New students entering Lebanon High School this fall may not be told to “lower it to a roar,” “think of it as an adventure,” or hear, “OK angels, the word for the day is…” That’s because longtime English teacher Bonnie Fakes retired.
Fakes retired after 41 years at the school and 48 in education. At least three generations of Lebanon students took English, creative writing, world literature, occupational English or study skills under the educator who loves to tell stories and genuinely loves young people.
At her retirement reception on the last day of school, principal Myra Sloan said she didn’t know how she would run the school without her. She said the walls would probably fall down.
Mark Lee, a local attorney and former student, paid tribute to her compassion and ability to help students through tough times. Several faculty members talked about how she had welcomed them, encouraged them or helped them with tough assignments just because she could.
Fakes, who competed to be the first teacher to ride the shuttle into space, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection from former students, colleagues –several of whom are teachers. She said she felt like “a pancake that just had syrup poured on it,” for all the tributes. She responded with a specially designed bookmark, which she had made for the faculty and staff for those days when the job is difficult to do, and they need encouragement.
Fakes, a graduate of Magic Valley Christian College in Albion, Idaho and Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, completed additional graduate work at Peabody, Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University, in addition to undergraduate work at Lipscomb University. She began teaching in 1965 at David Lipscomb Junior High School, and continued her career at Cumberland University’s admission’s office from 1967-73, when former assistant principal Sue Young hired her as a new English teacher at Lebanon High School.
“I never thought I’d stay 41 years,” she said, “but I grew to love the place, the people and the job, so it was hard to leave.”
Fakes said her decision was based mostly on the need to care for her husband, Ray. Ray, the retired director of purchasing at Wynn’s Precision Rubber, suffers from Parkinson’s disease. They are the parents of five children, Travis, Laura, Paul, Matthew and Bonnie Beth.
Fakes was a Tennessee finalist for the Teacher in Space Project in 1985 that culminated in the Challenger explosion in 1986. She served as a NASA Space Ambassador, presenting educational space programs ever since. She was the 2008 Horace Mann Lincoln Fellow from Tennessee, and has several programs on Abraham Lincoln in her period class. Her other jobs included medical secretary and professional singer as she went on a USO tour to Vietnam in 1967 with Roy Acuff, who was known as the “King of Country Music.”
She is the author of two books. “The Teacher in Space Cookbook” in 1986 is a compilation of recipes from teachers around the country and includes recipes from Nancy Reagan. “The District Governor in Action” is a book about her father’s years as a Rotary district governor. She is part owner of DeHoff Christian Bookstore in Murfreesboro, where she plans to work part-time as a managing consultant during her retirement.
She also plans to write both books and music and is currently taking courses to learn how to use her new iMac computer.
She thanked her students for giving her “a great education” and keeping her up to date on the latest trends. She said she would miss Lebanon High School, but “once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil.”