A teacher made a difference in a life, a community

Ann Trail Campbell (right) looks through pages of “illustrated poetry” with Louise Childress. Childress was pressed into service to teach an English class for half a school year, and she had her students write poetry and then draw a picture to go with it. (photo:Ken Leinart )
It is a rare thing for a single person to touch deeply the lives of so many children, but there is a remarkable woman that came to a remote little town to teach at a very small school in the hills of Anderson County that did that very thing.

I remember the first time that I met Mrs. Childress. It was 1973, and I was only 3-years old. I recall walking down the long hall toward the gym and as we passed by the last door on the right a beautiful, spirited lady walked out into the hall. Her red curly hair was bouncing with every single step. Oh my goodness, her smile. Her smile was the kind of smile that could light up the world, and it did.

It didn’t take too long before I knew even at such a young age that I was in the midst of greatness. She was so sparkly. She laughed, smiled, sang, and became such a big presence in all of our lives. She could do anything it seemed.

She taught us so many techniques for creating art. Things that I later in life taught my children at home.

She brought music to life. She would play the piano and sing and it created such joy for us all.

With every class she made me fall deeper and deeper in love with the arts. All of the children loved her, and it wasn’t only for her ability to draw, sing, and paint, but for her love and compassion.

The children at Briceville came from all different economic backgrounds. Some kids didn’t have to worry about finances at all, some kids were in situations that left them worried, and some kids had very little and it showed. Mrs. Childress treated all of us kids like we were special, and we were to her.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Childress as an adult. I would see her at church or social functions, and it was like I was a child again. The magic was still with her. The love is still there. It has been almost 50 years since she came to Briceville Elementary School to work. Tucked away in her attic was some of the artwork that she helped students create. These precious relics were stored away by her own hands at the request of her precious students. Please keep this Mrs. Childress, they asked…and so she did.

Louise Lenore Childress still has that beautiful smile. Her lovely red hair is not as vibrantly red as it once was, but it is still curly as ever. Mrs. Childress will be 91 this year. Every time I have the pleasure of talking with her she talks of her time at Briceville. She is always asking me…What happened to this child or that child? I tell her well Mrs. Childress they are all grown up now, and then I tell her only the good things that I know about their lives. Her eyes always tear up as she listens to my tales of how each child grew up and where they are now. When she thinks of the children that she taught so many years ago she always thinks of us as children.

Thank you for shaping each of our lives in some way lovely lady. You will be forever pressed into the memories that we hold so dear.