|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - December 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Jannis Hooks Duncan wouldn’t trade the 45 years she has spent in the classroom for anything in the world. Her positive influence over generations of students prompted the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce to name her the 2010 Senior Citizen of the Year. Duncan said she always wanted to be a teacher. She graduated from Livingston High School and her first teaching job was in Big Sandy. After four years she came to work in Livingston and remained there for more than 20 years. She moved with her husband to Mineola for 25 years. After he died, she returned to Livingston five years ago. Duncan has three children, Linda, Todd and Jeff; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. As every historical event occurred during her career she would immediately think of ways to teach her students about the importance of that event. She taught English to many Livingston High School students, but her passion was for history. When a fellow teacher was injured in a car accident while commuting from Houston, she asked to be assigned to his World History classes. She said when teaching high school, the second generation of students comes along remarkably fast. She’s had hundreds of wonderful students over the years and she continues to teach classes for LISD’s Adult Education program and at Central Baptist Church’s Speak English Every Day (SEED) program. Demands on teachers grew tremendously over the years, she adds. “I think that’s why I retired. When I got to school in the morning I had four or five different things to do before the bell rang to prepare for different situations. Teaching is a difficult job, and it got more difficult as the years went along.Duncan says she taught with a wonderful group of teachers during her career at Livingston High School. “Mr. Camp, Ms. Gibson, Miss McKenzie, Ms. Bass and Mrs. Bone ... we all had a wonderful time,” Duncan said. She adds that the classroom environment seemed more relaxed in those years. “I think we weren’t aware of so many things. The students were more relaxed than they are now,” Duncan said. “Today there seems to be so much more defensiveness. People take everything personally. It was easy to laugh with my students and then get down to work. It wasn’t hard to separate the two,” she said. Duncan also recalls some difficult football games when the school grew from a 2A campus to 3A. “We took a beating every Friday night. I can remember the misery for two or three seasons. You just wanted to die every Friday night,” Duncan said. Teachers would join in skits and other fun activities like donkey basketball during her days at LHS. She also supported the drama club and enjoyed watching student performances. When she moved to Mineola, she was active in coaching UIL contestants. “I took several teams to Austin and they earned state rankings,” Duncan said. She welcomed the opportunity to work with students outside the classroom in student council and other activities. “It gives you a whole new idea about students. I knew many of their parents on a personal level, that was wonderful too.” The Carby family numbers greatly among the students and parents that bring back fond memories for Duncan. “I had a Carby in my class every year for many years,” Duncan recalls. “Starting with Mary Ann down the line to Robin. I can still hear their mother’s voice.” The Carby population actually outlasted Duncan’s career in Livingston. The youngest reached high school after Duncan moved to Mineola. Their mother served as school nurse for the entire district. “The greatest joy is to be able to share your life with so many people. It has just been such a wonderful experience. You don’t get to do that in too many occupations. Teaching teenagers has given me a younger outlook than some older women might have,” Duncan said. Join the Chamber’s celebration for Duncan and other 2010 honorees at the annual banquet set for Jan. 27 at Livingston Junior High School. Advance tickets are on sale at the Chamber office for $20 each. Seating is limited and no tickets will be sold at the door. Call 936-327-4929 for more information.