East Webster High School teacher has spent nearly 20 years training up next generation of educators

MABEN, Miss. (WCBI) – National Teacher Appreciation Week is a time to celebrate the time and effort of so many who invest in the education of children in Mississippi and across the country.

Teachers like Lavelle McAlpin at East Webster High School.

Teaching for almost 20 years, McAlpin has influenced several generations of students, several of whom now work side by side with him at East Webster.

“You cannot fool students,” he says. “You can’t fool them into thinking you care about a subject you don’t care about. They know.”

If there’s one thing that McAlpin’s students know, it’s that he loves U.S. History.

“When we talk about a specific period like World War II or World War I or maybe the (Great) Depression, something like that, I try to bring in interviews or maybe photographs, pictures of local towns and communities,” McAlpin says.

He’s known as “Mr. Lavelle” to his students.

“He knows how to talk with his students and relate with them and his stories are probably the best,” says East Webster junior Jack Brown.

Stories like how a local store owner described seeing hungry people coming into his shop during the Great Depression.

“They weren’t stealing, they maybe opened a box of crackers, take a few crackers out of it and leave the rest of it behind,” McAlpin says. “These were people who were hungry. They were people who were without.”

Or when Charles Lindbergh had to make an emergency landing in Mathiston.

“When I’m driving to school, I can see places and be like, ‘Hey, that’s where that happened,'” Brown says.

McAlpin says seven of his former students currently teach at East Webster High. Including Jon Carpenter, who is wrapping up his first year teaching geometry.

“He didn’t just teach you, ‘Here’s the book, learn the material,'” Carpenter says. “(He teaches that) history is all around us. Everything from what we do, why we do it, stuff in the local community. He brought it to life and made it real for us.”

Carpenter says McAlpin was his favorite teacher and taking his classes helped inspire him to go into education.

“I’m going to present different viewpoints to you, share them with you, but you need to make your own mind up about how you ultimately decide how those things should be,” McAlpin says.

Even as a friend and colleague, Carpenter says he’s still learning from Mr. Lavelle.

“How to influence the kids, how to connect with them,” Carpenter says. “(He told me) ‘Quit just reading from the book, actually connect with them on a personal level.'”

McAlpin says the plan is to at least continue teaching until he hits the 25-year mark. After that, he’s not sure. But as long as he can continue reaching students, McAlpin says he’ll keep showing up to class.

“To see people carry on that tradition and come back and teach in a place that means a lot to me, it’s extremely gratifying,” McAlpin says.

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