Called to teach
On Oct. 19 Betty Albers, longtime Rome resident and member of Second Avenue United Methodist, turned 80 years old. She was surprised at the church Sunday by her son and daughter-in-law with food and a large crowd of family, friends and former students to celebrate.
“I had no idea that they were going to do anything for me,” Albers exclaimed. “We ran out of chairs at the church and we never ever run out of chairs.”
Albers originally had planned another path for her life, but realized at a very young age that she had been called to be a teacher. Specifically, Albers said that she feels that she was meant to be there for the young people she came to love at the old Aragon School.
“A girl that was my roommate when I was in school in Alabama called me and said that there were numerous openings in Polk County, Georgia,” Albers explained. “My husband and I came over to Georgia where he became the basketball coach at Rockmart High School and eventually taught at the Euharlee School in Polk and I was placed at the old Aragon school.”
At the time, there was a completely different school system in Polk County.
“None of the schools that were open when I came to Polk are open today — they have all been replaced by newer schools,” Albers said.
Albers had studied vocational and home economics in college and said that she stepped easily into the role of home economics teacher at Aragon.
“Back when I was teaching Home Economics we actually would visit the students at home to make sure they were applying what they learned in the classroom,” Albers said. “Because of this I was very close with all my students.”
“One of the students I had at Aragon has fixed my hair for the last 40 years,” Albers laughed. “She pierced my ears and colored my hair for the very first time as a matter of fact.”
Albers said that she took a seven-year break from teaching to raise her own children.
“Home Economics wasn’t like it is now — it was a 12-month program with no summer break,
Albers explained. “I felt very strongly that my children would need me at home, so I decided I didn’t want to do home economics anymore.”
While home with her children, Albers said that she also felt led to take in other children in need.
“I kept foster children for years and I think that later it made me a much better teacher,” Albers said. “When I was a teenager there was a family that kept foster kids and I really admired them. When I was at home with my first son I took in a 32-month-old boy.”
Albers said that even though her son was only 16 months at the time the foster child had made an excellent playmate and friend for her son. Unfortunately, the foster situation was only short term.
“The child was ready for adoption, but was scheduled for an eye surgery,” Albers explained. “I was to keep him until he was able to have the surgery and recover so that he could travel to his new home.”
Albers said that her foster child was adopted one week before her second son was born — a birthday he shares with her.
“My son has always been the best birthday present I have ever gotten,” Albers laughed, “We were sad to see the other little boy go to a new home and tried later to find him, but have never been able to locate him.”
After seven years off with her children, Albers received a call asking her if she would be interesting in teaching again, but at a completely different grade level.
“When I was in school there was no early childhood education — however we had courses in it in the home economics degree, “Albers said. “They had just started teaching kindergarten in Polk County so I was happy to go back and teach more Cashtown kids.”
Albers said what was most memorable for her when she first went back to teaching was the terrible bus accident that happened in Cashtown transporting students back to the Aragon school during the construction of Eastside Elementary.
“At the time we were not at our kindergarten assignments left — Eastside School did not finish their construction on time so we were filling in wherever we could help,” Albers said. “I will never forget walking into an elementary classroom at Aragon school and seeing an empty seat knowing that was one of my high school students’ children. Thank the Lord the seat was empty because all three of those family’s children had missed the bus that day and were safe with their mother.”
Albers t aught f rom 1971-1999, all in the Polk School district, minus her short break at home with the children.
“I loved teaching kindergarten and I realized that it was what I was truly meant to do,” Albers said. “When I was teaching teenagers, I was really sensitive to their problems and I still had their young and starry eyes. I thought I could fix everything for them and of course I couldn’t.”
Albers said that she decided to retire because she knew her grandchildren needed her.
“I wanted to be there for them like I was for my own children,” Albers said.
After her husband’s passing in 2008, Albers said that she has kept busy helping her sons take care of the grandchildren and keeping in fellowship with her church family. Her oldest granddaughter currently stays with her when she is home from college.
“Jesse keeps me company,” Albers said. “Sometimes the universe just gets it right and I tell her all the time it got it right with her and me.”
Albers said that if she can give any advice to her younger friends it would be to “get yourself out of the way.”
“I am amazed at how good people can be if you just get yourself out of the way,” Albers laughed. “Love the Lord, love people, love your neighbor and have faith. Your life will be much better.”
Betty Albers taught in Polk schools from 19711999 — with a break raising her children.