Salute to Black History Month: Forever Young, Half a century of books and touching lives
For half a century she's surrounded herself with books and students she calls "her children."
Esther Mae Hockett has touched the lives of thousands of Wilson County students as a teacher and full-time librarian. On Monday, she stayed late at her home-away-from-home – the Mt. Juliet High School library.
"Well, the students need to do their research," she said. "I like keeping the library open after school lets out."
Hockett, 71, was recently honored by the Wilson County Board of Education for her dedicated service to the school system. She received a Resolution of Appreciation plaque which lauds her 50 years as librarian – and teacher of many subjects.
"I've taught civics, government, health and world history," she said. "I felt so blessed and humbled at the recognition from the school board. They didn't have to do that."
Hockett was also honored in 2012. She was named a Worldwide Who's Who Professional of the Year in library management.
After graduating from Wilson County High School in 1959 she attended Tennessee State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master's in Education and certification in elementary education. She came back to Mt. Juliet and taught at her alma mater and served as a part-time librarian and guidance counselor until 1969.
"I then went to Mt. Juliet High School," she said.
She's been there ever since. Hockett said she was inspired to teach by former teachers Dorothy Hodges and Bessie Gibbs. For the past five decades she has maintained benevolent relationships with her students. She now teaches the grandchildren of some of her former students.
"I just love it, and them," she said. "I taught Mt. Juliet Middle School principal Tim Bell. He was my 'little boy' and I think of all of them as one of my kids."
She also taught MJMS principal Dr. Cathy Tombs back in the day, as well as central office employee Mary Ann Sparks."
"Every time they come in we hug and embrace," she said.
Hockett is a beloved figure at the high school. Students stop by to say hello between classes. Hockett attributes her success to her work ethic, her passion for her profession and love for teaching children. Though never married and with no children, she said family is one of the most important things in her life. Her brother died two months before her nephew was born and his mother subsequently died.
"He's just like my child," she said. "I get great comfort from him. My family is so supportive, as well as my family here at Mt. Juliet High School."
Her grandfather was a role model and she will never forget his advice.
"He said to be consistent and what you do today, do tomorrow," she said. "I've never had to write up a child for disobedience. They like discipline. They like love."
She said it seems like she started her career, "just the other day, you know just a few days ago."
Retirement is not in her vocabulary.
"Not at this time," she said. "I'm asking the Lord to lead and guide. A lot of my friends are already retired, but I'm going to stick around for a while longer."
Hockett enjoys missionary work and she attends Corona Baptist Church. And obviously, she loves to read in her spare time.
"I love to teach the Bible too," she noted.
Her immediate goal is to memorialize her father, who was a pastor. She has a lot of his sermons on tape and she wants to somehow leave them as a legacy.
In the meantime, you can find her at the MJHS library touching the lives of yet another generation of students.