Forty-six years…almost a century…of love and service, that is the contribution of Mrs. Thelma Bell to the children of Dade County. During this time she has given unstintingly of her time and devotion which is evidenced by the testimony of former students to the great part she has played in their development into responsible adults.
Now she is retiring for a much needed rest, but knowing “Miss” Bell, she will still keep busy with church and community affairs. Her plans are to visit and travel.
Mrs. Bell is a descendant of the pioneer Hale and Tatum families of Dade County. Her parents were John T. and Mary Hale Martin. She lives in Hooker, with her husband, Carl Grady Bell.
Mrs. Bell is a member of the Dade County Education Assn., Georgia Education Assn., and National Education Assn.
Mrs. Bell was graduated from McIntyre Elementary School, Chattanooga; Chattanooga High School; and the University of Chattanooga. She also attended Tennessee State Teachers’ College, Murfreesboro, and the University of Georgia.
She is active in church and community affairs. She is a member of the United Methodist Church of Hooker, where she serves as superintendent of the church school, teacher of the adult class, member of the Women’s Society of Christian Service, and lay speaker. She is serving her fourth term as a justice of the peace, the only woman J.P. in Dade County.
Love for her chosen profession was so great that she decided to teach the first semester of her junior and senior years in high school in a two-teacher school in Wildwood.
The Georgia school system required its elementary teachers only to pass an examination and possess a high school diploma when Mrs. Bell began teaching full time in 1925.
Her first full time job was a one-room school in Murphy Hollow. She then taught in Hooker, another one-room school.
In 1929, Mrs. Bell accepted a position in Dade County Consolidated School where she has taught both high school and elementary subjects as the need arose. She has ever been an example and an inspiration to her students and colleagues.
The following tribute to Mrs. Bell was copied from the “Alumni Chat,” University of Chattanooga, November, 1966. This article is a reprint from an editorial in the “Chattanooga Post,” August 23, 1966.
Mrs. Bell finally has that college degree…Mrs. Thelma Bell, that is, of Route 1, Trenton, Georgia. She was graduated from the University of Chattanooga at its summer exercises the other day, walking away with a Bachelor of Science after only 42 years of teaching in Georgia schools. She had been so busy instructing others that her own college work came in bits and pieces.
Will the degree make her a better teacher? We doubt it, although we share her pride in its attainment. But Mrs. Bell’s interest hasn’t been in herself…it’s been in that heaven-sent gift of imparting knowledge to others. In that respect, she might have been designated “master teacher’ at any time in the last four decades.
We know college education is necessary and specialized training essential for teachers in today’s schools; we have no quarrel with a state’s requirement for a degree for all teachers. The point we make is that there are rare people like Mrs. Bell to whom teaching the young comes so naturally that formal classwork on her part is almost superfluous.
For her teaching is more than a profession; it is life itself and lucky are the students who have attended her classes.
Mrs. Bell’s life and service may well be summed up by the poem:
Let me but do my work from day, to day,
In field or forest, at the desk or loom,
In roaring marketplace or tranquil room;
Let me but find it in my heart to say,
When vagrant wishes reckon me astray,
“This is MY work; my BLESSING, not my doom;
Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way.”
Then I shall see it not too great, nor small,
To suit my spirit and to prove my powers;
Then I shall cheerful greet the laboring hours,
And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall
At eventide, to play and love and rest,
Because I know for me my work is best.(Used by permission, HISTORY OF DADE COUNTY, GEORGIA, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, 1981)