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You are here: Home Opinion Paula I. Bryant PAULA I. BRYANT: Now that’s a teacher

PAULA I. BRYANT: Now that’s a teacher

We recently observed Memorial Day, and our friend, Virginia Cumbey, said it would be a particularly fitting time to share the following text that now circulates in e-mail drawn from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s March 2007 address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. 

That speech recounted events from the first day of classes in fall 2005 for students enrolled in Martha Cothren’s military history class at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The former Arkansas governor also referenced this story entitled “Now She Is A Teacher” at the 2008 Republican National Convention.


Now She Is A Teacher!!!

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a history  teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas did
 something not to be forgotten. 

On the first day of  school, with the permission of the school superintendent,  the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all
of the desks in her classroom. 

When the first period kids entered the room, they discovered that there were no desks.   

Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?  

She replied, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.”

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.”

No, she said. 

“Maybe it’s our behavior.” 

She told them, “No, it’s not even your behavior.”  

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. 

Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening, and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.  

The final period of the day came, and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom, Martha Cothren said, “Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.”

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven United States veterans walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. 

By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.  

Martha said,  “You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.
Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.”  

By the way, this is a true story, and this teacher was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII Prisoner of War.  

Let us always remember the men and women of our military and the rights they have won for us.