‘I will never get bored, I assure you’: Two Indianola Academy instructors retire after decades at school

By BY RECARDO THOMAS STAFF REPORTER,

With a combined total of over 80 years of experience educating young minds, two of Indianola Academy’s teachers are moving on to the next level…retirement.

Lynn Delas and Debbie Woodruff are names that ring out synonymously with a long line of dedicated educators, and the students at IA have been truly blessed by their presence.

Delas said there was not much of a question about which direction her life path was going to take.

“Most of the women in my family were in education, my grandmother, my aunt, my mother. So, I’m from a family of educators,” she said.

Now after more than a half century of experience in the classroom, there is no doubt she made the right decision.

“When I came along, women had three choices, nurses, secretaries or teachers, and I chose teaching,” said Delas.

The Gunnison native moved to Indianola in 1960 and began her teaching career at the former Indianola High School in 1961 after attending Millsaps College and later earning her bachelor’s degree in English from Delta State University.

She later acquired her master’s degree from DSU.

Her tenure at Indianola Academy began in the fall of 1969 after taking a four-year hiatus to start her family.

“And I have loved it and been here ever since,” she said.

The mother of two and the grandmother of seven said, “I taught both of my children and all seven of my grandchildren.”

“I love teaching, I love students,” she said.

Many of her former pupils have gone on to do impressive things in the business and medical fields, locally and nationally while others have obtained high-ranking military status. No matter the degree of accomplishment, Delas said she is equally proud of them all.

What has inspired and kept her motivated all of these years?

“Some of them are kind enough to come back and say thank you. That’s an encouragement,” she said.

Delas said her husband, Ed is and always has been a great supporter and a positive encourager also. One of the things they delight in is attending school functions together.

“We’ve enjoyed following our students. That’s another one of the rewards,” she said.

Her success in the classroom was no fluke; Delas credits her former colleague Rebecca Shuttleworth, who was head of the English Department at that time, with helping her develop a strong foundation in teaching.

In looking back at her multi-decades of molding young minds, Delas expressed, “If I could say one thing, I would say I’ve been blessed. I just like it.” However, she did note one drawback, “I don’t like grading term papers though. That‘s the one thing I’ll be glad to not have to do,” she said with a chuckle.

So, what advice would she offer new or young teachers?

“Over plan each period and love your students and be positive toward them,” she said.

Although Ed is only semi-retired, Delas said she would like to get some travelling in now that she is no longer in the classroom. She specified returning to England and taking a European cruise, down the Rhine River.

Her downtime will also include a good amount of reading, attending Bible study and working around the First Presbyterian Church, in addition to visiting with daughters Mary Jordan Cowart and Darby Moor who both live and work in Indianola.

If you were to call the roll for Delas’ classes down through the years, one of the names that would appear on the long list of former students who have benefitted from Delas’ instructional excellence is fellow retiree, Debbie Woodruff.

“And she was an excellent student,” Delas said.

And not only did Delas teach Woodruff, who also happens to be her niece, but she also taught all of Woodruff’s siblings and cousins.

Woodruff said she feels as if she has been a part of IA since its inception.

The school opened in 1965, and she started school there in 1966 as a sixth grader, when classes were held in churches. She noted that the current facility was not erected until 1968.

Woodruff completed her course work at IA in 1973 with one of the school’s largest graduating classes and continued her education at Ole Miss where she acquired a degree in business education.

That earned certification afforded her the opportunity to work in either an office environment or teach business courses in a learning space.

She worked for 12 years in vocations that did not involve teaching including two years at the Sunflower County Courthouse and 10 years at the Sunflower County Farm Service Agency office, before yielding to the call of the classroom.

Her position at the Ag office was her primary contacts with computers.

“Our CPU was the size of a washer and dryer put together, it was huge,” she said.

It was not until 1991, when an opening for a computer application instructor became available that Woodruff returned to IA as a teacher. She recalls how the typing skills acquired as a business education major came in handy because her user interface then was a black screen with a C-prompt.

During her 19 full-time years in the classroom, Woodruff also provided instructions in accounting and business management and spent 20 years as a student-council sponsor.

Although she has always had a love for teaching, there was one other thing that initially attracted her to the position at IA.

“I wanted to be where my children were, be in a school environment and have the same holidays my children had growing up,” she said.

Woodruff’s experiences at IA reached beyond the classroom into the administrative area because during her tenure at the school she has also served as IA’s business manager.

Even in that position, a role Woodruff has held for the past 12 years, she was still teaching an accounting class and she is swift to establish the need for all such classes as part of the curriculum.

“I think business classes are very important because you’ve got to have business skills to even survive in an everyday world,” she said.

Even though Woodruff is about to officially enroll in the retirement class, she will not have a problem keeping busy.

“I love to work in my yard, I’ve got lots of flower beds, “ she said. In addition, she participates in multiple bridge clubs and a sewing club. “I knit and sew a lot,” Woodruff added.

She is an avid sports fan.

“I plan on spending a lot of my time in Oxford watching Ole Miss sports and traveling,” she said.

And not only is she a fan of sports, she is also a participant.

“I’ve been playing tennis since I was 8-years-old.”

And if that doesn’t sound like enough, she plans to spend more time down on the farm with her husband, Larry, as well as visit back and forth between her sons Matthew and Richard in Madison and Memphis.

Plus, “I have a wonderful new grandson,” she beamed.

Woodruff said she will also be devoting her time to reading, working in First Baptist Church and Bible study.

“I’ve always got a project going on. I will never get bored, I assure you.”

Like Delas, Woodruff also praises the institution that they chose as the place to share their acquired skills.

“IA is a great school, it is a well respected school all over the state and it will continue to be a great school. I have enjoyed my time out here both as a student and as a member of the faculty,” Woodruff said.

She added, “My children were well educated here and I am proud of the education we offer at this school.”

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