Ms G's Bulletin Board  Ms. G's Story by Minnie Payne

Ms G's Bulletin Board

Many of us have similar stories to tell about a teacher who had a huge impact on our lives. It’s worth telling again!

The story begins and ends at Houston Heights High School (formerly Houston Heights Charter) where a terrified Stacey Gordon (Ms. G) was on her way to teach high school English at the tender age of 44. She had thought long and hard about a way to fulfill her lifelong dream of helping underprivileged kids. Originally, it was Child Protective Services (CPS) that wanted her, but not yet having a master’s degree was a drawback. With no prior teaching experience, it would be an uphill climb just to find a job, much less one that would fulfill her dreams and wishes.

She was helped and counseled in her initial job search by friends she made while working her way through school at University of Houston Downtown (UHD). At 10 Downing Street, a venerable cigar bar off Kirby where she worked and a popular spot for many local business people and politicians. With her likeable personality, it was only a short time before she made many dear/loving friends. One whom she met was none other than State Senator John Whitmire who wrote for her a tremendous letter of recommendation that would make any future employer take a second look. With resume in tow, her first and only interview with Principal Joe Zapata quickly moved the discussion to their favorite team, the Houston Astros. It was 10 years ago that Houston Heights was looking for a certain kind of teacher who could relate to their kids by taking on the challenge of teaching senior English. Ms. G became that and more. A friend and confidant to many students, she became an important part to hundreds as evidenced by the outpouring number of visitors who came to see her and prayed that she would get well so that she could return this fall. The stories were many, but three stood out. Paul, a soft spoken handsome kid who spoke with tears running down his cheeks as he held Ms. G’s hand and told about how she would come to his house and pick him up if he “no showed” at school. “She would even pull my brother, who wasn’t even a student, into the car. Paul is now on his way to California to pursue his dream as an engineer in the music business.” he said. Many former students came multiple times from far away. One weekend, there were 35-40 kids in her room. One student reminisced if she “remembered renting me a Cadillac for prom.” Even more evident of a teacher’s influence is the story of one beautiful sweet girl who was going to have Ms. G this fall for her senior year who showed up to pray.

As a late bloomer, who left home at a very early age, Ms. G related to many students and wanted them to avoid her fate. Her fear and anxiety about teaching  was soon replaced with what would become a steady growth in her ability to reach children through various means, but mostly by caring and telling them simply that ”I love you.”  She also had flattering nicknames for many of her students, such as Princess Di and My Seraphim. She also allowed students to post pictures on her huge bulletin board.
Having understood the many horror stories surrounding abused and neglected children, she always wanted to work for CPS. Upon graduation from UHD, it was fate that there was an opening at the small but far-reaching confines deep in the heart of the Heights. Houston Heights High School was chartered nearly 20 years ago and was a pioneer in accepting and trying to help at-risk and kids looking for something unlike other over-crowded high schools in Houston. They will host her Celebration of Life on a Saturday in October.

Ten years later, hundreds of kids, many well on their way to happy/ productive lives, came to visit Ms. G. Many students drove many miles multiple times to pray in hopes that Ms. G would return to teach this fall. The vicious pancreatic cancer killer took her far too early. By any account, her legacy will endure and she will not soon be forgotten.

Her lifelong dream was to help kids and she followed her heart to Houston Heights where her impact will be felt for many, many years.
Ms. G’s story is one that will hopefully inspire new and seasoned teachers, administrators, and government to realize the value of education to society.
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