WILMINGTON — Virgene Peterson first entered a classroom nearly a century ago. And in the next 70-plus years after graduating high school, she kept attending school as educator and friend of generations of local students.
Although she died Friday at the age of 93, the lifelong Clinton Countian left behind an unbelievable legacy of teaching, mentoring and so much more.
“Wilmington City Schools honors Virgene Peterson for the positive impact she made on education,” Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart told the News Journal Monday. “Her devotion and compassion for teaching and learning is an inspiration. Mrs. Peterson’s influence will forever be a part of the Wilmington City School District.”
Born in 1924 in Adams Township, she graduated from the township high school in 1942. When she attended her high school reunion last year, she was the oldest graduate present.
A feature story written for the News Journal by Diana Miller in 2015 stated: “It was 1943 when a young Miss Virgene Webb quietly began making her mark on public education in a small school in western Clinton County.
“Enrolled in the teacher education program at Wilmington College during a time when there was a shortage of teachers, Miss Webb had only one year of training under her belt when she took advantage of an opportunity to begin teaching while still a teacher in training. She would go on to complete her college education in the evenings and on weekends in-between planning lessons and grading papers.
“Miss Webb began teaching in the basement of Kingman School in Chester Township, which is now part of the Clinton-Massie School District. She still has that first Kingman grade book — and all the other grade books from her 50-year career teaching third, fourth and fifth grades at Kingman, Smith Place and Denver Place schools.”
With 70 years of classroom experience as of 2015, she may have been the longest-teaching educator in Ohio’s schools, and quite possibly nationwide, Miller wrote.
Peterson retired from teaching in 1993 but continued her career in education by serving as a substitute teacher for area school districts until 2013, when her path in education changed once again when she began volunteering at Denver Place Elementary School.
“Education is my life,” she said two years ago. “It is the only thing I have ever known. I haven’t been out of the classroom since I entered the first grade in 1930.”
“She has influenced the lives of thousands of students over the years, and while I was never a student in her classroom,” said her grandson, local educator Curt Bradshaw, in 2015. “I consider myself blessed to have been a ‘student’ of my grandmother’s teachings — lessons of servant leadership, goodwill towards others, and igniting a spark for lifelong learning in all children.”
For Mrs. Peterson’s obituary, please see Page 2.