Former resident remembers UHS teacher Kate Ensor
To the Editor:
In a lifetime famous faces on the run cross our path: Jimmy Haslam, Howard Baker, Andy Holt, Dr. Jay Julian, General Neyland, Johnny Majors, Pat Summit, Ray Mears, Zane Daniels, Gregory Isaacs, Dolly Parton, Patricia Neal, Wilma Dykeman, Cas Walker, and less known Kate Ensor.
Like other dignitaries, God only made one Miss Kate. The math whisperer taught high math in high country, Unaka High in Carter County, Tenn. Forget looking on the map, Atlas has no clue where Stoney Creek is. Normally, in a secluded hamlet, taking math is about as popular as a tetanus shot. The “regional original,” Miss Kate, was slow to panic. The school marm outlawed finger and toe math. The sly fox promoted uncrushed learning simplified by metaphor and simile. The mother of math married the unknown with the known. The less scriptural style won converts faster than a slick evangelist. The lady of lessons retired complaining and “brittle chalk for the even hum of an overhead projector.” In the darkness each student, in turn, picked up a magic marker and assaulted a math myth.
Miss Kate created a monster in a no child left behind strategy. Confidence replaced anxiety. By creating a band of “student teachers,” barely 16, the reborn kids taught each other. The teacher became a consultant but always the boss. Clearly, she guided students in the dark into the light. Do teachers still do that?
No teacher ever got rich teaching school. Today, janitors and bus drivers have better salaries than the Kate days. To find a creative teacher is like finding a contact in a swimming pool. But our Kate filled a massive void like no other. Teaching, like nursing, is a calling.
Miss Kate saw kids as a trust fund. In the Kenny Rogers song, Slow Dance More, he cautions, “don’t use money to measure wealth.”
Miss Kate, like teens, had a little devil in her. Near the end of each session she sprang a “killer quiz” to humble heads that swell. The lad or lass with the answer inherited a jelly bean rush from Miss Kate’s private stash. The nation needs more Miss Kates to knock down more gates at the college level. The lady of math-love was the teacher of the year without being a teacher of the year. Do we miss her? Devil yes, we do, and that moaning overhead projector with teen DNA in it, must we add? Chalk belongs on the sidewalks.