Elaine Ledbetter September 20, 1998

When a teacher is nominated for an award, letters of sup-
port are required. I would like to quote excerpts from a
few of the support letters received when I was nominated
for the Manufacturing Chemists Catalyst award in 1977.

From my coauthor on Keys to Chemistry Dr. Jay A. Young:

"Elaine doesn't teach in a classroom with all the
kids sitting there soaking it up. She was the first,
to my knowledge, to recognize that there ought to
be a better, more effective teaching strategy and then
to work out a practical solution... The essence of
Elalne's approach is to center, to focus, instruction
on two aspects of chemical concern: the student as
an individual and the pivotal position of labora-
tory bench work by the student... Her use of
the laboratory involves the relation of the proper-
ties of substances to the matters discussed on the
printed page, to mold the two together into a kind
ofvibrant, exciting, interesting, poetic whole... I
have obsen~ed Elaine doing this at the high school
in Pampa and I know she does it excellently."

From Mario Zoratti, American Field Service Exchange Student
from Italy:

"... it is because of the challenging and fascinating
chemistry that she teaches that I am now a chem-
ist... Mrs. Ledbetter's chemistry was something to
be conquered by a deeply satisfying quest and
thought-provoking discussions, moving on from a
firm basis provided by clear, coordinated lectures..."
"Itwas impossible to be in Mrs. Ledbetter's
class without becoming interested in what she
taught: her evident love for science, her enthusi-
asm, her dedication, sheer ability as a teacher and
her warm and friendly personality could not be re-
sisted... I dropped a planned career in the humani-
ties for one in chemistry and today deeply thank
her for this."

And another from Ray Wagner who is an aerospace engi-

"... Elaine's exciting ability to awaken and encour-
age scientific curiosity is certainly reflected in the
many regional and national Science Fair awards
wonbyherstudents and bythelarge number
who are nowscientists..."

Equally important to her ability to awaken scien-
tific curiosity is  Elaine's great love of teaching.
Her ability to make students question and become
aware of the beauty of the universe through its
physical laws is due in part to her love for her stu-
dents and her personal openness. Her own aware-
ness of that beauty finds expression not only in her
teaching but also In her poetry and photographs...
She sincerely loves her students and can always be
counted on as a valued friend and advisor..."

And one more from Susan Ray, professor of political sci-
ence. This is part of the letter she wrote for my retirement
book of letters:

"..: I do hope many letters arrive - not just from the
students inspired by Mrs. Ledbetter to go on in
chemistry - but from those of us who use the scien-
tific method in other fields or who think more clearly,
work harder, and try longer because of her expec-
tations and good teaching. She's still an inspira-

These remarks are representative of the numerous
support letters that were received when I was nominated
for my various awards. Perhaps these will provide some
insight into the kind of teacher I was and why I have been
the recipient of so many honors.

The Pampa Classroom Teachers Association nominated me
for the 1966 Texas Teacher of the Year in the fall of 1965.
I won the honor and thereby became eligible for the Na-
tional Teacher ofThe Year sponsored by LOOK Magazine.
Mr. William Jeremiah Burke, their representative, spent a
day in the classroom of each of the five finalists. He came
to my school in December and in that short time a bond of
friendship formed between us. He, too, was a poet and we
shared many poems and letters through the years until
his death. One of his poems which he sent for my book of
letters is printed in the section, "Gifts I Treasure".

A first grade teacher from Arizona won the title of National
Teacher and I composed the following poem after the se-
lection was announced.

Prelude To Victory

The prize you sought has been denied.
Long days, besieged by alternating spells
Of hope that placed the laurel wreath upon
your brow,

And moments when the deepest wells
Offaith left doubt unsatisfied,
All these are ended now.

We cannot Icnow what varied threads of chance
Weave thefabric of our destiny,
Nor guess what seeming bitter circumstance
Is prelude to our greatest victory.

... from Enfold the Splendor

Beginning in 1967, the American Chemical Society began
giving an annual award to the individual selected as the
most outstanding high school chemistry teacher in their
District.  These are known as the Conant Awards in honor
of James Bryant Conant who was a past President of
Harvard University. He had been a Professor of Organic
Chemistry there in earlier years. As President he took a
great interest  in  quality  education,  and  it  was
through his recommendations that great improvements
were made in curricula and teaching, especially in sci-

I was nominated by the regional chapter ofACS and was
fortunate to win the first award from the Fifth District. As
a result my husband and I received an all-expense paid
trip to the spring meeting of the Society in Miami Beach,
Florida, where I was presented with a check in the amount
of $1,000.

The Manufacturing Chemists Association gives a Catalyst
award annually to the most outstanding high school chem-
istry teacher in the United States and Canada. Curt Beck.
father of three of my students, nominated me and I was
chosen for the honor in the spring of 1977. Again, Bill and
I received an all-expense paid trip. This time It was to the
famous Greenbrfar resort in White Sulfur Springs, West
Virginia, where I received another $1,000 check.

In the spring of 1969, I was named Pampa's Woman of the
Year by the chapters of Beta Sigma Phi. On the day of the
tea formally recognizing me, my mother, the A.D. Bucks,
and the Jack Klopps all came from Tonkawa. Our cous-
ins, Leonard and lone Sullivan came from Waxahachie,
Texas. Katy Key, a longtime good friend introduced me
with the poem, "This Is Your Day" by Louis Untermeyer.
The high school concert choir sang two of my favorite num-
bers: "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Climb Every Moun-
tain" . The Beta Sigma Phi flower is the yellow rose and I
was presented with an arm full of them which matched
my dress. This was truly a very important day in my book
of remembrance.

Awards come in to many different forms. Some come un-
heralded like the valentine slipped under my door one day
at noon which read: To Mrs. Pb-better (Pb is the chemical
symbol for lead).

Then there are tributes like this acrostic poem com-
posed by one of my top students, Gwen Brunson:

Eternally seeking that goal which
Lingers before you, somehow
Always managing to reach
It.  These traits bring both
New life and fresh, glowing
Encouragement for those who follow.

Lend to us, the fondlings; your
Enthusiasm for life, your
Dedication to people, your
Brilliant, welcoming love. We will
Ever be grateful and hope
That one day in our life
Those goals, though distant and
Elusive now, will finally be
Realized for us as well.


Awards are the mountain peaks that provide inspiration
and instill the desire to give ever more to those I seek to

I mentioned Jeny Burke earlier as being the LOOK repre-
sentative who visited each of the five finalists for the title
of National Teacher of the Year. Sometime after he had
visited in my classroom I had occasion to be in New York
City and Jerry took me to dinner. This poem was written
shortly after that meeting.

Dinner For Two

You took me to dine in an elegant place
Where gourmet food was served with quiet grace.
As you gave me bread to keep my body whole,
The beauty of your character fed my soul.

... from Enfold the Splendor


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