Clark teaches business, life skills
By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
Betty Clark likes to joke that she's the last piece of original equipment at Escambia Brewton Career Technical Center.
Clark, who teaches business classes at EBCTC, began teaching there the year the school opened. She's the only one of the school's original faculty members who still teaches there.
The career technical center offers alternative electives for students from T.R. Miller, W.S. Neal and Flomaton high schools. They attend classes on the high school campus for part of the day and go to the technical school for part of the day.
"The general belief is that our students don't go on to college," Clark said. "That is not true. Many of our students do go on to college, but just as many learn what they need here to go on to have very successful careers.
"It is more difficult these days since the 'four by four' plan was implemented," she added. "Students have to have four years of English, four years of math, four years of science and four years of social studies. It doesn't leave much time for the students to come to us."
Clark's classes offer students the skills they need to go into many different occupations. Students who come through her classes learn skills that will help them in real-life situations, such as managing money.
"We prepare students for life," Clark said. "We want students to have a career, not a job. You can have a career as a ditch digger if that is what you want to do. If you have a job doing something you love, that is a career, but if you hate what you do, that is a job. I believe that. A teacher has to love what she does. There's not that much money in it, but if you love it, it makes all the difference."
As important as education is, it is Clark's belief that a career does not necessarily require a college education.
"You don't have to have a college education to be an auto mechanic," she said. "But if you want someone to work on your car, you want someone who knows what he is doing."
A big part of Clark's work at the technical school is with Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). FBLA is a program designed to be a part of the school's curriculum. It is a national organization for all students currently enrolled in at least one business course in high school. The local FBLA chapter operates in conjunction with the career center, getting students involved in the affairs of the community.
Clark is on FBLA's state administrative board representing District Three. They create policy, enforce policy and man competitive events. Two students will go to Birmingham with Clark this week to compete in one of these events.
Clark was born and reared in Brewton. Her parents were business owners and ran James Knox Grocery and Market on the corner of Douglas and Granberry, and she has one sister.
She was an active member of her high school class which she says was one in which 80 percent went on to college after high school and 80 percent of those actually graduated. She was in the Beta Club. She was and is a member of First United Methodist Church in Brewton.
Clark graduated from T.R. Miller High School in 1965 and was told by her guidance counselor that she couldn't go to college because she didn't have a foreign language.
"Three days later I enrolled at Auburn University and graduated three years later with a degree in business administration," she laughed.
She was married while in college and because her husband was in the U.S. Air Force they moved to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. She got a job as a secretary in a hospital before getting a job teaching key-boarding in the seventh and ninth grades.
"Key-boarding was the same as typing," she said. "No one knew what a computer was in those days."
She and her husband had a daughter, Lori, before they divorced after five years of marriage. She and Lori came back to Brewton and she went to see Dale Garner, who was then the superintendent of education in Brewton. She asked about a job teaching shorthand at T.R. Miller. They already had a business teacher but he told her that the Career Technical School would soon be opening. He sent her to talk to John Andress, who was the county vocational director. He hired her to begin work as soon as the school opened, which left her unemployed for a semester. Harry Weaver hired her to teach the third grade at North Brewton School until the career college opened.
"I didn't know anything about what third graders were supposed to know," she said, "but I figured I was the biggest person in the class."
In early 1974 the career school opened although they were short of some equipment.
"I was totally overwhelmed," she said. "I was in total control as to what I taught, what equipment we bought and the whole nine yards."
Clark met her current husband, A.D. "Buddy" Clark Jr., at the post office and they were married in 1976. They have a son, Andrew. Both children are married and Lori has presented the Clarks with four granddaughters.
There's not much free time for Clark, but when she has a few minutes, she loves computer games and working in her flower beds. She collects owls, which has been the mascot for several clubs she has been involved in. She is a big Auburn and Atlanta Braves fan. There's not much time for these projects as her school year is not the same as it is for the students. Her year is 202 days a year plus summer conferences.