'Perquimans County is a home, it's a family'

Four generations of teachers from the same family have taught in Perquimans Schools since way back when. Perquimans Central 1st grade teacher Samantha Jordan (left), Margo Owens (center, now retired after 34 years, but still volunteering) and Susan Jordan (right, also a longtime 1st grade teacher) are busy teaching these students how to read early Tuesday morning. Owens’ father, Ike Perry, was a coach/teacher and principal back in the 50s/60s too.

In recent weeks, I’ve been searching for the “soul” of Hertford and Perquimans County.

As editor, I want to know what makes the people special, maybe different from the folks living in other places across northeastern North Carolina.

Though I’m familiar with Perquimans County, I’m still a newcomer. Not going to deny that one ongoing story – you know the one – has in some way distorted my view, particularly after reading some of the comments posted to social media.

Hate that, so I sought to change this misguided perception, maybe write positive stories that emphasize what’s good about folks here, the best of what people have to offer.

Perhaps God has been listening because I got a note from Superintendent Tanya Turner about a family with four generations of teachers who have taught in the school system.

Trusting Turner’s judgment, I reached out to Susan Jordan, a first-grade teacher at Perquimans Central. Her daughter, Samantha, started teaching at Central after graduating last Friday from East Carolina University with a degree in elementary education. Susan’s mother, Margo Owens, taught for 34 years before retiring from Central in 2011. Owens’ father, Ike Perry, was a teacher, coach and principal at the high school back in ‘50s and ‘60s.

These folks are life blood of Perquimans County – perfect ambassadors to show me the “soul” of the people I want to know more about as editor.

This family of educators, who live three blocks apart from each other in Hertford, have a warmth to them about each other and about their home.

“Perquimans County is a home, it’s a family,” Susan Jordan said.

Jordan explained how different generations of teachers past and present work together. As to Superintendent Turner, Jordan remembers when Tanya was coaching girls’ basketball for the Pirates when her brother Brad was playing boys basketball – connections like this abound within the school system and community.

Susan and Samantha Jordan along with Owens and other members of the family are all products of the Perquimans school system.

“Some of the people that I’m teaching with now at Central were there when I was in pre-K, kindergarten, first grade and second,” Samantha Jordan said. “The principal at Central now – Tracy Gregory – she taught second grade the same year I was there. I went to her for reading. The teachers – they’ve not only watched me grow up, but they’ve helped me to become a teacher.”

Samantha Jordan did her internship at Central and started teaching second grade nearly two weeks ago.

“Last Monday (Dec. 9) was my first day in class all by myself,” said Jordan, PCHS Class of 2016. “Everything has been going good so far.”

Jordan’s mother Susan teaches across the hall from her classroom.

“I know that if I need anything, she’s there for me,” Samantha Jordan said. “The rest of the staff has been really nice and really helpful the whole time that I’ve been there.”

How about this for familiar – Samantha’s first grade class when she was a little kid is beside her mother’s classroom today. Second grade glass was the room across the hall from her mother’s current classroom.

“Perquimans – it’s always been home and where I’ve felt comfortable,” she said.

Susan Jordan has been teaching first or second grade for 24 years at Central. A veteran educator, Jordan explained why she loves teaching.

“The students love you and watching them learn how to read – when the words finally realize that the words on the page have meaning – that’s special,” she said.

Susan Jordan told a warm story about a moment she shared with a child at Boogie on Broad in Edenton.

“I had her for first and second grade. Her parents and I were with a group of us talking when I sat down. She was tired, leaning on the table. I said to her, ‘Do you want to sit with me?’ She crawled up in my lap and ended up going to sleep.”

Because many many letters to Santa from Central students were processed this past weekend (See the B section), the inevitable question arose as to how these kids were able to pen such creative, persuasive letters to the big man from the North Pole.

Susan answered, “Model, model, model – it’s part of our writing curriculum. They write and then we conference with them to read it back to us, then we help transcribe these letters.”

Owens was 10 years old when her father, Ike Perry, died in 1964 – he was 42 years old.

“It is so neat to have people tell you stories about him; things that I would not remember,” she said. “People who are six or seven years older than me were in high school and actually had him as a teacher. They’d tell me stories about how when he was teaching driver’s education, if the students would bring brownies, they’d all stop and get a drink and eat the brownies with him under a tree instead of driving. And he liked to hunt, so if you could get him to talk about hunting while he was teaching biology, maybe you wouldn’t have a biology lecture that day.”

Owens said she remembers sock hops chaperoned by her father who was also the football coach back when football was a king, a true community event.

“I can remember being little and going to football games – everybody was there,” she said. “And I remember going to sock hops because my dad was there too in the gym.”

Owens said for her, the best part of teaching is “watching the students come alive when they learn to read.”

Susan Jordan added, “For our family – teaching reading has been our strong point. That’s where we are most comfortable is when teaching reading.”

Not everything about teaching is daisies, chocolates and roses, but overall – teaching is a rewarding profession.

“There are bad days when you are teaching, but if you love what you’re doing, the good far outweighs the bad,” Owens said. “I can’t imagine doing any job without loving what you are doing.”

Susan Jordan added, “For me when I think about the bad days – think about what else could you do – there’s nothing else, no other job that I can imagine doing and going to Central school every day.”

Samantha Jordan said when exploring career choices early in college, her advisers suggested that she have a back-up plan in case teaching didn’t work out.

“When I went home, looked at all the majors – there is no back-up for me. Except for teaching, I don’t know what else I would do, could do or want to do,” she said.

Susan Jordan recalled that day after her daughter attended new student orientation at ECU.

“When we left ECU, she said this is where I’m supposed to be to learn to do what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life – be a teacher,” she said.

Samantha Jordan added, “I think God had a hand in this. Absolutely. I do think that he gives people gifts and I think teaching is our family’s gift that He’s blessed with all of us.”

After the interview, I came away knowing that these teachers, who share a positive attitude about making things better, is why Perquimans County is a good place to live, to raise a family.

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com