Paula Walker's 32-year career as a Royse City teacher and principal has come to an end, but there's a sound connected to her life in education that will likely never disappear.
The sound? Ex-students -- many times, adults -- calling her name.
"The best sound is when I'm somewhere and I hear, 'Miss Walker,'" she said. "It's an adult voice, and they've got that tone in their voice. When I turn, I know it's going to be a former student.
"Sometimes they have children to show off, but there's that tone in their voice. There's nothing better than that."
Walker said she knows the name of those adult ex-students "about 50 percent of the time."
She will ask for the ex-student's name and the names of several other students in the class. Then, she said, it usually "starts clicking." Most of the time, she will recall the student and class.
Walker, who grew up in the Grayson County town of Howe, taught three years before coming to Royse City -- in Amarillo for two years, then one year at Greenville Middle School.
"I was not happy with education at that time," she said. “I was looking for a smaller school district, hopefully to get back more to my roots of a small town and a smaller school district. That's what I found in Royse City."
Walker taught six years in Royse City before earning a promotion to principal.
Her first job in Royse City was Title I reading teacher, then she moved to teaching third grade at the recently-reopened H.H. Browning Primary School -- formerly the Ralph J. Bunche School. She later moved to Royse City Elementary School, which is now the site of Davis Elementary School.
"I look back and think how small we were," Walker said.
H.H. Browning Primary School -- site of the current Ernest Epps Education Service Center and H.H. Browning Alternative Learning Center -- had been closed, but was reopened to house kindergarten, and first and second grades. Pre-kindergarten and early childhood classes were added later. The building that's now the site of Ruth Cherry Intermediate School was for grades three through high school.
Walker said her 13 years as the Browning principal was the best job she's ever had because it was early childhood-focused.
"It was the best job ever," Walker said. "I had every young child in the school district. I knew everyone. If you had a little one, I knew them. I worked really hard to know kids names, brothers and sisters and the connection there.”
In 1989, Walker said, the school district “really took off growth-wise.” That’s when the pre-kindergarten program was added at Browning.
“We had over 600 children in that building,” she said.
Walker said she “lived through” construction projects at Browning when it was reopened and later was the principal who opened two new elementary schools in the growing community -- Anita Scott Elementary School in 2002 and Miss May Vernon Elementary School in Fate in 2007.
With growth that Walker has seen over the years, "you start to feel the loss of being a part of the bigger community." And that, she said, is "one of the nicest things about moving to Fate.
“Even though the school district has continued to grow, when we first came out here (to Fate), Miss May Vernon was the only new thing, the only big thing in the Fate community. We were so embraced because everyone was so excited to have the first school here since 1948.”
In 1948, she said, schools that didn't have a certain number of students had to consolidate with another school.
"Lots of schools closed in 1948," she said.
Many people who were connected to Fate, including former students of longtime teacher Miss May Vernon, welcomed the school. Congressman Ralph Hall was among the teacher's former students who welcomed the new school to the community.
Regarding changes she has seen over the years, Walker pointed to growth in the school district and state mandates.
“The mandates from the state seem as if they are a moving target,” Walker said. “We do well as a school, then they change the tests, they change the objectives. That’s OK, but it’s just a moving target at all times.”
Even though Royse City has grown and continues to grow, the school district continues to have support.
“I think as Royse City has grown, we still have incredible support from our school system,” she said.
Plans for her future include travel, doing some volunteer work and enjoying her hobby of quilting. She’s even planning a trip to Oregon to attend a huge outdoor quilt show.