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Lee teacher taught assistant principal as first-grader

LEESBURG, Ga. — In 1982, Vince Grace was a first-grader at Martin Luther King Elementary School in Albany, and he was in love with his first-grade teacher, a rookie named Laurie Turner.

"She was very, very pretty," Grace, now an assistant principal at Kinchafoonee Primary here, recalled. "She was fresh out of college, and all the boys loved her."

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Terry Lewis

Kinchafoonee Primary first-grade teacher Laurie Whatley and assistant principal Vince Grace share a history. Whatley was Grace’s first grade teacher 30 years ago at Martin Luther King Elementary. He called her “ma’am” then, now she calls him “sir.”

Fast-forward 30 years, and Laurie Turner is now Laurie Whatley, and she is still a first-grade teacher, now as a long-term substitute at Kinchafoonee.

The major difference now is that the little boy, the one in whom Whatley saw so much potential three decades earlier, is one of her bosses.

"He was a tiny 6-year-old, a great, sweet little boy," Whatley said. "On the whole, all the students were very well-behaved. But he stood out to me because he was very smart and never caused any trouble."

Grace then laughed and said, "That's because my mama (Collis) didn't play around. If she ever got a call from a teacher about me, it was always my fault. There were no excuses, no negotiations."

As the years passed, the two old friends both worked in the Dougherty and Lee County school systems, but this is the first time they have ever worked in the same building.

"I never doubted Vince would be successful in whatever career he chose," Whatley said. "What's funny is he used to call me 'ma'am' and now I call him. 'sir.'"

Grace credits all his teachers — and his mother and grandmother — with helping him get where he is today.

"I come from the projects, but that doesn't mean I didn't have values and goals," he said. "I'd like to be a role model to kids, just like Laurie was to me. The important thing to know is that it doesn't matter where you're from, it's where you are going."

Even if it takes 30 years to get there.

Comments

FlunkyMonkey 1 year, 3 months ago

Can someone tell me why this is newsworthy? The high school history teacher at Sherwood Christian Academy not only graduated from Sherwood, but his mother is the middle school history teacher AND taught him when he was in middle school. Lot more impressive.....

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

"I come from the projects, but that doesn't mean I didn't have values and goals," he said. "I'd like to be a role model to kids, just like Laurie was to me. The important thing to know is that it doesn't matter where you're from, it's where you are going." That's why it's newsworthy and particularly in ABY. A creative thinker could see a short movie in it. I just hope it would be a movie company that didn't destroy a neighborhood to build a church plant.

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ibatester 1 year, 3 months ago

In this day when so may people have NO hope this story proves that in America you can work, dedicate yourself and YES you can still get a piece of the American pie. If you can't see that, I guess " FlunkyMonkey " is a correct " nom de guerre " .

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1d2ec 1 year, 3 months ago

Your opinion is you opinion. I liked the story.

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Bulldawg 1 year, 3 months ago

This is a great story. We need more stories like this given the difficult times in which we are living in. Flunky Monkey, you need to lighten up. What is "newsworthy" to you? I guess the from page story about murders plummeting in Albany is more newsworthy to you. Get some coffee, take some prozac, and get over yourself becuase the rest of us on Christmas Eve do not want to hear it.

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Clif 1 year, 3 months ago

The story is very newsworthy for more than one reason. One, it is just a beautiful story about how people respecting each other can work together to accomplish something. Second, it proves that today's parents should be involved with their children's upbringing such as his mother was. The Sherwood story is also a good story, but this story takes nothing away from Sherwood. Bottom line: There are more stories like these and we need to hear more of them......

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 3 months ago

You have ignore the ignorant ones. This is a good story and it just shows how a teacher is never forgotten and later appreciated. I think its cool that he remembered and recognized his former teacher. Its about time the education editor wrote a positive story about education around here.

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Brother_Love 1 year, 3 months ago

People can find negative in everything a black man accomplishes. They think all we good for is digging trenches and picking cotton and accuse the black man of being nobodies and only wanting to commit crime and yet you have this story of a man doing good and the haters can't be satisfied.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 3 months ago

Well said my brother!!! Well Said!!!

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VSU 1 year, 3 months ago

I like this story, it's like I have said before, anybody can make something of themselves if they put their mind to it. People use excuses that they are from the hood, they don't have the opportunities other people have. that is why they join gangs etc. I say BS to that. This man was raised in the projects and he didn't join no gang and it is obvious he was brought up properly by his mother because she cared.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 3 months ago

OOH GOD!!! I actually agree with VSU!!! Lord help me!!!!

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VSU 1 year, 3 months ago

Merry Christmas Bubbasmith!

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agirl_25 1 year, 3 months ago

I think is it a sweet story......I am 70 and remember my first grade teacher...Mrs. Williams, a wonderful lady.....she taught me to read those "see Jane run, run Jane run" (Dick and Jane)books and thru them I learned to read well and it got me a lot of education. Actually I can remember my first thru 6th grade teacher's names and they were the ones who laid the building blocks for what was a fine education. Even in a military family and moving a lot, I still felt blessed to be able to have the education opportunities I had. Vince and I may have been from two different backgrounds but it is clear that education meant a lot to him too.........congrats Vince...

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Brother_Love 1 year, 3 months ago

Only a racist could find something negative about this story, sad that people still want to keep the black man down. Guess some are upset that the black man is now the boss of that fine teacher. Typical with what is wrong in this country today. People still think of the black man as nothing better than a dirty slave.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 3 months ago

This is a nice, uplifting story to read on Christmas Eve. It's a nice break from the usual "newsworthy articles."

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 3 months ago

anything nice about education is refreshing coming from Terry.....

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AuntieDee 1 year, 3 months ago

I loved this story as well and 99% of the response to it thus far. Guess whose response is in the 1%. He's that scab that Carlton Fletcher wrote about in his latest article. Bah hum bug!

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