May 25, 2018

Joy, faith and family mark Terry Horton’s 44 years in Catholic schools

For 44 years, Terry Horton has served as a teacher and an administrator in Catholic schools in the New Albany Deanery. Here, she shares a book and a smile with pre-kindergarten students Liam McGuire, left, Mia Wilkinson and Raegan Schoen. (Submitted photo)

For 44 years, Terry Horton has served as a teacher and an administrator in Catholic schools in the New Albany Deanery. Here, she shares a book and a smile with pre-kindergarten students Liam McGuire, left, Mia Wilkinson and Raegan Schoen. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Like every teacher, Terry Horton has accumulated a wealth of stories that make her laugh or touch her heart.

One of the stories that still warms her takes her back to her days as a music teacher, shortly after she had finished coordinating an all-school Christmas program that included a large neon Nativity scene.

She took the Nativity scene into the kindergarten classroom and turned off the lights. As the Nativity scene glowed in the darkness, she led the kindergartners in an impromptu singing of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

“They were playing drums and trying so hard,” she recalls. “In the darkness, it was such a holy moment.”

The memories have come flooding back for Horton as she prepares to retire at the end of the school year after serving for 44 years as a teacher and an administrator in Catholic schools in the New Albany Deanery.

A career that began in 1974 with her splitting time as a music teacher at Holy Family School in New Albany and Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville will soon end with her serving as the interim principal at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in New Albany.

“What happens to me all the time is that I get pre-schoolers who say, ‘You taught my dad!’ ” she says with a laugh. “I even taught a grandparent of two children here. And this morning, the football coach at Providence—Larry Dennison—came to talk to our boys. I taught him, too.”

That good-naturedness is complemented by a gentleness of heart, a generosity of spirit and a joy for the gift that she says she’s been given by God and the generations of students she has taught.

“I love the kids and the joy and the energy they bring. Some of our students are the best Christians I know. They’re such good examples for the rest of us. They’re very forgiving, and they trust in God. And they share freely with others. It just keeps you vital and thriving, seeing that every day. It certainly gives you hope for the future.

“And just being able to share our faith is so nice. This whole Catholic school system is very nurturing. It makes for a wonderful community for everybody. It feels like family.”

Horton has always created that feeling of family, says Brandy Balser, a former student of Horton who was also hired by her to teach at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.

“Just the way she loved her profession affected me,” Balser says. “I knew it was a joyful profession because she had a love for it. She’s inspired me to have that same kind of love.”

Balser will never forget the day seven years ago when she interviewed with Horton for a teaching position.

“After the interview, we toured the kindergarten room,” recalls Balser, one of four teachers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help that Horton had taught. “When she called me to offer me the job, she said that she felt God was speaking to her, that she should hire me. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for her. She’s always there any time you need her.”

No one has known that blessing more so than Sarah Blessing, a daughter of Horton who teaches fifth-grade reading and social studies at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.

“She has so much respect for the students, their families and their individual needs,” Blessing says. “She’s very wise, too. She’s not quick to judge. She’ll listen to one side, and then hear the other, and then she’ll make a good decision.”

One of her favorite memories concerning her mother occurred when Blessing and her students were reading the book Walk Two Moons.

“It’s about the relationship between a girl and her mother,” Blessing says. “It helps you appreciate your mother. I do a Mother’s Day celebration around it. We have blackberry pie, which is tied into the book, and we write poems to our mothers. I invited my mom and wrote a poem for her. It was a special bonding moment for us.”

They’ve also become closer being educators in the same school.

“When she became my principal, our relationship reached a whole new level,” says Blessing, who has been teaching for 15 years. “I had known her outside of work. Then I got to be in her life with work. And she appreciated me as a teacher so that was nice. I definitely consider my mom as one of my best friends.”

Horton considers her 44 years as an educator in Catholic schools as one of the greatest gifts of her life. It’s where the mother of three—including Julianna and James—has been able to share and live her faith.

“My faith gives me hope and joy in life—knowing God has a plan for us, and he will see us through, no matter what comes our way. It’s wonderful to work in an atmosphere where everyone feels the same way.”

That connection may not completely end. She’s looking forward to retirement to spend more time with her husband of 44 years, Raymond. She’s also looking forward to helping with her grandchildren. Still, there’s so much joy and excitement for her in a school setting that she is keeping the door open for returning in a smaller capacity.

“I have a lot of gratitude. I just feel so blessed that I’ve had this opportunity. I have the feeling I’ll come back and help around the school and the Catholic community in some way.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!