Column: Teaching the Next Generation

Published 2:57 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist

Education in Chilton County has a long-recorded history that is as old as the towns’ establishments. For decades, one family has ties to being part of the education system, particularly in Jemison. Third grade teacher Alex Cobb Ellison has taught at Jemison Elementary for 13 years, but her family history in Chilton education goes back much further.

Ellison’s grandmother Connie Isbell taught Jemison Pre-K. Her mother, Diane Calloway, also taught English and was in administration at Jemison High School. She currently serves on the Chilton County Board of Education. Both Ellison and her mother were inspired to become teachers by knowing “Nana” Isbell.

“She loved children,” said Ellison. “I would help her in the summer and afterschool.  She showed them letters and numbers and was all about helping them. I enjoyed seeing that, and the difference she made. I would come home and sit my dolls up and pretend to teach them. It inspired me to become a teacher.”

On Ellison’s paternal side of the family notable Chilton educators are Alton Cobb and Dennis Cobb. Alton taught mathematics at Jemison High School and later served as principal from 1966-1979. Jemison’s gymnasium is named after him. Dennis Cobb coached and taught Driver’s Education, followed by serving as principal of Clanton Intermediate School. Both retired with the Chilton County Board of Education.

Although many things in education are constant, Cobb and Calloway both agree that education has evolved and is much better today.

“I am grateful for the federal money that allows us to offer children better technology,” Calloway said. “Every child was able to have a Chromebook that they used as a tool along with the teacher. Technology has allowed teachers to continue teaching during COVID. Even when we have been out of school, we can still supply instructions during e-learning days.”

“Grants also provide students with breakfast, lunch and a snack (a provision that was not always available to students and is essential for a good learning environment),” said Ellison. “Jemison is bigger now than it has ever been, with more people. Classes are larger. There is more opportunity to learn. Alton Cobb who taught at Mineral Springs Community School earlier in his career did not have the same educational resources as we do now.”

Ellison’s husband Scott is also an educator of 18 years and serves as assistant principal at Jemison Middle School. Scott’s grandmother, Dot, owned Ms. Dot’s Kindergarten in Jemison. Scott’s mother and aunt, Donna Ellison and Tammie McGriff, also both retired from the Chilton County Board of Education.

“I am thankful God called me into the teaching profession,” said Alex. “Children need to feel loved and have a safe constant. They also need to know they are still loved if they mess up. You want children to be the best they can be. One of the greatest blessings about teaching is watching my third graders grow into young adults. I receive joy when I see them as adults tell me I made a difference in their life.”

Alex and Scott are the parents of two children, Dylan, age 11 and Alivia, age 7.

“We wonder from time to time if they will be called into education as a career,” said Alex. “I see Alivia line her dolls up to teach them the same way I did, but I also see her playing doctor at times too.”