Oct. 6 was the day many celebrated the retirement of Wanda Bright, a long-time aide at Seventh Street Elementary School in the North Little Rock School District.
Bright was a member of the staff at Seventh Street from 1978 - 2013.
Her career ended with a retirement party held in her honor where many called her a wonderful lady who loved kids. They called her a person who loves children and someone who made a difference in the lives of many.
"She stayed because she loved the students and was afraid someone else would not love them as much as she did" said teacher and friend Jane Ploszay. "Wanda Bright has a heart for children and feels an urgency to help them become the best they can be. Her first priority was what is best for the child, she always put the children first, and as a mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great grandmother of two, she knows how important it is for them to become independent and develop responsibility for their life and learning. She is also a builder of self-esteem in her students at a young age so they will learn to try and not give up when they face a difficult problem."
Bright would start her work day welcoming and encouraging the students at Seventh Street.
"Wanda took a personal interest in each child and did what she could to meet their needs, so they can function better in life," said Ploszay. "The parents of the children she worked with love her dearly. They appreciate the time and energy she spent with their child and the love Mrs. Bright showed them. Mrs. Wanda Bright is well loved by all of the students at Seventh Street and is often called to the phone or to the office by a former student who was just dropping by to see Mrs. Bright."
According to Ploszay, not only was Bright an excellent teacher but she is a driving force at Seventh Street Elementary. She would meet the after school parents, as she did bus duty, and had a great rapport with them.
"Many of them would tell her personal problems, good news, or suggestions to improve our school, that they would not tell other staff members," said Ploszay. "So as you can see she was also a great link to the community."
Ploszay added, "What a real treasure Wanda is to all that know her and she is certainly appreciated at Seventh Street. As you can see, we depended on her for many things and she will be greatly missed in the coming years, however she is now an eager volunteer with the kindergartners."
Many of the people who came to her retirement party stated that the years spent with Mrs. Bright were the best years of their children’s days in school.
Harriet Pool, a parent and fellow teacher said, " Wanda Bright is an amazing educator at Seventh Street. During the 1990’s and 1980’s all four of my children had the good fortune to be in a first year class with Mrs. Bright. The teaching and learning was magnificent, but Mrs. Bright’s loving way and genuine concern for each and every child was by far the most important and memorable part of those first grade years. My oldest son, Claiborne Sherrod, remembers all the dinosaur stories that were read to him."
Pool’s daughter, Celeste Lee, said she remembers the time the entire family was ill with the flu. Bright came to their home after the school day had ended and brought a huge bucket of Kentucky fried Chicken and blue cupcakes.
"Now that is going above and beyond for your students," said Pool.
Pool’s son, Lowell Sherrod, always thought Bright could do things better than anyone else. One day, he got Crayola marker on his new shirt. Bright told him she could get it out. He wore the shirt home and insisted on taking it back to school in his lunchbox so Bright could get the marker out.
"Sure enough, Wanda took the shirt home with her, washed it, and gave it back, spot free, to Lowell. Pool’s youngest son, Clarke Sherrod, remembers the time he spilled his goldfish and Bright rescued the fish and found dry clothes for him.
"Wanda Bright was exemplary in every way," said Pool. "She was every mother’s wish come true for their children’s first teacher. She was keenly aware of each child’s strengths and needs. Every day was filled with gentleness, kindness, respect, and loving concern for their young students and their families. I am forever indebted to Mrs. Bright for teaching my children to love learning and how to treat others."
Marsha Paul, former principal at Seventh Street stated, "Sometimes in our lives we encounter those special individuals who not only make a huge difference in our own lives, but also in the lives of everyone around them.Teachers, students, parents, and administrators alike recognize this unique quality in Wanda Bright. Her love of the school, the children, her fellow workers, and the Lord, show through in everything she does and in everyone whose life she has touched."
Esther Crawford, former Assistant Superintendent to Elementary Education in the North Little Rock School District and the person who was responsible for hiring Bright said, "Wanda Bright has always been a champion for children. She has served them with love, respect, and commitment. She is highly skilled in helping children overcome any obstacle that would hinder them from being high level learners. Many children have stood tall because Wanda Bright was in their corner."
Rose Eskridge, a parent and co-worker at Seventh Street said, "Wanda Bright is a wise woman who makes wonderful decisions that benefit students."