By Markus Williams
Where shall I fly and where shall I be?
Someone planted a tree.
A tree they may never see.
After teaching for over 50 years you could understand if a teacher had a party with only three invited guests. “I’m Tired” “My Energy is gone” and “I need peace and quiet”… Instead of attending this party Estella Pyfrom decided she had one more act. Her great act of humanity would grow into the greatest love of all.
She was born in the small town of Quincy Florida. She was born in a time when the world did not show great acts of love for her and her kind. But she was blessed with a wonderfully warm family. Both her parents were not only physically present but they were also spiritually and intellectually present. In spite of having limited education themselves they knew enough to make sure that Estella and her siblings would not have the same experience. They believed in school and this belief was reflected in their lifestyle.
The family worked as a unit with everyone having their own responsibilities. Estella recalls by the age of eight she was taking care of children and able to cook a full meal. As migrant contractors her parents worked in the fields all day and frequently had to travel great distances to wherever the work was. They were all expected to work and at times, even travel. It was popular at the time to keep kids out of school enabling them to work but her parents stayed true to their conviction. If they started a term late they were expected to catch up, stay up and get ahead because failure was not an option.
Growing up, Estella was surrounded with love and warmth. She and her siblings were happy because they did not know what they did not have. By the age of six she began to notice that white kids did not work in the fields and she knew they had toilets that flushed. Although she was too young to know it, seeing this image would later serve as motivation for her work. Often times those who fly are those with opportunity.
After graduating from high school Estella entered Florida A&M University. It is there where she earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees in elementary education. Having been given the gift of “knowing how to work” from her parents Estella successfully worked her way through college. Upon graduating she returned to her hometown where she would begin her teaching career. To help supplement her income she also sold insurance and did hair. She quickly realized that teaching involved much more than imparting information, she had to be aware of the kids who were in need outside of the classroom. She would send notes to students requesting they come and see her so she could find out how things were going. She would visit the kids at home and since It was a small community and she had grown up with most of the parents, that made her presence a welcomed and respected one . She said she never met a parent she could not win over.
Teaching in a Title I school with 80% black and 60% free and reduce lunched she noticed the school had special education and remedial classes but there was no gifted and talented program. She thought the kids are not being motivated or they simply were not being identified as students needing a greater challenge. She designed a program and she called it “Project Aspirations” and as a result the FCAT scores made AYP for the first and only time. They accomplished this by working with students before and after school. She wrote a progressive discipline plan that involved the student, the family and the school. It was called S.W.A.T (School Wide Assistance Team) This plan made students, parents and administration responsible for their actions.
After a full teaching career Estella retired. For most people this would be a period at the end of the sentence for their professional life but for Estella it was merely a comma. She immediately started thinking about how she could help the many students that needed services outside of school. She had a brilliant idea! After observing that many of the students who needed help could not get to the help she decided to go them. She took a large portion of her pension and purchased a bus that she could drive. This was not just any bus; this was a bus that would be tricked out, built from the ground up per her specifications. It would eventually become known as “Estella’s Brilliant Bus”. She would drive around going to the students so that they could come aboard the bus and receive tutoring. Because need usually comes in groups, the mission of her work soon broadened to meet the needs of not only the student but the entire family and community. She believes that the worth of individuals is very important. Our desire to love and help our fellow human must be eclipsed by our actions. When you show others love not only will they feel it but eventually they will see it themselves.
We celebrate you, Estella Pyfrom, for your brilliant love and creative response to the needs in your community. You have made this world better than you found it and for that we say thank you.