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BPC’s Dr. Claxton retires from 37 year teaching career
By Kelley M. Arnold
Director of News and Public Information
| Dr. Melba Claxton, professor and coordinator of Early Childhood Education programs at Brewton-Parker College. (Photo by Kelley M. Arnold)
MOUNT VERNON—Dr. Melba S. Claxton’s roots run deep at Brewton-Parker.
The Education Division professor and the college’s Early Childhood Education Coordinator is saying farewell to the place she’s called home for more than 40 years. She retires May 12 after educating 25 years of the college’s graduating teachers.
“It was big, big leap of faith,” she said, referring to her decision to retire. “I feel like I have been so immersed at Brewton-Parker these 25 years. Brewton-Parker is nearly ingrained in my whole body and soul, which I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a time to grow as a person. Gosh, I’ll miss it!”
Though she didn’t start teaching in the Education Division until 1982, Dr. Claxton held the position of business manager in 1960 when the school was a junior college. She handled responsibilities similar to those of the present-day positions of registrar, financial aid and book store clerk “all over in Gates Hall,” Dr. Claxton recalls. The Uvalda, Ga., native also earned her associate degree from Brewton-Parker in 1970.
“I’m an alumnus,” she says with a note of pride in her voice.
A pioneer among her female peers in the early seventies, Dr. Claxton was both a mother and a wife when she returned to college and pursued her degrees. While at Brewton-Parker she may have first propelled herself along the business administration track, but her desire to teach won out. She was even honored as the Most Outstanding Future Teacher in her class.
“I wanted to teach, but I thought I would just get a degree in business administration,” she said. “I tried it, though it wasn’t really what I wanted. Then I thought, ‘Well, maybe business education then’. Then I thought, ‘What am I fighting? Why am I fighting this?’ It’s just like with mission work, how people who have been called will put it off and put it off. I know people who have fought mission work for such a long time, and when they accepted it, they finally found peace – just like I did with teaching.”
After she earned a bachelor’s degree at Georgia Southern, she taught kindergarten and third grade for a total of 10 years, and then she returned to GSU to earn her masters so she could teach at the college level. She started at Brewton-Parker as an adjunct for Tift College at Brewton-Parker in 1980, but it wasn’t until former BPC president Dr. Starr Miller encouraged her to consider teaching full-time at BPC did she pursue a second career with her alma mater.
“Dr. Miller was the one who encouraged me to come on board. I did, and I never looked back,” she said. “At the time I thought if the Lord wanted me to move, I’d have to hear it. I guess I heard it in what Dr. Miller said.”
At Brewton-Parker, she has taught children’s literature education and English education. She even earned a doctorate of education in 1996 from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The 37-year educator says her favorite part of teaching at the college-level is seeing her students get excited, the same excitement she would see in her third graders and kindergartners.
“More than half of our education enrollment is the non-traditional student, which is defined as those students who have been out in the field and worked some, about three to five years,” she explained.
“These are working mothers and fathers, and singles as well, who come back and are serious about getting their education degree. They are a joy to teach, even though I see some of those third grade traits of worry and fear about a new idea, but when they get it, they’ve got it, and they can produce results. I’ll miss that.”
She hopes she’ll be able to enjoy retirement “and not be one of those who can’t sit still,” she said. She plans to join the Georgia Philological Society at the college, staying active in their lectures and events, and she may even try her hand at writing children’s literature.
“I’m thinking about it. After all, it’s what I love and have taught since 1980, so I do know what makes good literature – but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to write it,” she added with a hearty laugh and a smile.