Senior Spotlight 6/21
Neresa Sims Glenn
Story by: Gwendolyn GlennContributor
Many local residents, those in their mid-50s and younger, know Neresa (“Tiny”) Sims Glenn as ‘Mrs. Glenn,’ their kindergarten teacher. In the late 1960s, she worked as Mrs. Henrietta Taylor’s assistant in setting up the first kindergarten class in its initial temporary location at St. Paul’s Baptist Church. It was a big deal because according to the U.S. Census, less than 10 percent of five-year-old children were attending kindergarten classes nationwide during that time.
The kindergarten later moved to a trailer at Gordon Elementary and eventually expanded to full-day sessions and moved to the main building with additional kindergarten classes added.
Some years ago for another interview, Glenn reflected on her kindergarten days and other events in her life and said, “Some of our students came in the morning and others in the afternoon. Wanda (Sims Chappel, her niece) was in my class and some days Lorenzo (Sims, her nephew) who was only about six at the time would come to pick her up and walk her home to Cemetery Street.”
Glenn’s energetic personality was perfect for working with the kindergarteners. She loved teaching them their letters through songs, sitting on the floor with them during story time and often picked up scissors, construction paper, glue and crayons to join in their art projects. It was a passion that she brought home with her as she shared those lessons with her seven, not always enthusiastic, living children.
Glenn always knew she wanted to work in education and go to college, something her parents ingrained in her and her seven siblings growing up on Cemetery Street. Education was important to her family. Her father, John Sims was a minister and graduate of Wilberforce in Ohio and her mother, Lucy Craig Sims graduated with a degree in home economics from South Carolina State University (College at the time).
Glenn grew up on Cemetery Street at a time when families whether related or not were close and looked out for each other. Many of her neighbors, whose homes she spent a lot of time in sharing meals and spending the night—the Codes, the Cunninghams—were families that also believed strongly in education.
Glenn’s father died when she was about six-years old, and so many family members and friends took the energetic little girl under their wings. Her mother, an expert designer and seamstress, something Glenn mastered at a young age, made sure those of her children who wanted to go to college, were able to attend.
After graduating from Fairfield High, then Fairfield Training School that only went to the eleventh grade, Glenn attended Voorhees College in Denmark, SC. After graduating from the two-year college at the time, she spent her next two years at Allen University.
“My older brothers helped my mother with our expenses. Red (Nelson Sims) had a full scholarship to Tuskegee but he enlisted in the Army to help momma out and went to college later after he left the service,” Glenn said.
Although times were sometimes tight and getting an education was the goal, Glenn said they had fun times in college as well. She said the rules were strict, but they were allowed to attend chaperoned dances, sports events and of course church.
“Oh yes, we had to go to church and we’d line up for it every Sunday,” Glenn said. “Some of the girls would try to hide or play sick to get out of going but they’d get caught.”
Unlike colleges today where students have one roommate or live in apartments, Glenn said they had several roommates when she was in school.
“Sally Ruth (Keller) Thompson was one of my roommates and we became best friends,” Glenn said. A close friendship that lasted until Thompson passed in 2014.
Glenn’s husband of 51 years Benjamin Lawrence Glenn, Sr. (“BL”), said Thompson was with Glenn when he was visiting friends on Allen’s campus after leaving the Army and spotted the petite student with a big smile and hair flowing down her back. It took many attempts by BL, but the two finally met and got married in 1947.
Before Glenn and BL had children of their own, Glenn helped to raise his nieces and nephews after their mother and BL’s sister, Johnnie Byrd died from a long illness.
“Lawrence, Jessie Fred, Charles and Earnestine were my first set of children and they knew they were always between our house and Jeff’s (Byrd, their father),” Glenn said. “We were in the country so I loved having their company when I was here by myself.”
As for her career, Glenn taught for about a year or so at Woodard Elementary but soon became a house wife, raising eight children—a job she loved. “I’d hear some people complaining when their children had a snow day or were on summer vacation and at home, but I looked forward to those days,” she said.
Glenn began substitute teaching when her youngest child entered first grade and took on the kindergarten position full time when that daughter was in the sixth grade. She said she loved working with the children and Mrs. Taylor and rarely took a day off from work. She even got her bus driver’s license in case an emergency situation developed and she had to drive the bus during field trips with the children. Fortunately that never happened but being the highly-organized person that she is, Glenn was prepared.
Glenn retired from the school system in 1992 and was given a surprise retirement celebration by her children, attended by close relatives, co-workers and family friends, including her BFF Thompson.
During her retirement years, although she was asked, Glenn did not do any substitute teaching, but she did teach Bible Study at times at Shiloh Presbyterian Church, which was founded by her husband’s family. She also spent a lot of time traveling, dining out and going to the movies with her husband and helping out with her grandchildren, at her home or in Maryland, where most of her children live. Her door was always open to her many nieces and nephews, former students and young friends like her neighbor’s son Jonathan, who she and BL developed a close relationship with when he was a young child.
Being a person who always wanted to help others, Glenn spent several years when she was in her 70s delivering Meals on Wheels in Winnsboro with her sister-in-law, Mamie Esther Childers Sims. They took turns driving and enjoyed visiting the meal recipients and catching up on their lives and just spending time talking with them every week.
After BL passed in 1998, Glenn continued to drive until her late 80s and traveled with her children to family reunions in various parts of the country, including California and at least twice a year with her youngest daughter GG to resort areas. She always loved the all-girls trips with her daughters that included beach areas, the Bahamas and cruises.
These days, Glenn’s health keeps her from getting around like she used to in her earlier years. But her children are always there to make sure she has what she needs and that they are there to see that smile that still lights up a room.