Dodge City former teacher selected to be inducted into the Class of 2014 Teacher's Hall of Fame
As a young adult, Esther Abbey found herself working for her father's business as a secretary, a position that lasted 13 years, until one day she knew she wanted to do more. Through the encouragement of her younger sister, who was a teacher at the time, Abbey went in pursuit of a teaching license and took her first steps on the road to becoming the well-known "Mrs. Abbey." Abbey was 30 years old when she decided to go back to school. She waited for Dodge City's St. Mary of the Plains College to become accredited and as soon as it did, she enrolled. The year was 1968 when she first placed foot in a classroom as a world history teacher to seventh grade students. Throughout her teaching career, Abbey taught seventh grade social studies, Kansas history, art and eighth grade American history. Abbey, a Dodge City native, went on to teach with creative methods she adapted to 'keep students interested' for 30 years, putting down the chalk for good in 1998. Sixteen years later, Abbey received a phone call from a former student and now Minneola teacher Deanna Johnston — who says Mrs. Abbey inspires her teaching career everyday — informing her she had nominated her for the Class of 2014 Kansas Teacher's Hall of Fame. Abbey said she found out she had been selected last week. "That was fun," she said. "I right away called my daughter in Tulsa to tell her." For Johnston, nominating another teacher was never a question. Having had her as a teacher in 1977, she said, "Mrs. Abbey made every student feel special and made learning fun — if anyone deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, it's her." Johnston recalls her classroom days with her former history teacher, saying Mrs. Abbey always did "neat things." For example, when the students were studying ancient Rome, Mrs. Abbey wrote a play to help them learn. When they were studying economics, each class became its own country. "She even made me a dress," Johnston said. "I was attending an [event] and had no luck finding a dress; she told me if I found a pattern I liked, she would make it for me." Johnston said she wore that same dress to her first teaching position for good luck. "Most everyone I know that had her for a teacher say 'she was our favorite teacher'," Johnston said. "When I put it on my facebook that I was in need of letters of recommendation for her nomination, I received a lot of them." One particular student wrote that while in Mrs. Abbey's class, she dressed differently, "I was different", the student wrote but "she treated me as good as everyone else." Abbey said that was her philosophy — to always encourage each student to become the very best person they could possibly be. "I made it a point to treat each student fairly, to reach each one on an individual basis," she said. "I enjoyed all 30 years." Abbey said, adding that for her, the most rewarding part has been getting hugs from students and hearing them say, "I enjoyed your class." Abbey will officially be inducted on Saturday, June 7, and says for her, the real recipient of this award is her sister, who was an incredible teacher and played a huge role in inspiring her career.