Veda Sprouse (’45) is the epitome of the old-fashioned English teacher. With her North Greenville College students, she holds out for excellence which she perceives as the only acceptable standard. Students write and re-write her papers.
As one said last year, “I re-wrote that thing six times and only got a C-.” But he was proud of that essay and of the C-, only because it came from Mrs. Sprouse.
The top senior honor student at NGC graduated this May with a four-year history of all A’s and one B. He explained it thus: “I had Mrs. Sprouse.”
When Alumnus Rear Admiral Mike McConnell, who became a national figure as commander of the Navy briefing announcements during the Persian Gulf crisis, spoke at North Greenville’s graduation, he traced his career in Vietnam and in South American and Middle Eastern danger spots. Then, he paused and said, “However, I was well prepared. None of these were as hard as passing Mrs. Sprouse’s freshman English class.”
I haven’t been at the college very long, but whenever I meet any North Greenville graduates, they ask me about Mrs. Sprouse. And then they tell me their own story of survival. It’s like a red badge of courage.
Mrs. Sprouse is the one tough teacher whom we used to dread in school and then were so glad that we had. We realized immediately following the course that she was the best. However, Mr. Sprouse’s students seem to have a certain espirit decorps, almost elitism, even as they go through her course. They do love her, and I think it’s because she personally likes them also and cares about their progress, and is willing to work as hard herself as she asks them to work.
She is friendly, sweet, warm, caring, and personally involved with the students. It’s just that there’s another side to both the angelic face and soft, soft voice. Mrs. Sprouse is a tiger when turned loose around a set of English papers.
- She demands that papers be written and re-written.
- She has 10 major errors for which she looks, and when once occurs, the paper is unsatisfactory. Period.
- She marks the papers in red ink. Some English authorities frown on using red ink now saying that a marked-up paper discourages students. Not Mrs. Sprouse. If papers are wrong, she wants them to bleed.
- She has mandatory conferences in her office to go over papers, one-on-one with students.
- Her class is as still as a cathedral. Students are right on task, following instructions and following every word. Any they are interested. Their college lives depend on it.
It’s generally accepted that writing abilities, and certainly score results, are dropping in American schools. That would not be so if there were more teachers such as this great lady around. She’s truly a golden apple.
This is a nomination submitted by Dr. Dee Bielecki, fellow professor at NGC, for the WYFF-TV4’s Golden Apple Award.