By TMoM Team Member Rachel Hoeing

Picture it. 1995. I had just graduated from Appalachian State University with my Education Degree. I was ready to conquer the world!

I landed my first teaching job in Charlotte, filling in for a first grade teacher who was on maternity leave. First grade, oh they are so cute. Sometimes in a room full of 28 of them, they aren’t quite as cute as you would imagine, but I digress.

I truly did love each and every one of those kids and reflecting back to that first year, I can’t help but laugh at some of the rookie mistakes I made. I remember my first “observation” by my principal where I decided to try rotating small groups for the very first time. Good Lord it was a nightmare! It was like a three ring circus in that room! But I think my love of the children and my eagerness to help every child reach their best potential helped us all to survive that year and make the strides that were necessary for the students, and for myself.

There are so many stories I could share from that first half-year of teaching, but today’s story was one that I was recently reminded of as my family took a trip to Hilton Head, SC and passed the road sign above …

Again, we go back to 1995 in my classroom. Sweet Virginia was a quiet kid who never caused trouble, sat wide-eyed and watched in horror as others misbehaved, had a few select friends, and always worked hard despite the fact that she was already showing signs of some learning challenges.

The students had been working diligently on their writing skills and were asked to write a story about something fun they did with their family. I moved around the room helping children with their assignments. As I approached Virginia, she asked, “Miss Biscombe, how do you spell Winnsboro?”

“Winnsboro?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s where my grandma lives.”

“Oh, you must mean Greensboro, right?” I innocently questioned her.

“No, it’s Weeens – bur – rah.”

“Are you sure, sweetie? I’m pretty sure it’s Greensboro. Here, let’s write it together G – R – E ….”

“Miss Biscombe, this isn’t right. It’s WEENS-BUR-RAH,” she pleaded in her sweet little voice. I started to see tears forming in her eyes.

“OK,” I replied. Although I just knew she just had to be talking about Greensboro. I helped her spell Winnsboro the best I could and told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t a very important part of the story anyway, and if she said it was Winnsboro, then of course we would write Winnsboro!

A few things to keep in mind … there was no google back then. No cell phone. No computer. Not even a big pull-down map in my first grade classroom. No one around to ask. No quick email to send to the mom to confirm. AND, I was a 22 year old who hadn’t traveled much outside of my bubble.

I don’t remember if we ever shared the stories the children wrote. My guess is that they went into the kids’ writing folders and that was that.

Fast forward to probably 8 years later.

I’m now married, living in the Triad, and my husband and I were traveling down I-77 into South Carolina. I suddenly spot the highway sign.

Winnsboro 20 miles

My mouth dropped wide open and I shrieked, “Winnsboro?!?!? What? Wait! There is a Winnsboro? Oh no, poor Virginia!”

I shook my head in guilt, dread, and sadness.

“I’m so sorry, Virginia!! I suck! You were right!”

I then explained the story to my husband. He laughed uncontrollably as I sat racking my brain trying to figure out what Virginia’s last name was and how I could ever get in touch with her to apologize. My husband assured me that the then six year old, who was now in her teens would probably have no recollection of that day, and only fond memories of her first grade teacher.

I can’t help it. I still to this day feel guilty for making Virginia doubt the city where her grandmother lived. We passed the sign last month and the story came to my mind once again.

So if you are still out there Virginia, and you happen to come across this blog, please accept my apology as I confirm that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Winnsboro.”


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