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'I always wanted to be a teacher'; Indiana teacher celebrates 50th first day of 1st grade

"My oldest from the first class I had, is 56 years old! I said, they're going to retire before me!"

CLARKSVILLE, Ind — It's a cliché because it's true. If you love your job, you won't work a day in your life. That's what Mary Pickerrell said, anyways.

The Clarksville native is celebrating a huge milestone this year at her dream job. She's taught thousands of students at the very school she attended as a kid. And this year, just like so many students across Kentuckiana, she marked the occasion with a Facebook post. 

It's what caught WHAS11's attention last week, with a back-to-school photo, of Pickerrell standing on her porch. The sign read "Mary's 50th first day of First Grade." Her husband Greg posted the photos and a stream of comments from past students followed. 

One woman wrote, Taught me and my girl. There are a lot of lucky kids to have been blessed by her talents! 

50 Years of teaching Bears. Have a great year Mary.

Posted by Greg Pickerrell on Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"I'm just like an energizer bunny," Pickerrell said.

Now, she's a mother of six, but as a young girl, she grew up just down the street from St. Anthony Catholic School in Clarksville. You could call it her second home, spending countless hours with her then-teachers, 'sisters' as they used to be.

"I graduated from this school. I came here in the first grade because kindergarten hadn't been invented yet," Pickerrell said.

Even as a student, she just couldn't get enough of the classroom setting.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and I just love the little ones," she said.

So she never left. She started her career as a first-grade teacher at St. Anthony 50 years ago. That's five decades of lesson planning, books and bulletin board decorations.

"I've been out of room for years," she smiled. "It's all junk, but it's my treasures."

Her most treasured memories are with the thousands of kids who've crossed her path.

"My oldest from the first class I had, is 56 years old! I said, they're going to retire before me! Because I have no intention to retire as long as I stay healthy, and God has blessed me with health. I take a calcium pill every day, that's it," Pickerrell said. When asked about retirement, she said that's what summers are for. 

A lot has changed since she began teaching. Back then, her walls were covered in blackboards.

"Only blackboards and chalk, and they had to go outside every day and beat the erasers together to clean them. Now, they have Chrome books. I never thought I'd see that day. We had whiteboards, then smart boards, and then these wonderful things, whatever they're called," she laughed. "And I had to learn all this stuff because it's hard for me. Because I like chalk and erasers!"

The field of education, of course, has its ups and downs, but Pickerrell chooses to focus on the joys of the job. Her favorite subjects are religion and reading.

Standing in front of the class, she tells all 21 kids, "if you learned something, it's a good day."

"I just love it that much, that it's in my heart and I could just hug them to death," Pickerrell said. 

As her students filed out of the room and headed for home, each one received a hug and an "I love you."

"They're all lovable and I've never met a child I don't love," she said.

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