Last night I spotted Billie England at the Oklahoma City School Board meeting, and I was a little surprised to see her. Normally teachers don’t pop up at those meetings, so I was caught a little off-guard. Then, as the meeting wound up, I figured out why she was there. The John Marshall High School math teacher was being promoted. She was named an assistant principal of Jefferson Middle School. It was neat to see someone I met and interviewed move her way up the ranks. The last time I saw Billie, she was making kids run and laugh about algebra. Here’s the story I wrote about her:
“OK my babies, OK my darlings, OK my sweetie pies.”
John Marshall High School math teacher Billie England settles down her class and starts in on her lesson.
Students calculate volume on the marker board as part of a state test review. It’s a game England plays. Each corner of her room represents one of the multiple-choice answers on a state practice test. Students work the problem and then move to the corner they think represents the right answer. The class is almost always divided.
England weaves around the desks, peeking over students’ shoulders. She pats a few on the shoulder. Her goal is to call on or physically touch every kid every hour.
“Kids have a tendency to melt into the wall,” England said. “You can’t just let those kids go unnoticed.”
England wants her students to do well on state tests, but she also wants to prep them for life. Some of her students come from loving homes; others don’t. She works at John Marshall because she wants to help them.
“They need me,” England said. “I don’t know what to say. I guess I need them, too.”
Just as the students debated the answer to an equation, the bell rang.
“Clean it up,” she said. “Go away. Love you. See you Monday.”