School honors beloved librarian

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

CANA — St. Paul’s beloved librarian will continue to have an impact on the school and the community where she taught and touched the lives of students for 37 years.
Joyce Slate had enough time in her career to make a generational impact on St. Paul students and on their sons and daughters, as she encouraged reading, sponsored the yearbook, documented the school year with her camera, took children on field trips and threw fundraising events to be able to afford those trips.


Staff and students remembered these qualities on Oct. 11 in a celebration of Slate’s life and honored her memory by dedicating the library, the yearbook and the courtyard, as well as new projects, in her name.
Field trips were all about teaching moments for Slate, remembered friend Rodney Combs during the ceremony in the gym.
“Joyce Slate, I can truly say that all the memories I have over all the years... are good memories, and that speaks well for her life,” he said. “My life is richer for having known her.”
Janet Johnson shared that the librarian loved snow more than students did, that she stressed use of the card catalog to students before computers came in, that she always offered cheerful “good mornings,” that she always had activities going on to benefit the children.
Celebration organizers also offered a few of the 96 pages’ worth of reminiscences posted on the “Friends of Joyce Slate” Facebook page.
Jamie Edwards recalled a visit from Slate early on in his kindergarten year, when she took some of the worry out of his first days in school using a stuffed version of “The Cat in the Hat” from the Dr. Suess book,
“This friendly soul suddenly turned the fear of the first week of school into something more, an experience that made school a bit more human and not as fearful to a five-year-old boy,” he posted.
Edwards could remember doing inventory, compiling the yearbook, taking trips and playing volleyball with Slate.
“She was a true teacher, an encourager and, without fail, the cog in my elementary and middle school educational wheel,” Edwards wrote.
Ronald McCraw went through library club with Slate 25 years ago and got reminded of those times when his son joined the library club recently.
Even as a child, McCraw felt struck by how much Richard — Slate’s husband and a teacher at the high school — pitched in to help with the dances and other activities.
“My son, Isaac McCraw, was in the library club the past couple of years, and it was just like old times. I helped in a couple of dances, and again there was Richard doing what needed to be done,” McCraw wrote. “They were a great team and everyone that was involved with any library activities knows how committed Richard was to her and to her students.”
Slate wasn’t just a librarian, the tributes said. She was a beacon of light, an inspiration, a role model and an icon at St. Paul School.
Given all that she had done, it seemed fitting that the school collect donated books to put on the shelf in the library, name the library and the yearbook after her and name a Kindle reader in the school for the benefit of the students in her memory, too.
“Joyce Slate was always taking pictures. Whenever we had an assembly or a special event, we would see her looking for the perfect shot, and she wouldn’t stop until she had taken it, “ Principal Nancy Wilmoth recalled.
Slate never seemed to slow down, and became the queen of fundraisers to take her library helpers on field trips to Richmond and Williamsburg, the principal said.
Joey Haynes, now a school board member, remembered opting out of his study halls to help Slate in the library
He found he could talk with her about life and he shared his amazement about the introduction of NASA’s space shuttle.
He remembered Slate as a person of great energy, who always had her eyes peeled for the next way to benefit her students. She was a person who was all about excellence and had great ambition for her children.
Joyce Slate also meant a lot to the educators at Carroll County High School, where her husband taught and worked with Sheriff J.B. Gardner when he was a school resource officer there, the sheriff told the audience.
From Joyce Slate, who volunteered to help Gardner with his criminal justice class on field trips to Washington D.C., said he learned how to ensure good behaviors during special activities like that. Keep them busy, take them around and walk them until they run out of energy and have to get their sleep at night.
In Slate’s memory, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office will work with the Skills USA students at the high school to benefit the Feed America program that’s providing food to deserving people in the Cana area. (See sidebar.)
Though the program only has funds to operate for five months, Gardner hopes that a barbecue fundraiser on Oct. 30 will providing the money to extend that to 10 months as a way to honor Slate.
At the end of the ceremony outside next to the ballfields, 37 students released 37 balloons — one for each of the years that Slate taught at St. Paul.