the dusty parking lot headed to first grade in Mrs. Effie Stevenson’s class at Nanih Waiya,” Garrard said. “Little did I know then that I would continue to walk across that same parking lot 33 years later!”
Garrard graduated from Nanih Waiya with the Class of 1992. She took several college classes her senior year at the Vo-Tech and finished with a semester of college before she graduated high school. She went to East Central Community College to obtain an associate’s degree in Elementary Education in 1993. She finished at Mississippi State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
She started teaching at Nanih Waiya in 1995 in a first/second grade split class. She taught kindergarten for 11 years, first grade for one year, and spent six years teaching third grade. Next year will be a milestone as she begins her 20th year with her “wonderful Nanih Waiya family.”
Amanda Wallace knew she wanted to become a teacher when she saw the impact her mother had on children.
“The love she has for her students inspired me to want to impact students the same way she does,” Wallace said
Wallace also attended a mission trip in Florida one summer and had the privilege of teaching a class for a week.
“I knew from that moment on God called me to be a teacher,” Wallace said.
Wallace graduated from Nanih Waiya High School in 1999 and Mississippi State University in the fall of 2002. She currently teaches third grade Language Arts at Louisville Elementary.
“I love seeing my students learn new things and growing academically throughout the year,” Wallace said. “God has blessed our lives with the students that we have had the privilege to teach.”
Ashley Chappell is a kindergarten teacher at Fair Elementary. She graduated high school from Nanih Waiya and earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Mississippi State University. She is currently working on getting National Board Certification. She has been a teacher for just over seven years in the Louisville Municipal School District. This is her fourth year teaching kindergarten. She has also taught in third, fifth and sixth grades. She also currently works as a tutor after school for first grade students through the DREAM program at Fair Elementary.
“Kindergarten is my passion and it brings me joy to build the foundation for a child’s academic career,” Chappell said. “My inspiration for becoming a teacher came from my mother. She did what not many have the courage to do — she started college after raising us girls and we were all in school. She went back to college with my sister Brandi, which was very entertaining! My mother set an example for me by never giving up on her dreams.”
Chappell said coming from a family of teachers, everyone is so passionate about what they do, it spills over into family gatherings.
“Needless to say, Sunday lunch at my parent’s house is quite interesting,” Chappell said. “My father deserves a medal for putting up with all of the teacher talk! We are a family that loves children and works together to help the students of Louisville Municipal School District have a brighter future.”