The Ada News
One teacher ... one community ... thousands of lives. Konawa’s motto is “The Town Where You Can Make a Difference.”
The life of JoAnne Lucas, Konawa’s 2012 Citizen of the Year, proves that one person truly has that capability. Konawa Chamber of Commerce representative, Marion Hatter, recently told the beloved teacher that she would be honored Saturday night, April 14 during Konawa Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
After a few moments of silence, Mrs. Lucas replied, “Oh, I don’t deserve that” — exactly what was expected from one of Konawa’s most respected, yet humble residents. A teacher for 41 years, she is simply known by generations of Konawans as “Mrs. Lucas.” Even those students who are in their 60s and have been out of school for more than 40 years don’t call her by her first name. It is a sign of the respect and love they have for a teacher who has played an important role in the lives of generations of families in the Konawa community.
Lucas began teaching in 1955. Over the years, she taught science, math and kindergarten. However, her primary area of teaching was math.
She and Al, her husband of nearly 55 years, raised two children. Alison Lucas Dancer, M.D., is a psychiatrist and resides in Stillwater with her husband Jack. Dirk earned a pharmacy degree in pharmacology and lives in Birmingham, Ala.
Dirk’s daughter, Taylor, is their granddaughter. Mrs. Lucas beams as she talks about her children’s educational accomplishments. To supplement their income when her children were attending college, attaining advanced degrees, she began tutoring after school each day.
Mrs. Lucas also taught GED classes in Konawa, Seminole, and Wewoka. Since 1983, she has helped 326 students obtain their high school diplomas — many were non-traditional students. June Duck, for example, came to Mrs. Lucas’s classes when she was in her 50s. Duck had decided if she was going to encourage her own children and grandchildren to further their education, she should set an example.
Mrs. Lucas watched Duck walk into her classroom and thought, “June is so smart. She has helped her husband run their business for years. What could I possibly teach her that she doesn’t already know?”
However, the two worked together to reach their goal, and Duck quickly and proudly obtained her GED. Duck has four children and 10 grandchildren, most of whom have also been taught by Mrs. Lucas.
“Mrs. Lucas taught me far more than what comes from a book,” said Duck.
Konawa Schools honored Mrs. Lucas two times as “Teacher of the Year” for her classroom excellence. After her long and successful career, she reluctantly retired from teaching in 2000.
However, 41 years of teaching was not enough. She hasn’t missed a workday since. She immediately jumped back into her GED classes, her sponsorship of Konawa’s Native American Club, assisting with the Johnson O’Malley Program, and continues tutoring students in math almost every day of the week. Generations of students have asked Mrs. Lucas to help them make sense of this sometimes-difficult subject.
“I don’t know how Mrs. Lucas does it, but she explains math so you really understand it,” said Rachael Johnson, former student.
Philip and Jan Mullins were also her students, as were their three daughters. According to Philip, “She always demanded that we learn and not just mess around. I am thankful for that. She has served the community of Konawa greatly.” In fact, attend any wedding, baby shower, or funeral in our small town and you will find Mrs. Lucas sharing our joy or comforting us in our sorrow. She is simply a part of almost every Konawa family.
Mrs. Lucas has beaten cancer twice, once in 1994 and again in 2002. Always health conscious, she has walked every day for 20 years or is it 25? She’s not exactly sure. At first, she walked at 4:30 a.m., but now she “sleeps in” until 5. Today, she and her walking partner of 15 years, June Neal, are down to “only two miles a day.” June’s daughter, Roberta Morgan, now Konawa school’s cafeteria director, is the subject of one of Mrs. Lucas’s stories from her many years in the classroom. Mrs. Lucas taught Morgan in kindergarten, and Morgan simply loved school; however, first grade was a different story. Morgan no longer liked school and tried her best to get out of going. Fortunately, after a few miserable days of first grade, Morgan spotted Mrs. Lucas for the first time that year.
Life suddenly seemed better. The first grader told her mother, “There was Mrs. Lucas…same ol’ smile, and same ol’ dress.” As long as Mrs. Lucas was near, Morgan decided she would try to endure 12 more years of education.
Among the generations of families Mrs. Lucas has taught are Janet Yott and her two daughters. Janet, now a Konawa teacher, said “Mrs. Lucas has always been an inspiration for me. If I can be half the teacher she is, I will feel like I have done something worthwhile, like I have made a difference in some child’s life. I know she has, in many, many lives.”