Daphne Payne has brought love and a love for learning to her first-grade students.
Spend any time at all in first-grade teacher Daphne Payne's classroom and you're likely to hear her favorite phrase: ``Good job!''
Payne is famous for giving her Hillcrest School students praise and asking for a ``thumbs up'' when they've found the right page or know the correct answer to a question.
``I've enjoyed it so much,'' Payne said, reflecting on her teaching career. ``But after 38 years it's time to stop. It's been interesting and a challenge to teach children how to read, and about different people and historical figures, but now it's time to let someone young take over.''
Payne started her teaching career at the Dunbar School in Kansas City, Kan., in 1957 and came to Lawrence in 1961. She took time off her first year here when her daughter April was born and again in 1968 to have her second child, Stacy.
From 1978 to 1982 she was an assistant professor of teacher education at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., but returned to Lawrence and the elementary classroom at Hillcrest, where she has been ever since.
``Sometimes you want another experience,'' she said. ``It was a great experience, but I missed my little ones because they respond so well, whereas college kids are more quiet and say, `Yes, ma'am' and `No, ma'am.'''
Payne said one of her greatest joys has been teaching young children the thrill of reading.
``You can mold children at this age,'' she said. ``You can teach the beginning of writing and reading, and they're fresh and eager to learn. All they need is a little bit of loving.''
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As she nears the end of the school year, and her career, Payne has worked hard to make her classroom as warm as the tropical waters she's teaching about.
Her classroom is decorated with sea motifs, clowns and books, and at the front of the classroom stands a piano.
She grew up around music and still tickles the ivories for her students. In fact, next year she plans to enroll in music classes at Kansas University.
Music is so important in Payne's life that it has left a lasting impression on the school, Hillcrest Principal Bob Arevalo said.
``We'll miss her pleasant smile and her beautiful voice,'' he said. ``Around the holiday time she played the piano for the staff as the kids were coming in the door.''
Payne doesn't plan to venture too far. She wants to return as a volunteer to the school where she has taught for the past 16 years.
``I've been happy here,'' she said. ``I'll be back.''
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.