Longtime educator Bonnie Fakes retired from the Wilson County School System this year, having spent 41 years of her 48-year-career at Lebanon High School.
Fakes, who was the only LHS teacher to retire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year, told The Wilson Post on Monday that she believes herself to be the longest serving teacher in Blue Devil history. In that 41 years she has taught English I, II, III and IV; Creative Writing, World Literature, Occupational English and Study Skills – and has seen many world-changing events.
Fakes, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, was a finalist from Tennessee for the Teacher in Space Project in 1985 that culminated in the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion in 1986.
“I made it to the top 20 finalists and I was so disappointed I didn’t get to go in the shuttle,” she said of her initial reaction before the explosion. However, after the explosion, Fakes used the life-experience as a lesson to students.
“I didn’t get my heart’s desire and that was the best thing for me,” she said. “I use that to teach them a lesson about not always getting what they want.”
Prior to working at LHS, Fakes completed additional graduate work at Peabody, Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech in addition to undergraduate work at Lipscomb University. She began teaching in 1965 at David Lipscomb Junior High School. She worked in the Cumberland University Admissions Office from 1967-1973.
She was hired to teach English at LHS by Supervisor of Secondary Education Sue Young in 1973.
Although retirement will be a far stretch from waking up before 5 a.m. and creating a lesson plan daily, Fakes said she will stay busy with family, farm work and hobbies.
“It is going to be a different routine, but I am taking a leap of faith. I said I would be 30 years and out. Teaching is a tough job, but it is never boring,” she said. “The reason I retired is not because I was tired of teaching, but because my husband needs me more than Lebanon High School does right now.”
Fakes’ husband, Ray, retired Director of Purchasing at Wynn’s Precision Rubber, has Parkinson’s disease. Together they have five grown children, Travis, Laura, Paul, Matthew and Bonnie Beth.
As a retirement gift to herself, Fakes purchased a new iMac and is taking classes in Cool Springs to learn more about operating Apple products. She is also part owner of DeHoff Christian Bookstore in Murfreesboro.
Fakes was the 2008 Horace Mann Lincoln Fellow from Tennessee, and is author of two books, The Teacher in Space Cookbook and The District Governor in Action, about her father’s year as a Rotary District Governor. Her future plans include writing additional books and music.
At her retirement reception on the last day of school at LHS, Principal Myra Sloan emotionally said the walls would probably fall down without Fakes’ presence.
Although the walls are still standing, students entering LHS for the 2014-2015 school year probably won’t hear Fakes’ trademark phrases, “lower it to a roar” or “think of it as an adventure” – but they will undoubtedly hear about her leadership and how she influenced generations of Blue Devils.
“I don’t think I could have done anything else that would have made more of a difference.”
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.