In her 30-year career as an educator at Southside Elementary School, Dianne Cozart touched hundreds of lives. It is 30 years, she said, she was blessed to have served.
Cozart grew up in the Tuckers Crossroads Community. She graduated from Lebanon High School in 1968 and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1971. She credits her own TXR teachers, Mrs. Woodard Bryan and Mrs. Lois Bates with inspiring her to pursue a career in education.
"I truly loved teaching," she said, noting she taught grades 2nd-8th, with the exception of 4th. "I loved my students, and they knew it."
Cozart retired from teaching in 2002 - but holds her memories of Southside close to her heart.
Cozart said seeing those "got it" moments in the classroom never ceased to be special. The numerous class trips she took her students on were also quite special - and these were not typical field trips.
"I organized and worked with a tour group in Houston, Texas, to do week-long student trips for many years. Our destinations included Washington, D.C., Baltimore or New York City and Philadelphia with many great stops along the way," she remembered. "Teachers and parents were part of these trips, too. I feel like the students had made memories they will never forget, like being part of the Wreath Laying Ceremony at Arlington or attending Broadway plays."
Cozart also kept the classroom exciting with reading, photography and videography.
"My interest in photography and videography led to many opportunities for my students and me. We had our own dark room to develop black and white film. What excitement to see those first pictures develop before our eyes," she said. "We also had the beginning of a student-produced TV program called 'Southside Live.' I had lots of help from Clint Dennison, our assistant principal and Al Ashworth from Custom Color. It is truly amazing how these fields have changed since that time."
Her resume at Southside is endless - coaching the girls' basketball team in the early 70s, coaching softball, participating in the Science Olympiad and Knowledge Bowl, co-sponsoring The Aerospace Cadets for students interested in aviation and more. However, the best thing that came from her long-spanning career was meeting her husband, Cliff Cozart.
"His nephew, Michael Wrye, was in my class and thought we would make a good match because I could throw a football. He talked his mom into asking me if Cliff called, would I go out with him," Cozart said. "He called. I went."
In her spare time nowadays, the Cozarts enjoy watching the Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Braves and playing golf.
She teaches Bible classes at Hearthside Assisted Living and works with the Meals on Wheels Program at Highland Heights Church of Christ.
She is also President of the Wilson County Retired Teachers' Association, which she said keeps her busy.
"It is a job I love, but I couldn't do it without the great support I have from our members. The WCRTA is made up of 100-plus retirees from Wilson County Schools, LSSD schools and private schools," Cozart explained. "We even have a few members who taught in other states, but now call Wilson County home. We work hard to stay informed and updated on our ever-changing education system. I am thankful for the great support we have from our community and local businesses."
Cozart named two special ladies who influenced her life, the first being her grandmother, Ada Purnell Goodall.
Cozart described Goodall as a hard-working farmer's wife and a Christian lady. "I lived with her and my grandfather from the age of 10 until age 28. Mama Goodall was a homemaker and a tremendous cook," she said. "She always set a good example for me, and I wish I had paid more attention, especially about the cooking part. The older I get, the more I appreciate the life she lived before me."
A few years ago, another admirable woman appeared in Cozart's life - Miss Jimmie Vaughan, a resident of Hearthside.
"She was a few days away from her 100th birthday the day I met her. In just a few months, my weekly visits turned into every day visits. We walked, talked, laughed, read and sang together, but the time to which I looked forward was listening to her amazing life stories," she said. "Miss Jimmie was a Southern belle and a Christian lady who became my inspiration and encourager for five years. I am still amazed how much of a difference she made in my life in such a short time. She passed away a few months before her 105th birthday. Knowing her has made me want to be a better person in every aspect of life."