Over the course of Cocke County’s 200-plus years of history, we have been blessed to have hundreds of outstanding teachers devote themselves to the instruction of our children.
For many decades they labored alone, most teaching in one- and two-room schools. Having received their appointments, they often boarded with a local family with little or no time to return to own homes until the term ended.
However, the Twentieth Century brought many positive changes to the teaching profession. Local and state legislators slowly, and sometimes angrily, gave way to pressure to increase teachers’ salaries, allot funds for the purchase of new textbooks and equipment, and even build bigger and better schools.
By mid-century, consolidation of dozens of far-flung schools became a reality. With improved transportation across the county and bus service, several hundred children could be brought to a new and modern structure with indoor plumbing and running water, hot meals from a cafeteria, and the latest in technology.
Teachers learned the value of organization, and several organizations sprang up in Cocke County.
One of these was the Alpha Omicron Chapter of the International Honorary Sorority for Women Educators.
On Monday, Oct. 20, 2019, Alpha Omicron will celebrate its Golden Anniversary here with a tea at Parrottsville United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Since its inception, Alpha Omicron has recognized outstanding local women educators through membership and built a fraternal fellowship to add effectiveness in the promotion of excellence in education.
They have promoted educational and charitable projects and activities, sponsored annual Cocke County and Cosby High School scholarships, and participated in worthy local community programs relating to education and charities.
Thirteen women formed and chartered the local chapter on Oct. 20, 1969. Of those thirteen, five are still on the membership roll: Reba Faye Sane, Betty Jean Moore King, Louise Denton, Beth Freeman, and Pat Sparks.
Betty Jean Moore King,, now of Sevierville, spent most of her life in Cocke County. The daughter of Walter and Ima Brown, she started teaching at Hartford Elementary in 1949. While at Hartford, she taught grades 1-4, but never just taught one grade at a time. Some years she had three grades at once. She retired in December 1989 after 39 years at Hartford. She has provided Cocke County with a distinguished legacy of family educators. Her son Michael Moore, his wife Janie, and her daughter Nancy Moore Raines all retired after long teaching careers at Cosby. Her grandson, Manney Moore, is the current Director of Cocke County Schools, and Manney’s wife Liz teaches at Cosby Elementary. Betty Jean’s other grandson, Carter Moore, is a Circuit Court Judge, and his wife Renee teaches at Cosby Elementary. Four of Betty Jean’s five great-grandchildren are currently attending Cosby Elementary/High Schools. Betty Jean joined Alpha Delta Kappa on Oct. 20, 1969. She currently attends First Baptist Church in Sevierville. Prior to that she was a 37-year-member of Pigeon Valley Baptist in Hartford. In October she will receive a certificate denoting 67 years of perfect attendance in Sunday School. Her current interests are church and family activities. She credits her mother for instilling her commitment and desire to become a teacher.
Reba Faye Sparks Sane is a lifelong Cocke County resident. She taught 45 years at Manning Chapel, Newport Grammar, and Parrottsville Schools. Although she is retired, she remains active in the school system by volunteering and judging educational events. Her husband, Herb, daughter and son-in-law also keep her busy as do her grandson and granddaughter. She joined ADK on October 20, 1969 so that she could become connected with other schools and educators. A member of Parrottsville United Methodist Church, she enjoys reading and participating in church activities. She is also an active member of William Cocke Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. She says, “If you really love working with children, you will find some way to be with them.”
Louise Denton has been a Cocke County resident for 88 years. She taught for 52 years, beginning her career at Alexander School, a one-room structure, where she taught all eight grades. She later taught first grade at Northport and worked at the Cocke County Schools Central Office. She spent her last 22 years teaching first grade at Newport Grammar School, retiring in 2005. She will become a 50-year ADK member Jan. 19, 2020. She enjoys spending time with son Tommy, daughter, Kathy, and grandchildren Johnny, Brandon, and Alex. She is a member of Newport Presbyterian Church. Louise likes to stay informed about current improvements and trends in education. Getting to be with and work with other educators continues to be a special privilege and joy in her life.
Beth O. Freeman of Cosby has spent most of her 93 years living in Cocke County. She spent most of her 30-year teaching career at Cocke County High School. However, she started at Compton Memorial. Her teaching days were devoted to general science, biology, and gym classes. Later she became politically active and was elected as Cocke County’s third female Superintendent of Schools. She retired in 1979. Beth joined ADK on Jan. 19, 1970, because she wanted to be involved in educator activities. The widow of Jack Freeman and mother of the late Larry Jack and the late Lorinda Freeman, Beth enjoys spending time with her granddaughter and two great-grandchildren. She is a member of the Cosby Church of Christ and is an active member of William Cocke Chapter DAR. Her personal interest is history and genealogy and likes nothing better than finding and exploring old graveyards. Her friends say Beth can tell you the genealogy of just about everyone in Cocke County.
Patricia ‘Pat’ Sparks was a founding member of Alpha Omicron Chapter and remained an active and devoted member until health issues rendered her unable to participate in meetings and activities three years ago. Pat grew up in Parrottsville and taught high school PE and health at Parrottsville High School and third grade at Parrottsville Elementary until her retirement. She is a member of Parrottsville United Methodist Church. The widow of Billy Hugh Sparks, she is the mother of Kay Sparks Buda and the late Jan Sparks Proffitt and has three granddaughters. She now resides at Morning Pride Assisted Living in Powell, TN.
Alpha Omicron Chapter encourages any educator interesting in becoming a part of an outstanding educational community to contact a chapter member. Alpha Omicron Chapter meets on the third Monday of each month from August to May in the Newport area.