A Life Lived: Phyllis Edens as a teacher had an impact on many of her students

Published 12:07 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

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Someone has defined teaching as a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and the future of an individual. Thus, Phyllis Edens, who taught school for 36 years, had an impact on many students, some of whom were in her high school English classes, others in her home economic classes, and others in her science and chemistry classes.
I was one of those students, who had her as an English instructor for two years at Hampton High School. She knew her subject and taught it well — from conjugating a verb and diagramming a sentence to writing essays. She never left a stone unturned when it came to teaching.
Her son, Barton, noted that although his mother was a good English teacher, her favorite subject to teach was the sciences. “She especially enjoyed teaching biology and chemistry. She enjoyed the outdoors and exploring in the woods. Mom knew leaves, plantlife, and often would pick up a leaf and she would quiz me on what kind of leaf it was. She practiced what she taught,” he said.
“Preacher Bobby Stout, who came to the funeral home, told me he had mother for English literature and she always wanted her students to feel what the characters in the story were feeling. And, she taught in such a way that often she made it happen,” he shared. 
One former student on Mrs. Edens’ tribute page wrote: “…marvelous lady, beautiful spirit, excellent teacher, and outstanding mentor.”
Another person wrote: “She was not my teacher, but from her I learned what the word ‘dignity’ means.”
Phyllis Edens was a life-long learner. She was one of six siblings, including a half-brother. She was raised by an aunt and stayed some with her grandparents when growing up. “Her growing up years were not easy, but she made the best of them and was thankful for family, who were there for her and encouraged her,” said Barton.
She was married to a teacher, J. Frank Edens, who taught for many years at Keenburg Elementary and preceded her in death. 
“Mom grew up hard and she tried to be understanding of her students, who were in difficult situations. Perhaps one of her best-known assets was being able to empathize with her students, especially if they were in a difficult situation or having a hard time,” Barton shared.
During her almost 40 years of teaching, she touched the lives of many students, and many she never forgot. She was a teacher at heart, and Barton said much of her empathy came from her faith and Christian upbringing. “She loved her church and the Lord. She tried to live the Christian life everyday and in everything she did, she wanted Christ to be seen in it,” Barton shared.
Mrs. Edens was a member of Valley Forge Christian Church.
When she wasn’t at school, Mrs. Edens enjoyed traveling. One of her more memorable trips was in 1990 when Barton and his brother, Kent, accompanied their mother on a trip to Europe, visiting Germany, England, Scotland, and France. “She had studied up on the places we visited and knew all about them. She was a teacher but also a student her entire life,” Barton said.
“We visited the Berlin Wall about the time it was coming down. Someone had left a hammer and chisel at the wall, and mom picked it up, and chiseled away some of the wall. It was a memorable experience for her,” Barton shared.
He said his mother enjoyed traveling, and when he and his brother were younger, they enjoyed family trips to Charleston and many historical sites in the South as well as historical sites in the Northeast, visiting many many battleground sites from the American Revolution and Civil War.
“My mother and my father tried to instill in me and my brother a good work ethic, Christian principles, and to enjoy our work and people. These were important things to her as was family,” Barton said.
“She was especially close to her brother, Glenn, who died in February. She is the last of her siblings to die.”
Phyllis died June 19 at the age of 88 at Sycamore Springs Assisted Living, which had been her home the last few years.
Though she is gone, Phyllis Edens has left a legacy in the many students she taught, who have gone on to successful careers. She impacted many lives, including this writer, who often remembers a principle of English learned in her class when writing a newspaper article. I owe her and Ruth Orr, another one of my high school English teachers, a debt of gratitude.

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