A Class Act#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2001

Pickens receives Class Act' award

When Greenville Middle School teacher Kathy Pickens was chosen as a recent "Class Act" Award winner by WSFA television, there was just one little problem-the 10 p.m. airtime for the segment.

"I go to bed at 9 o'clock every night.

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I had to get my husband Leander to wake me up so I could watch it," Pickens says with

her trademark quicksilver grin, adding, " I get up at 5:30 in the morning and I'm at school by 7.

If I don't get my sleep, I won't be worth ANYTHING in that classroom."

Being "early to bed and early to rise" helps keep this self-described over-achiever' on top of things in both her personal and professional life.

The athletic and outgoing

Pickens teaches aerobics classes twice a week, leads a group of 10th graders in Sunday School at Southside and is in her ninth year of teaching at GMS.

She is thrilled at the progress all of her students are making. "My Sunday School class is such a treat, great kids . . . and my math students are really learning a lot this year," Pickens enthuses.

"I teach 7th graders-and I love it.

I hope I retire teaching 7th grade . . . I teach remedial math throughout the day but I don't ever get bored with it," Pickens remarks with a smile.

She describes herself as very much a "math and science person" who needs the organization and routine of the school day.

However, she says she also truly appreciates the "amazing" variety each day brings.

Pickens serves as a Junior Beta Club sponsor and works with the GMS math team.

"Mr. Horn at GMS was my mentor when I first came to the school and he told me, The more you're involved, the faster the school years will fly by.'

He was absolutely right," says Pickens, adding that she "loves the sports and all the

[school] activities."

This GMS teacher declares her administration "awesome". "Dr. Kathy Murphy, our principal, has really got it together-she is a real gem in this county."

Pickens says the GMS faculty believes in the self-fulfilling prophecy: "We think we are the best-and we are becoming the best."

This former military brat' was born in Florida, but has lived in Alabama since

the age of three.

A graduate of Fort Dale Academy, Pickens received both her undergraduate and master degrees from AUM, where she majored in both biology and mathematics.

"You know, sometimes it seems like I've never left school.

I've always been either a teacher or a student. I love school and I've always loved my teachers," says Pickens, who cites a pair of instructors from her days at FDA, Connie Foster and Susan Foster, as two of her role models in her teen years.

"I chose the two subjects they taught for my major areas of study in college," she explains.

She is also indebted, she says, to Drs. Chet Palmer and Morgan Simpson of AUM for their guidance.

"Dr. Palmer introduced me to the world of art, which I have so enjoyed sharing with my students . . . I have taken Beta Club students to museums in Atlanta and Birmingham.

I know those are places they wouldn't otherwise necessarily get to go."

Pickens thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to be involved in a positive way in the lives of her students and her community.

"I love going to Wal-Mart or Winn-Dixie and seeing all these people I know.

I love being able to tell parents good things about their kids-and I always try to look for the positive."

Pickens says she's simply no good at playing the "big bad wolf" in the classroom.

"I am a person who believes in discipline-but it's discipline with humor.

I just love to spice it with a laugh, you know?"

Pickens will quickly tell you she takes her Christian faith seriously. She says she's always seeking a greater "humility of spirit" to counterbalance the strong, assertive personality she has, by necessity, developed in the classroom.

"In teaching you learn to be outspoken . . . sometimes I think it ruins your personality.

I don't ever want to forget this is someone's child, an individual-not just another body.'"

She worries about the possible failure of the tax referendum issue, saying "This, economically, would be an absolute nail in the coffin' of our community . . . we can't afford to let this happen to our county and our kids."

While Pickens enjoys sewing and going on movie dates with husband Leander, her schedule leaves her little free time.

It's something she doesn't want much of anyway. She says, "My school, my church and my family consume me-and that's the way I like it."

She gives her parents, who are also her rural Butler County neighbors, James and Glenda Brown, and her grandmother Olga Brown, much credit for molding her into the person she is today.

"My sister Debbie and I had this creative, talented family who gave us a spiritual heritage, morals, values, a strong work ethic.

Some people complain about their childhood.

I appreciate the good one I had."

Pickens believes teaching is both her spiritual gift and her professional calling. She dismisses those who say the teaching profession is only for those who can't do anything else.

"I had the drive, the grades, the backing to do anything I wanted-and teaching was what I really wanted to do," Pickens says earnestly. "I could have had greater financial rewards, more recognition, more respect in other professions. Instead I chose something with eternal, intangible rewards . . . I'm really, really glad."