Joan Crawford hasn't forgotten her teachers.
There was the first-grade teacher who "could teach a rock," even a class with four grades in it. There was the high-school English teacher who stressed that "jeet jet" was no way to ask if one had eaten lunch. And there was the education professor who fed poor students fried chicken and salad on weekends.
"They took such a profound interest in us. It was more than just book-learning and academics," said Mrs. Crawford, a 49-year-old Hickory Ridge village resident.
"I always vowed that I would be that kind of teacher."
Mrs. Crawford's sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, recognized her dedication to her students by naming her as a 'Delta Great Teacher' Sunday night during their 41st National Convention. Mrs. Crawford, a former Longfellow Elementary School teacher, was one four educators from Maryland to receive the award at the public service organization's national convention in Baltimore.
The teacher has once again become a student. Mrs. Crawford is working toward a doctorate in professional development at the University of Maryland at College Park. After she earns her degree, she hopes to teach middle-school students or perhaps become an administrator.
At her home in the Clemens Crossing neighborhood yesterday, Mrs. Crawford excitedly leafed through scrapbooks.
In one, there is a recent letter from her second-grade teacher. In another, pictures of her last class of 4th-graders.
Teaching is a full-time love for Mrs. Crawford.
She hosts parties for them at home, she counsels them on family problems and keeps in touch with many of them long after they graduate from her class.
"Some of them invited me to their 8th-grade farewell and dance," she said, vowing to surprise those who don't believe she'll go.
"I was hoping I could have had her in 5th grade," remembers Matt Russell, 12, who will enter 7th grade in the fall.
"Her teaching wasn't very strict, but she was a smooth teacher," he said, explaining that Mrs. Crawford would always make sure all of her students understood what she was teaching.
"She's a teacher that the kids all remember having ," said Chris Pistorio, mother of 12-year-old former student Terri.
"She's very loving, very kind to the students. She would always give them a pat on the back instead of being negative toward them," Mrs. Pistorio said.
But her work in the classroom is not all her sorority recognized her for.
Mrs. Crawford believes in educating adults, too, and has done that in ways too numerous to list here.
After graduating from West Virginia State College in 1964, she went to New York City in 1965, where she was a teacher, librarian, administrative assistant and community activist while earning her master's degree in education Hunter College and studying library science at the Pratt Institute and educational administration at Brooklyn College.
In her six years in Howard County, she has served on the Columbia Forum Education Committee, the Community Building Steering Board, the Hickory Ridge village association board, the county African-American Culture Center Board, Commission for Women and the Human Rights Commission.
Born in a small West Virginia town, Mrs. Crawford's father told her "can't" was for "people too lazy to work."
Following that admonition, she posted a sign on her classroom wall: "Thou shalt not say, 'I can't.' "