LOUISA COUNTY, Va. — In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, there are two constants at Jouett Elementary.
Mary Robinson gliding through the school and leading math lessons in kindergarten.
“I couldn’t picture Jouett without seeing Ms. Mary walk down the hall without her cart,” kindergarten teacher and Mary’s colleague Allyson Gray said.
Robinson is a teacher’s aide who is as dependable as "ABC" and "123."
She began working for Louisa County Public Schools in 1971. A career adding up to 52 years and counting.
But just a few doors down, in the other kindergarten class, another teacher’s aide holds the title of senior staff member.
“I work five days a week. Very seldom do I take a day off,” Priscilla Slaughter said.
Slaughter started her career in the school system one year before her sister Mary.
“I get a lot of energy. I look forward to it every day,” Slaughter said.
The siblings wear many hats at Jouett, from aide and hall monitor to lunch mother and grandmother figure.
Exhausting responsibilities for the 74-year-old Mary and 75-year-old Priscilla.
“I have worked with over 10,400 students,” said Mary. “Very exciting every day. I look forward to it. Everyday.”
But the sisters couldn’t dream of working anywhere else. As the students celebrate 100 days of learning on this Friday, Ms. Slaughter’s and Ms. Robinson’s combined tenure equals 105 years.
“Very special, because I feel that this is a joy we can both get out of life together,” Mary Robinson said.
Fellow teachers like Susan Anderson marvel at their colleagues' stamina and selflessness.
“I feel like we just need more people like them that are dedicated, caring, and other people’s cheerleaders,” Anderson said. “We are so thankful at this point that they’ve chosen to keep on going and I think it is making them younger all this time.”
The sisters share more than just a love of teaching children and longevity in Louisa. Mary and Priscilla grew up on a farm not far from Jouett during a much different era.
Both remember a chapter when classrooms were separated by color.
“When I went to school, I went to an all-Black school. It was not integrated,” Slaughter said.
It is a hard lesson the sisters share with their students.
“It was something that we were used to, so it didn’t bother us,” Robinson said. “Now you take the kids nowadays and you tell them the story they look at you. They can’t believe it.”
Louisa County’s School Superintendent Doug Straley said Priscilla and Mary set high standards for students and staff alike.
“These two special ladies are role models for every single one of us. Their passion. Their grit. Their love for this community,” Straley said. “That is incredible. It is hard to put into words how incredible that really is when you think about the lives they’ve touched.”
No sibling rivalry exists between Mary and Priscilla to see who will work the longest.
Teacher Tanya Olinger believes her school is richer with Mary and Priscilla in attendance.
“We see them day in and day out. Greeting everyone. Smiling at everyone. The day they’re not walking those halls. It won’t be the same,” said Olinger.
“Makes me feel great that they still think that much of me. That is a good feeling,” Slaughter said.
At this elementary school, some things remain constant. The Three R’s, two sisters, and one lucky student body.
“We couldn’t function without them. There would be no Jouett without them,” Tabitha Fowler said.
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