Rebecca Harp-Sligh, English Department Chair
559-645-3500 Ext. 1038
...My inspiration to live and learn while learning to live...
My father's story is one of those "American Dream" stories. He was born in Barbourville, Kentucky in 1937 to a coal mining father and a mother who took jobs doing the mending, laundering, cleaning, etc. I'm not sure the level of education my grandfather, Everett, had, but I know my grandmother, Ida Mae, only had a fourth grade education.
My father knew that education would be the only thing that would keep him from the mines. Living in poverty, he still managed to read every book in the libraries of the schools he attended. Words. Knowledge.
He graduated valedictorian of the Barbourville High School Class of 1955 and went on to the local city college before leaving for a stint in the army.
Upon returning from the army, he moved North to Toledo, Ohio and began working in the General Motors PowerTrain plant which made transmissions. He started at .75 cents an hour. Now, I won't tell you what he finished earning, but he moved from floor sweeper to skilled tradesman to shift committeeman, was close to his engineering degree, well versed in union law, and served as the Local 14 Union Secretary for many years.
Books were all over our house. When he wasn't at work or in the yard (which I now realize was his "man-cave"), he was reading. On the occassion he would get the urge to create a stained glass lamp, he would have me read the newspaper to him--this began aound the age of 4 for me. He never held knowledge back from me. In fact, he put it in my face and made me come to terms with the world and where I would fit into it.
He said to me one time, "Never sit on the sidelines and watch others when you could do it yourself--and probably better."
Words. Those words have resonated with me since he said them to me when I was 8. Words, I learned, have the power to create meanings within so meaningful that they alter and shape our lives and destinies for which we're intended.
Needless to say, I fell in love with words, books, newspapers, (especially poetry) anything with words and the meanings they create.
All of this from a simple man with a soft, sweet Southern drawl, a slow gait--a man most people dismissed before he spoke due to his overalls and straw hat. I remember the looks on people's faces when they thought to dismiss him because of his drawl when he did speak. "Hillbilly." I could see it in their minds.
But then it would happen. He would have them in the palm of his hand. Listening. Trusting. Ready to stand behind him for any cause.
My passion for words cannot be explained without telling my father's story and how he shared his passion for education and words with me. Words. If I can impart any of that passion to my children, to my students, then I have continued his legacy.
Students, if you are reading this, empower yourself with words. Read. Listen. Learn. There are those like me who also know the power of words who use them for lesser causes. I urge you to not be complacent with reading and writing. I urge you to consider the words you put out before you on social media sites.
Words construct and words destruct.
What will your legacy be?
Shared Mission Statement:
It is the mission of the LHS English Department to provide a quality education to all students in English Language Arts that meets or exceeds the State of California’s content standards for English Language Arts by engaging the students in a rigorous and relevant curriculum taught by teachers who are highly qualified in their subject area and who continue to grow as both learners and educators.
English Department Chair
AP Literature and Composition