By Curtis Michaels
Roswell Daily Record
Crystal Lethgo, a fourth-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, remembers two teachers who made an impact on her life.
“Both Mrs. Dawson and Mrs. McCool made you want to do your best. For very different reasons, you never wanted to let either of them down.”
Denise Dawson and Linda Bates McCool, both retired, grew up and taught in Roswell. They are fondly remembered by hundreds of former students.
McCool shares one of her earliest memories: “I was around 5 years old, I remember riding in my parent’s pickup truck as we drove from Roswell to Portales. My parents stood me in front of the Eastern New Mexico University campus and said ‘this is where you’re going to college.’ They were right, I got four degrees from ENMU-Portales.”
Dawson taught for a year out of college and quit teaching for 14 years.
“I was a graduate assistant in an accounting lab, when I realized that I was called to teach,” she said.
She became certified to teach in five areas: Library Science, Business Education, Fine Arts, Language Arts, and Social Studies.
She taught high school five years at Hagerman, and 18 years at Roswell High School.
Brooke Linthicum, marketing director at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, remembers Linda Bates McCool and the effect she had as her DECA teacher.
“We went to DECA Nationals in my junior and senior years, once to Chicago and once to St. Louis. Linda made sure we would remember the cities as well as the conferences.”
“Mrs. McCool treated us like trusted, responsible people.”
Both McCool and Dawson had quite different teaching styles, and yet they both knew how to bring out the best in their students.
Lethgo says of their differing approaches: “I was in school during 9/11 and Mrs. McCool told us we were going to watch the news and discuss what was happening because this was an important day in our history. Mrs. Dawson said we had to take care of our responsibilities through all that life handed us, and we did our lessons that day in her class.”
She also says “I try to balance Mrs. McCool’s nurturing with Mrs. Dawson’s discipline when working with my own students.”
Both Dawson and McCool cite the influence of Dorothy (Dolly) Cave Izard. Mrs. Izard was memorable in her manner of teaching and her high standards.
Of Mrs. Izard, Dawson says, “I liked her so much that I took an elective class from her.”
“She handed me the U.S. history book at the beginning of the school year, told me to keep it safely in my locker to return at the end of the year, and taught American history by telling stories. She would sit with her legs daintily crossed, sipping a cup of coffee, enthralling us with what really happened in our nation’s history.
“Our tests were always essay tests. She would write three questions on the blackboard and we would write for the entire period. I learned from her that multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank do not accurately reflect what has been learned.
“Dolly gave me a life long desire to learn. I will never stop studying, thanks to her.”
McCool expressed appreciation for two other teachers, in Roswell, who really made a difference in her life.
Stella Alme taught Language Arts at East Junior High, now Mesa Middle School. Mrs. Alme pushed young Linda to get into the Story League where she discovered public speaking.
“To the day she died, Mrs. Alme would give me newspaper clippings with my name in them.”
McCool also remembers Ray Gormley. Gormley was her DECA teacher at Goddard High School.
“Mr. Gormley opened the world of business to me. I never looked back. I had known I was going to be a teacher from age four.” Gormley encouraged her to teach business.
McCool did her student teaching with Gormley, when he moved to Portales to be the state president of DECA, where he remained until he retired, McCool took his place at GHS. “To this day Ray Gormley and his wife are good friends of mine.”
The legacies brought forth in the works of Crystal Lethgo and Brooke Linthicum honor the work of their two beloved teachers and show the generational influence of the teachers they never met, but who’s work inspired much of their youth.
“One of the advantages of working in the town you grew up in is knowing all your old teachers,” Linthicum explains. “Taking care of our neighbors and people we love makes our jobs that much more important to us.”
Lethgo says, “Teaching is the most rewarding job because you do whatever the children need. You are the nurse, the counselor and the parent while they are with you.”
They should know that they have passed the torch to two worthy teachers — Dawson and McCool.
Lethgo also says of Dawson:“A rare treat in Mrs. Dawson’s class was when she did the splits for us. She had a fun side when the work was done.”