“I’ve been in about every school in Gordon County,” she said.
Porch, 95, says her teaching career began long before she ever graduated from high school.
“I began giving instructions in the seventh grade,” Porch said.
But her true teaching career began in 1944 when she was asked to build one of Gordon County’s first African American schools.
“I had been tending to the mamas and the babies, and when I came home one day three people from Sonoraville, Ga., asked me to organize a school,” she said.
That is when she began life as a schoolteacher. She started the school in the Tabernacle Baptist Church and eventually raised enough money to build a block schoolhouse.
“I taught seven grades in that school. I taught every subject,” Porch said. “I taught the three R’s as they used to say, reading, writing and arithmetic. I taught agriculture and Bible too.”
Porch said her focus as a teacher was to shape students to be people of strong moral character.
“Back then we didn’t teach to make money, we taught to build strong citizens,” she said. “We would teach by precept and example. A person couldn’t just say what a child should do; they had to live it.”
Eventually Porch and her students were brought to Calhoun and put in the school gym.
“It was hard on us: the teacher and the students,” she said. “It was cold and loud, and we had to shout so the students could hear and the students had to shout to be heard. Some people weren’t very good to us, they would come into our classrooms and take what they wanted. They took the students’ trophies.”
But despite the adversity and segregation during the 1950s and 1960s, Porch persevered and taught her students what they needed to succeed.
She taught the students how to cook and sew and do carpentry.
And she taught them to pursue their goals through her own example. She said was one of the first black women to attend Shorter College.
“I would come back from class and there were people sitting on my bed, waiting for me to help them with their lessons,” she said.
Porch’s teaching career continued in one capacity or another for over 60 years. Her last year volunteering at local school systems was 2009.
“I substituted, and I would read to the students and listen to the students read to me,” she said.
Porch says she still gets hugs from her students.
“I still see a lot of them,” she said.
Porch has seen a lot of things change since she began teaching more than 60 years ago.
“We didn’t have all of the things teachers today to help,” she said. “We just figured out how to do what we needed.”
Porch also said when she was teaching, even though the days during the Civil Rights Movement were tough, students had respect for her.
“Children respected any grown person. They knew how to talk to adults with respect. And parents cooperated with teachers. We need to get back to that,” she said. “Also, a lot of children have no responsibilities. I believe you are not prepared to get grown with no responsibilities.”
She has built more than just a teaching legacy; she has also doled out valuable advice to others, telling everyone to smile.
“I can’t help anyone with a frown, but I can teach them with a smile,” she said.