By Frances “Toni” Draper,
AFRO Publisher and CEO
July 10, 1994
Having just checked the calendar, I am amazed that it has been almost two months since I requested and received your address from Bernardine. When she happened to mention your name, I explained to her that I have been sharing “My Treasure Chest” with its participants. I have something I wanted to share with you but did not have your address. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to send it.
Knowing that I will only procrastinate more (the advantage of retirement), if I wait to explain it all in writing, I’m hoping that you will call me when you find the time. I’m in and out during the day, but usually at home at night. My number is 987… just dial it as is; there is no toll, etc.
Meanwhile, when are you going to stop cheating the public and publish your best seller?
Pauline W. Paysour
Mrs. Pauline Paysour was my sixth-grade teacher at Baltimore City’s Gwynns Falls Elementary School (School #60) more than 60 years ago. She was a wonderful teacher, who cared about each student as if they were her own. And she was the teacher who nurtured my love for reading and for writing. Upon receiving this letter, I had to call her. It had been so long! We chatted about lots of things– including her passion for pushing young students to their potential. She also promised to send me an item from her “Treasure Chest.”
A few days later, I received the original of a short story I wrote in the late 1950’s entitled, “Elsbeth, An English Peasant Girl.”
“In the early 1900’s,” my story began, “Elsbeth March, an English peasant girl, who was twelve years old, lived with her family of five. She was just beginning early morning chores.”
“One of her special chores was to deliver milk to her rich neighbor, Mr. Johnson, who lived a few miles from the March farm. When she arrived at the Johnson’s estate door, she was surprised to hear a harsh voice say, “I know you have more money than this. I don’t rob rich people for nothing!”
The story goes on to describe in some detail how Elsbeth ran to the sheriff’s office and accompanied the deputies back to the farm. Then, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the sheriff, his deputies and even the sheriff in another town were unable to complete the investigation – leaving young Elsbeth to do it on her own. Of course, she had to keep her mother informed of her whereabouts every step of the way. Elsbeth stays on the case, accidentally has a collision with the perpetrator (both were on horseback) and knocks him unconscious. My eight- page handwritten story ends with Elsbeth receiving a letter of commendation from the mayor and a $1000 reward. Ahhh– the imagination of a 12-year-old!
Until Mrs. Paysour mailed me the story in my own handwriting (where she circled every “m” that had an extra hump), I didn’t even remember creating this story when I was in the sixth grade. I certainly didn’t and still don’t know anyone named Elsbeth–but I clearly remember Mrs. Paysour.
I remember her patience. I remember her professionalism. I remember how special she made each of us feel. I remember how she nurtured our talents and our passions. I remember how she told us we could achieve anything we set our hearts and minds to.
When I became a Baltimore City Public School middle school teacher 10 years later, I remembered and tried to model the many Mrs. Paysours of my life.
Young people today need the same thing young people have always needed teachers and administrators who care about the whole child.
Thank you, Mrs. Paysour. I’m working on my best seller!
Thanks also go to our managing editor and our entire editorial staff, our production team and advertising experts for putting together the 2023 AFRO special edition focusing on education.
This month we highlight the teachers who pushed us to maximize our potential and the legislators who are working to improve education in the state of Maryland for all students. There are tips for improving the educational experience of neurodivergent students and impact stories detailing the importance of having Black, male teachers.
As we celebrate the graduates of the Class of 2023 (young and old) this week, let us look towards the future, while also never forgetting the many educators who helped us along the way.