Teaching is a calling deserving of the highest honor and praise. Should you question this statement, step into a classroom and teach for a day. -Vicki Vaughn
There is no gift to adequately express gratitude for the value of a CCA teacher. CCA teachers deeply care about their students. They desire not only to prepare them academically but to shape hearts to prepare them to live godly lives beyond high school. This kind of teaching is costly. It requires much of a teacher. Yet, they don’t often see the fruit of their sacrifice. Kathi McCord was just this kind of teacher. She faithfully showed up to invest in the hearts of CCA students for 37 years. Not many individuals can say they were faithful to a calling for this long. And after retirement, Kathi continues to serve CCA as a substitute teacher. She is an excellent example of the quality of teachers we have at CCA. I hope you enjoy learning more about Kathi’s story through this interview.
Why did you choose education as a career?
I grew up in Arlington, Texas, the oldest of three children. On the first day of first grade, I came home and told my parents that I was going to be a teacher, a person who would help students love learning, just as I did. My parents were very supportive and promptly bought me a chalkboard which I used to teach my stuffed animals everything I had been taught that day in school. Through the ministry of my fifth-grade teacher, I became a Christian at age 10. At Arlington High School, I was the vice president of our Future Teachers of America chapter. My parents chose the college I would attend (since I refused to go to UTA, which was about a mile from our home), and I received a B.A. in Spanish and History with an undeclared minor in English from what is now Texas A&M, Commerce. In 2002, I attended the Dallas Summer Institute of Humanities and Culture with several of my colleagues, and I continued my study at the University of Dallas, earning a Master’s Degree in American Studies.
How were you called to be a teacher at CCA?
As members of Colleyville Presbyterian Church, we heard Dale Smith’s preaching about the necessity of a Christian school and his desire that our church should start such a school. I always thought I would teach at this school at some point. That day came sooner than expected, and when Anne Smith offered to keep my baby daughter, I began teaching first grade in 1983—with my secondary education degree! Without the patient tutelage of our school administrator, Helen Shepherd, and my good friend Jeanne Patterson (K-4 teacher), I doubt I would have survived that first year. I loved all four years that I taught those sweet children, but I was ready to move up when we added junior high grades.
There was a period of time when CCA underwent difficult times both financially and in interpersonal relationships. It was a time when I wasn’t sure if I was where God wanted me to be. I interviewed at Trinity Christian in Addison, but all the way home from the interview, I kept crying and thinking, “What if I leave and something wonderful happens?” When they offered me the job, I declined it, and SO MANY wonderful things have happened since then!
What is your favorite CCA memory?
This one is funny now but not so much when it happened. I took 8th graders on a trip one year to Bandera, Texas. Deena Williams, the choir teacher, and her husband, Greg, went as chaperones, and Greg drove the 15-passenger van that conveyed the whole class. One of our activities was tubing in the Medina River. The guide had told us to be careful if we saw logs lying across the river because the current would be treacherous. Deena stayed behind with a student who didn’t want to go, and Greg and I bravely led the group. Sure enough, as we tubed down the river, there was a log across it. I was yelling for everyone to get out with their tubes to walk around the log, but I failed to notice how close to it I was. Sure enough, the current caught me and sucked me under the log—tube and all! One of my tennis shoes fell off, and I was trying to rescue it. When I surfaced, all of the students were lined up on the bank like chickens on a roost, with the saddest faces I had ever seen. One of them said, “Mrs. McCord, we thought you were dead!” I thanked them for their concern and assured them I was fine. I am quite sure that God had his angels around me that day!
Regarding the history of the school, my favorite memory is the opening of Redeemer in 2000, just in time for that senior class to graduate in the new building. It was an event long prayed for and eagerly anticipated.
What is your favorite CCA tradition?
Graduation! I love all the events surrounding graduation, and I’ve always been so proud to hear our Valedictorian and Salutatorian speeches. I love our tradition of teachers having input in the selection of the student receiving the Dale Lansing Smith Award, a most prestigious honor.
What is your favorite book?
The Bible is, of course, “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Understanding truth, goodness, and beauty is impossible apart from a knowledge of God’s character.
About two years ago, I read Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. The author’s beautiful prose, sentence structure, and description at times made me put the book down and simply think about what he had written. “It is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships, that not only support a good life but create one.” Read it. You won’t be sorry.
What was your favorite book to teach?
This was a common question every year from my students. I think Frankenstein edges out The Great Gatsby by a very small margin. Let’s meet for coffee, though, and discuss the merits of both.
During your time at CCA, what were things parents did to make you feel appreciated?
There are so many things that parents and students have done to show appreciation to me throughout the years! I am less of a gift person and more of a note person. I think I have every note written to me during all the years I taught! Beth Saladino knew that fact about me and prepared the most precious book of notes from alumni when I retired. It sits in a place of honor on my bookshelf!
The Christmas Bonus was always a blessing!
What is keeping you busy in retirement?
Someone the other day asked why I enjoy retirement so much. My answer is that I can do what I want when I want. I’ve been able to travel quite a bit and go to various cultural events in this area that I didn’t have time for before I retired. I also read more and have more time to do things with friends, as well as go on field trips with my grandson’s class. I also enjoy substitute teaching and being in the classroom with our precious students! (It was hard to give up that part of my career.) It’s the good life!
We are so thankful for Kathi’s service to our school. And grateful she is still around and investing in our community. Teacher appreciation meant so much to her over the years that she now serves on the Faculty and Staff Appreciation Committee. As we enter the Christmas season, we ask that you prayerfully consider giving to the Christmas Bonus Fund to bless the many faculty and staff, like Kathi, who make CCA a great place to raise children. The gifts/things we often give are lovely and appreciated, but think about how each of our budgets we spend on “things” can become more significant when combined…every little bit helps. The donations collected during the Christmas Bonus Fundraiser will cover both the Bonus and our Spring Appreciation event – One Ask, Two Blessings.