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Class-y lady
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Mrs. Betty Clendenon instructs one of her third-grade students Emerly Mullins, 8, as Clendenon begins her 51st year as a teacher at Irving College School. - photo by Atlanta Northcutt

A third-grade teacher at Irving College School is beginning her 51st school year as the longest tenured teacher in the Warren County School System.

Ms. Betty Clendenon, 73, has been a teacher for 51 years and still loves the job she continues with dedicated swagger.

Clendenon teaches all of the third-graders at Irving College social studies, science and English Language Arts, which includes reading, grammar, writing and spelling.

This is the first year Irving College is using both of the third-grade teachers for different learning blocks with Clendenon focusing on the reading section, and the other third-grade teacher instructing math.

Clendenon believes reading is one of the most important things taught to children. The ability to read plays a large role in being able to excel in other subjects in school. If students are unable to read, or read well, it is a handicap throughout their school careers.

“I think reading is the key to being successful in all of the other subjects,” said Clendenon.

Clendenon loves anything that has to do with reading. She personally loves to read and believes she can better develop a love for reading within the children by teaching the subject with her own love. 

“I love teaching reading, and I love watching kids develop a love for reading,” says Clendenon.

The belief of young children needing to be told they are loved is something Clendenon feels passionate about since school may be the best part of a student’s day.

“I feel like I want to teach children like I would want a child of mine taught. I think children need to know they are loved and cared about,” says Clendenon.

Clendenon has a saying she tells her students, which goes, “I love you. I like you. I think the world of you, no matter what. I may not like something you’ve done, and we’ll work on that, but that doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

When students are in Clendenon’s classroom, her goal is to make each of them feel loved and safe. She always begins the year by telling the class there is one major thing that must be learned: to love and be helpful to one another since the entire class is like one big family.

Understanding the great responsibility of teaching young children in the community, Clendenon hopes to do as much as possible to help them, not only academically, but personally and emotionally. She hopes to help each child become a good person.

“Everything they need to learn is not something that comes from a textbook,” says Clendenon. “It is a huge responsibility to teach these children the other important information they need to know.”

Clendenon hopes having the longest tenure shows her love for what she does and still having a passion for teaching. 

“I love what I do, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have spent the past 50 years doing,” says Clendenon.

Clendenon was born and raised in Warren County, even attending Irving College herself. She has been teaching at Irving College her whole career.

“Irving College is home,” says Clendenon.

Mrs. Clendenon has performed additional work at Cumberland University and Tennessee Tech. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1968 and began teaching at the age of 22. Clendenon never thought of anything else she would like to do other than becoming a teacher. She has one son, Andrew Clendenon.

Ms. Betty Clendenon feels as though she doesn’t know when she’ll retire. She is taking it one year at a time and wants to continue as long as the passion for teaching the students is still there.

“When you lose your passion for teaching, you should do something else. If I’m going to teach I’m going to try to be the best teacher I can be,” says Clendenon. “I still enjoy learning new things to use in the classroom and trying new ideas with the kids.”