ALBEMARLE — Just a few months after a former Norwood Elementary School student approached the Stanly County Board of Education with the idea of recognizing the school’s first black teacher, Barbara Foster, the school has since dedicated her former classroom in her honor.
A plaque containing the inscription “The Barbara Foster Classroom ‘Courage for the Betterment of All’ 1967-1968” has been placed at the door of the same Norwood classroom that Foster used 56 years ago. The school held a celebratory event on June 6 in honor of Foster that featured students from her 1967-68 class as well as current Norwood students.
Along with Foster and her family, Norwood Elementary principal Mandy Efird spoke at the school board’s meeting later that day, where Foster was honored with a formal presentation followed by a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance.
“At the March meeting of the Stanly County Schools Board of Education, Mr. David Deese spoke publicly about his experiences as a first-grade student during the 1967-1968 school year,” Efird told the school board. “Mr. Deese recounted his memories of his teacher, Ms. Barbara Foster. He vividly recounted the first day of school that year; it was the day that Ms. Foster became the first African-American teacher at Norwood School.”
At that meeting, Deese told the board that there had been protests in the community over Foster’s employment but that she was courageous in her dedication to teaching despite the backlash. Others in the community rallied around Foster and even stood around the classroom in solidarity during her first day at Norwood.
“Despite the stressful situation, Ms. Foster conducted our classroom professionally that day – and for the rest of the year – as if nothing was wrong. She always put the education of her students first,” Deese added.
In addition to the honorary plaque at her former classroom, Foster also received an identical plaque that she could take home with her.
“Thank you so much for your time and your appreciation for honoring me,” Foster said.
Foster’s nephew Darrell Foster-Davidson also thanked the school board and Norwood Elementary for recognizing an important member of his family as he recounted the bond formed between Foster and her former school.
“Listening to Barbara when I was growing up talk about Norwood and some of the people here really gave me an enduring feeling of family, closeness and togetherness,” Foster-Davidson said. “A lot of people that she worked with, we saw in our home. They came to visit us. When my grandfather passed, we felt a warm embrace from the Norwood-Albemarle community.”
He continued: “Once again, we just want to thank you for taking care of her while she was here and making sure that she came home to us safe every weekend. I want you to know that she really appreciates the kindness and the opportunity that you guys showed her during this time when she was teaching to be able to help you and help your children grow and prosper.”
The school board thanked Foster and her family for attending both the event at Norwood Elementary and the school board meeting.
“What a sweet, sweet family you have,” school board chair Glenda Gibson said. “It’s no wonder you do because Miss Foster is special. She is so sweet, and she touched a lot of lives, and we appreciate her.”