Woodrow Wilson was President and World War I was engulfing Europe when Maxine Edmonia Pulley came into the world on Dec. 3, 1914 in Limestone County.  She was laid to rest on Oct. 30, 2016, just a few weeks shy of what would have been her 102st birthday.

I did not know her.  I wish I had.

Born five years before my father, I feel confident she and he grew up in similar worlds.  One ensnared in poverty and hardship and doing without.  But there was one large difference.  Daddy’s world was white, Maxine’s was black.  And while there is still large differences in these two worlds, the differences were even more stark 100 years ago.

Which makes the fact that she graduated from Trinity High School in 1936 and then got two degrees from Alabama A & M even more remarkable.  She then began a 45-year career as a teacher.  Making stops at schools called Big Creek, Nelson, Greenbrier and Miller.  Schools were all faces were black.  Schools about which politicians spread the myth of “separate, but equal.”

Ms. Pulley ended her career at Newman Elementary in Athens.

How many small lives did she touch in 45 years?  Hundreds and hundreds no doubt.  How many other Maxines did she nurture who also became teachers?  How many young people in Limestone County benefited from the friendship of her and her husband Roland?

Maxine Edmonia Pulley’s life was a testament to perseverance.  To overcoming obstacles to do the best job she could.

She was hardly alone.  She was joined in this march by thousands of others across Alabama who dedicated their lives in their own small way to making this state a better place.

I have had the good fortune of speaking to many retired educators groups.  I never stand before such a group without feeling a sense of awe at what each person in the room accomplished.  I’ve often said that those who work with children are truly about the Good Lord’s work.  That is not a platitude–it is a heartfelt belief.

Because of this I am saddened every time I hear our governor talk about what a pitiful school system we have.  I am saddened when non-educators are quick to tell us what is wrong with schools because some “expert” in a Washington think tank tells them it is true.  I am saddened when our state school board ignores the advice of educators and puts their own self interest ahead of our children.

Had these people reflected on the life of Maxine Pulley and what she labored to build perhaps they would think differently.  We can only hope..