By Joseph Pratt
Education isn’t about learning from books. It isn’t about studying vocabulary or mathematical formulas. It definitely isn’t practicing the “how to” of test taking, only to appease the Department of Education. Education is about the role of teacher and student. The transfer of information and the guidance an elder and mentor gives his or her young student. It requires a special person to fill the role of teacher and not many have done it better than Portsmouth City School’s Linda Poage.
My heart was left heavy and my soul saddened to hear that one of my greatest influences passed away.
Mrs. Poage was an educator at Portsmouth for 31 years. She touched many lives between November 1981 and November 2012.
It was surprising to learn that, on paper, she only served the district as a paraprofessional (classroom aide), because she always did so much more than that; Linda Poage was more than an aide in the library, she was the embodiment of what being a Trojan was all about.
Mrs. Poage served as a catalyst for education. She could discuss the world of literature for hours, sparking interest and curiosity for books and storytelling in any student. She was friend and counselor to the many Trojans who would stop by her desk on a daily basis. She was also a moral compass who everyone, even seasoned teachers, looked up to, because she always did the right thing.
When I discuss my relationship with Mrs. Poage, let me begin by stating, again, that I was a handful in school. Her son was my high school principal and I’m positive he would attest to this statement. I received my fair amount of detentions, but I remember none impacted me like the time, in seventh grade, when Mrs. Poage simply told me she was let down in me, after I had scooped some snow from a window ledge in the old Portsmouth High School library and threw it at a friend.
She was upset that I would disrespect her room and the many books within it. I didn’t receive a detention that time, but I felt worse knowing I had let down Mrs. Poage. Of course, things were fine the next day when I made a trip to the library to return a book and she asked how things were going with a smile on her face.
I would visit the library to see her frequently.
In high school, I worked in the library and spent many hours with her. We shared a love of Portsmouth and we spoke about the history of our town and the people before us. My grandmother had me interested in Portsmouth history and government at a young age, but Mrs. Poage was the first person I met outside of her that I could discuss these passions with. We would make little jokes about city council and she would talk about how things had changed in her lifetime. She also taught me a lot about the history of the school district and the buildings the previous schools taught out of; she was a very, very proud Trojan.
My year working with Mrs. Poage bloomed into something very personal to me, and we developed a great relationship that would continue as I walked the halls of Portsmouth High School. I could always escape my day and visit Mrs. Poage to either discuss my troubles or get my mind off of them; she was always right there when I needed her.
Many students leaned on Mrs. Poage for support. Even more took away a wealth of knowledge from her teachings and simple acts of kindness. None of my fellow classmates were kids to her, we were all Trojans, and we instantly had her respect, which can be a rare thing to receive unconditionally at the age of 15.
As I look back on the impact I’ve had from Mrs. Poage, I am nothing but grateful to have had such an amazing educator in my life.
I know her influence has stretched out like the branches of a tree, from herself, to her family having involvement in the district, to the young Trojan minds she cultivated, to the many children who will be impacted by those she impacted.
Linda Poage was a beautiful person and her legacy will stay with us as she joins many friends and Trojans in the afterlife.
…Once a Trojan always a Trojan.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.