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Wards honored with chair

Retired Farragut High School chemistry teacher Kenneth Ward, 80, remembers his passion as a teacher of no less than 185 students a day; his wife Estelle, also a teacher, shared that same passion for bettering the lives of students.

In honor of the Wards’ 76 years of combined teaching service, Farragut High School has established its first Science Education Chair of Excellence award.

While resting after chiseling ice off the top of three fish ponds at his home built in 1907, Kenneth tells of his life with Estelle and their service to the community through teaching.

He and Estelle met while carpooling from Lenoir City to The University of Tennessee more than 40 years ago. It was there the couple studied education together and their excitement for their future career grew.

They married June 8, 1967, at Estelle’s sister’s home in Glendale. Today, they live in the home Kenneth grew up in off Highway 11 East. The home was built by a Lenoir City founder’s descendant and later bought by Kenneth’s parents.

His study, that was once his childhood bedroom, is home to shelves and shelves of books and a window overlooking the rolling hills of Lenoir City adjacent to his desk.

While at FHS, Kenneth spent many late nights on his typewriter at that desk in his study preparing lessons. He and Estelle created lessons at least one week in advance to prepare for students who were absent.

“Many of my students had a second home on Hilton Head Island,” Kenneth said. “It seemed, come February, everyone began taking their trips.”

Each year he made a New Year’s resolution not to bring his schoolwork home with him.

“There were many good teachers that didn’t have to and I wanted to be one of them.” But, year after year, Ward continued to stay up late preparing lessons. Even staying at the high school until 5:30 p.m. every evening didn’t help. “I never kept my resolution,” he said.

In order to stay up-to-date with technology, Kenneth went back to school while teaching at FHS. He attended Oak Ridge Associated Universities where he was taught by a man who knew Albert Einstein while he was at Princeton University.

Kenneth was told Einstein was brilliant; but lacked common sense so if given a camera to take a photo, he probably would have looked through the wrong end.

Estelle was a first-grade teacher in Bearden, Lenoir City and Farragut, but primarily at Cedar Bluff Elementary at a time when up to four teachers were assigned for a large class of around 180 students in one room called a “pod.”

“I enjoyed the students so much. Some students who were especially bright were given special hands-on attention, such as students who started first grade that knew how to read and write. Amazing,” she said.

Estelle said their years of hard work in the community paid off.

Recently, Estelle fell while walking down steps in her home. She broke her leg.

A former student of both Estelle and Kenneth, orthopedic physician Dr. Paul Becker came to Estelle’s aid.

Estelle said, “He was so nice to come and help.”

She added that because she and Kenneth had both taught Becker, there was a stronger level of trust and respect.

Kenneth said, “I can’t go to a specialist [doctor] without running into one of my former students.”

Many former students continue to stop by and socialize with the Wards.

After retiring at the same time in 1990, the Wards have stayed involved in the community they served for 38 years.

“We do things for other people; I love to cook and entertain,” Estelle said. “Kenneth loves to eat.”

Kenneth said, “That’s right!”

Off a busy and curvy section of Highway 11, the Wards enjoy their retirement in their white and forest-green-trimmed home tucked away atop a hill in Lenoir City.

The couple will be honored at 7 p.m., tonight, Thursday, Jan. 21, at Farragut High School’s PTSO Open House.


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