Sandra Cole was born and raised in Clovis. She said her parents Will and Hazel Moten moved to Clovis in 1942 to escape the racial oppression they experienced in east Texas and to find work. Cole said she belonged to a small black population when she was growing up in Clovis.
She worked as a substitute teacher in Clovis Municipal Schools 1987-2001. She said she became known as a no-nonsense teacher during her years working as an educator. Cole retired in 2001 because of health reasons and has since kept busy at the Baxter-Curren Senior Center with activities such as attending art, painting and jewelry making classes. She paints still life, landscapes and portraits. Cole also sings on the choir at St. John Baptist Church, where she has attended for more than 40 years.
Sandra Cole, left, plays bingo Thursday at the Baxter-Curren Senior Citizen Center. Cole said she visits the center often to stay busy.
What was the most fulfilling part of your substitute teaching career in Clovis Municipal Schools?
Today, I'll see kids who I've forgotten but they haven't forgotten me. Some say that I was very strict and mean because I was a no-nonsense person. In the classroom, I would tell students "We're both going to get our jobs done. You're going to get your job done and I'm going to get my job done. There were kids who didn't like that and there were some who said that I was a very good teacher.
The other day I was on my way out of a restaurant and a young man said "bye Ms. Cole," letting me know that he knew me. Another young lady said "aren't you Ms. Cole?" I figured if they didn't want to remember me they wouldn't communicate with me. It's been about 11 years since I taught and they're working in the community now. I ask them what they're doing.
When you were growing up in Clovis the African-American population was much smaller than it is now. Did you ever experience racism?
I went to Lincoln-Jackson Elementary School. There were white teachers but all the students were black and Latino. When I got to Gattis I really saw racism (from teachers toward students.) I was Hazel Moten's daughter and everybody knew that. I knew how to behave myself.
If I had problems I would tell my parents and they would deal with it. But I saw other kids abused. I will never forget this one little black boy. I think he was beaten with a paddle just because he was smart. It seemed like he got beat almost every day. The truth is the truth.
How do you like to spend your retirement?
I try to keep busy. I come here (Baxter-Curren Senior Center) a lot. I play bingo. It's just to keep moving and get out of the house. In my jewelry making class we learn different techniques of making jewelry using beads and different kinds of string.
Tell me about painting.
The lord gives you a talent. I didn't even know I could paint until a few years ago. I guess I'm pretty good at it (laughing). Right now I'm just painting whatever. The last painting I did must have been pretty good. A lady wanted to buy it and I hadn't even finished it yet. She just happened to see it on the easel and said, "I want that one right there."
- Name: Sandra Cole
- Age: 66
- Hometown: Clovis
- Profession: Retired substitute teacher
- Children: Clifton, Jackie, Sandra, Garry, Frank, Shea
— Compiled by CMI staff writer Benna Sayyed