Typing is the key to success

Published 3:52 pm Monday, August 16, 2010

Peggy Kent, a University of Montevallo alumna, is a fixture in the office at Thompson High School and has witnessed the school’s enrollment explode during the past several years.

Standing in the front office of Thompson High School was déjà vu for me. All four of my children finished school there and, of course, I spent lots of time dropping off forgotten cheerleader bags, football bags, lunches and money or picking up kids for their orthodontist appointments.

A brisk, attractive little dynamo named Peggy Kent runs that office with a pleasant look and big smile.

If you stand there for five minutes, you can hear the echoes of “Ms. Kent, what time is first lunch shift?” or “Ms. Kent, there’s a delivery person here with a load of computers. Where do they go?”

Kent seems to have the organized answer for all problems.

Kent and her mother, Bessie Hurt Barclay, moved from Aldrich to Montevallo years ago after the death of Kent’s father. While Kent attended Montevallo High School, Ms. Susie Dement taught her typing and shorthand.

Kent had her own little typing area in an upstairs closet so she could type for Vinnie Lee Walker (senior English teacher) and Coach Cratie Corbett (democracy teacher).

After graduating in 1967, Peggy attended the University of Montevallo to obtain her bachelors degree in 1971. While at the university, she worked part time for Lee Barclay, Montevallo’s treasurer and business manager. She claims to have played matchmaker for him and her mother. The Barclays enjoyed many good years before his death in 2003.

Kent has two daughters: Michelle Brakefield, who teaches first grade at Meadow view Elementary; and Marsha Roach, who works in the computer lab at Creekview Elementary. Mom and daughters are happy to be employed by the Shelby County Board of Education.

Grandchildren Noah, Shep and Wynn Brakefield and Tyler and Marlee Grace Roach keep Kent and great-grandma Bessie busy with school functions, baseball, parties and lots of fun activities.

Kent began work at Thompson High School on July 1, 1983. Allen Fulton (then principal) interviewed her for the job and she’s been there ever since.

Her friends at work are “family.” Ms. Kent has “typed” her way through life — high school, college, Shelby County Vocational School and community education. Perhaps “typing” should be her middle name.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Kent was the organist at Elliotsville Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

“I love that church,” she said. “It is family oriented and I made lasting friends there.”

She now attends Westwood Baptist Church.

In her years at Thompson High School, lots of changes have occurred — from Selectronic II typewriters and carbon copies to computers. Last year, Thompson High School had the highest enrollment in the county at 1,800.

Enrollment has tripled since 1983.

A typical day involves being in charge of substitute teachers, documenting doctor excuses, completing work eligibility forms, attendance letters and anything else that comes across her desk. Her aides or student helpers have become lifelong friends.

God and family are most important. Kent would like to be remembered as “a lady who tried to help students at Thompson High School by being warm, kind, considerate and available to listen.”

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at bobthames1942@yahoo.com.