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When Fayetteville’s Wilma Muse graduated from Columbia Central High in the spring of 1963, she had thought she would pursue a career in pharmacy, but as a student at Peabody College in Nashville, she met a young man who would change her life.
That young man, Samuel Muse, would become Wilma’s husband and prompt the young woman to become a teacher, a career that wouldn’t require as many years in college and allow her and Sam to begin their life together much sooner. She graduated from Peabody in June of 1967, married Sam that July and then started teaching in August.
“There was one certainty when I was growing up and that was that I’d go to college,” she recalls. “My dad was a firm believer in education. He didn’t have that chance when he was growing up, so he was determined that mom and I would have a good education.
“His thought was, no one can take an education away from you.” she continues, noting that her mom went on to get her master’s after starting her family.
“Education has been good to me,” she says, recounting her arrival at the old Central High School here when Lukie Mansfield, then principal of Central, handed her an algebra book and told her he needed an algebra teacher. “It had more words than problems, and there were no supplemental material then.
“I’m glad I had to go through that. I loved teaching algebra I, II, and general math, giving kids what I thought was a firm foundation upon which to build. I was very content to teach those subjects.”
Mrs. Muse would go on to get her master’s in guidance, so when Lincoln County’s high schools were consolidated in 1979 and she made the move to Lincoln County High School, guidance seemed to be a natural fit.
“Then from 1989 until Mr. (Jacob) Sorrells came, I served as assistant principal and with that, curriculum coordinator,” Mrs. Muse continues, explaining that when Sorrells started his tenure as the high school’s principal, he needed someone in guidance. “It was something we talked about and agreed on. It worked out well.”
In guidance, she would also keep the testing portion of the curriculum coordinator’s job.
Now, just a few years later and after 46 years as an educator and administrator in the Lincoln County School System, she is looking forward to retirement.
“I have seen a lot of changes over the years,” she says. “Part of that change has been in technology … When I was teaching algebra II, I allowed students to use a slide rule. Now they use a four-function calculator.
“I have mixed emotions about that. I think students ought to be able to do problems with a pencil first, then use the calculator — for me, it’s about all the thinking processes.”
She has also observed other changes, many reflecting changes in society — “There’s less respect now,” she says. “There used to be a lot more yes ma’am and no sir, and there’s not as much now. The changes that have come about in society are changes we see in our schools.
“There also seems to be more students with emotional needs, or perhaps they’re more open with their needs now.
“And I think many of the discipline problems we see now result from students having to remain in school until they’re 18,” continues the longtime educator. “We see kids who don’t want to be here, and there are many more that have jobs, and that impacts their attitudes.
“Striking that balance between the needs of student with state and federal requirements presents more challenges today, too,” she adds, noting that the state’s view of career readiness being basically college readiness is something with which she doesn’t fully agree. “I think some students are ready for careers or technical schools out of high school and that not all students are cut out for college.”
Increased paperwork and more emphasis on testing are other changes in education today, she adds.
As for plans for retirement, Mrs. Muse is looking forward to enjoying life and spending more quality time with her 94-year-old mother and her two grandchildren in Murfreesboro. Needlework, reading and bridge are also favorite pastimes.
Mrs. Muse and her husband, who passed away in October of 2008, have a daughter, Lynn, and she and her husband, Bob Chappin, reside in Murfreesboro with their children and the Muses’ two grandchildren, Sam, who’s just finishing third grade, and Kate, who is finishing first grade.
A member of the ARP Church here in Fayetteville, she has also been a longtime member and very involved in the Fayetteville Lions Club, of which her husband was president at one time and a district governor. She still supports Lions Club projects and is a believer in the civic organization’s dedication to sight preservation.
The club’s mission is close to Mrs. Muse’s heart, considering that her mother suffers from macular degeneration and that the club assisted with getting her a machine to help her read. “Sam was instrumental in getting several of those machines for people here,” she notes.
In addition to his involvement in the Lions, Mr. Muse also served as a Fayetteville city alderman at one time.
Her husband’s dedication to community as well as her love for him have inspired Mrs. Muse to present three scholarships in his memory this spring. It is her way of honoring his memory while also helping students, bringing together two of the most important aspects of her life.
“I hope I have always been a positive influence in the lives of students,” she adds. “I’ve tried to always be fair and consistent — whenever I talk to young teachers, I tell them to be firm, fair and consistent, then they will be a success.”