If you were an elementary school student or parent in Rockdale during the 1970s you probably heard of the wonderful teaching duo of Claude and Margaret Bostic.
For ten years, the Bostics taught fifth grade at Flat Shoals Elementary across the hall from each other, with Margaret taking on reading and language arts and Claude teaching math and science.
Margaret Bostic passed away in 2007. Claude Bostic is still in Rockdale and still actively teaching Sunday School at his church, Rockdale Baptist, and attending Rockdale Retired Educators Association meetings.
“It was a nice experience for both of us,” said Claude Bostic, of their time at Flat Shoals Elementary. “We’re certainly glad that we did it… They were nice children. Most of them wanted to learn. You’d find one or two who didn’t care. But overall, it was a good situation.”
But teaching at the same school was nothing new for the Bostics, who already had 71 years combined experience teaching in West Virginia by the time they moved to Rockdale County in 1972.
Most of that had been in the same schools, with Claude as a principal and teacher and Margaret as a teacher.
The two met in Concord University, a teacher’s college, where Bostic was attending on a work program. Margaret graduated ahead of him with her associate’s degree but returned in the summers to further her education, which was when she and Claude came to know one another. However, life intervened, and the two went their separate ways until they met again by accident at the county fair.
Much of Bostic’s early career was spent in one-room schools in the snowy hills of West Virginia, where he was born and raised.
Teaching eight grades in one room was not a bad way for students to learn, he said. “It was pretty interesting. You’d have students in all grades. We usually had what we called an oral recitation. I’d work with one grade and then another grade. When I was working with one grade, these other grades would listen in. They younger ones would listen in to the older ones and pick up things. It was a good situation, really.”
Weather played a big part in the school cycle. He recalled one snowy adventure early in his career, when he had been made principal of a two-room school in Glace, WV, that had one other teacher; Bostic also served as the bus driver. During the winters, when travel grew difficult, he would board in the home of a local family who lived near the school and go home for the weekends.
One week, the snows were so bad, school closed for the week and he was stuck in the host family’s home. Finally on Friday, knowing that his parents didn’t have phone service and would begin to worry, Bostic struck out for home in Union County.
“I had no trouble getting a ride, hitchhiking.” He was eventually told he could hitch a ride on the snowplow heading towards his home, until the snowplow broke down.
“Well that left me to walk, six miles in the snow, where the road hadn’t been open. The only thing in the road was horse tracks. The snow was knee deep. There I was, nothing else to do but walk six miles to my home, after night. I’m pretty sure it was a moonlit night… I finally managed to get home about 2 a.m. in the morning.”
After raising their children in Peterstown, WV, they moved to Georgia since Margaret’s brother lived in Decatur and heard about a new elementary school opening up on Flat Shoals Road.
L.C. Palmer was principal of the new school when Bostic walked in. Palmer recalled that he knew a good thing when he saw it. After learning Bostic’s background and that his wife also taught, Palmer moved quickly to secure them.
Even though the times might have changed, some of the fundamentals of teaching stay the same. When asked what makes for a good teacher, Bostic listed knowledge of subject matter, discipline and a “good disposition.”
“You have to have their attention. You can’t teach if something else is going on. You might call that discipline. I’m a firm believer of discipline in the classroom. Behavior. Good behavior. Paying attention. Listening to what the teacher’s saying. And (he or she) has to have a good disposition. Get along with the children. Have the children like what you’re doing and like you and have respect for you. I was fortunate in all my years to have that.”
Even today, scores of former students remember the husband and wife fifth grade teachers at Flat Shoals Elementary who patiently taught generations of youth.
One of those students was Melissa Conatster. “I am one of the fortunate people to have had this amazing couple as my teachers,” she wrote. “I truly can not name all of my teachers throughout my years in School, however, these two I have never forgotten. I am 43 now, but those days truly seem like yesterday.”
Bostic, ever the educator, still teaches to this day for the Sunday School class at Rockdale Baptist. His former boss and now friend, LC Palmer, often provides the transportation to make sure Bostic will be able to get to the families and friends that are part of his life.
Bostic also spends time at his boyhood home in West Virginia, a log cabin he spent years renovating and expanding with his family.