Education remains a passion for Armstrong

By Thomas Wilson

   Education is a passion for Catherine Armstrong.
   A teacher in Elizabethton City Schools for over 40 years, Armstrong is seeking re-election to her second term on the city's Board of Education.
   "I would've taught until I was 100 if I could have," she said with a laugh. "I still want to be a part of the educational system. It has been my whole life and I want to continue on with it."
   Armstrong has been involved in the public educational field since 1952. She served on the city's board of education from 1985 to 1989. She was also an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). She later returned to teaching at East Side Elementary in the Title I program.
   Armstrong is one of three candidates running for two seats on the Board of Education. She holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in Education from ETSU.
   "I have to think how is this going to affect this child at Harold McCormick or this child at West Side," she said of her decisions as a school board member. "When they get through high school, have we prepared them to go to ETSU or UT or Milligan or wherever they go? Have we really prepared them?"
   The Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled the state's existing teacher salary equalization plan unconstitutional. Funding for teacher equalization -- which has ranged from $53 million to $400 million -- is a question the state legislature may have to answer next year.
   "I agree teacher pay should be equalized, but how they are going to do it ... that is another story," Armstrong said. "A teacher in the county is doing the same thing that the teacher in the city does, but they are making way less and it should be more fair."
   The city's recent annexations of property in west Carter County has brought in new properties and hundreds of county residents into Elizabethton's corporate boundaries.
   "Our city school system has adjusted to so many changes, we seem to be able to adjust and be provided for by the City Council funding," she said. "Even if we annex, I think we'll be able to adjust ... I don't think we'll have any problems there."
   Tennesseans will have an opportunity to lift the state's Constitutional prohibition on a lottery when they go to the polls to vote on the lottery amendment in the state general election on Nov. 5.
   Armstrong felt that if the lottery referendum was approved and a state lottery was created it could be beneficial to education. However, she warned people should know all the facts about the lottery funding plan before casting their ballots.
   "If it passes, I would think it would be good because a lot of children can't go school that don't have scholarships," said Armstrong. "People are going to have to study (the lottery) before they make that decision."
   Lottery supporters and state legislators have stated publicly that a Tennessee lottery would be modeled after the state of Georgia's lottery -- that provides college scholarships to academically eligible students and a pre-kindergarten program.
   Learning never ends, according to Armstrong, who said she had been taking literature classes at Northeast State Technical Community College.
   She felt the city schools' administrators were working hard and the school system also enjoyed strong parental support to make academic achievement successful.
   "We are keeping our scores up," she said, "and I feel like they do keep up with what's coming out new and new issues in education."
   The second year of the Gateway examinations is under way with Elizabethton city students posting impressive scores in Algebra and Biology I exams last year.
   Armstrong said she was intrigued by the future of Gateway and how accurately it assessed students' abilities as new subject tests of social studies and English were added in the coming years.
   "When they first mentioned Gateway testing and explained to me, I was thinking will the children ever graduate?" she said. "I was concerned about it and I'm anxious to see the end result of what happens ... to see if it works."
   She also said her years in education had taught her that the cycle of student evaluation would likely see another method in standardized testing in the future.
   "In a few years, they are going to come up with something else," she said.
   A member of several local and national clubs and organizations, Armstrong is an active member of First United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Women Society.
   She is married to William "Bill" Armstrong, a retired city school teacher and principal. Her parents are Gwyn Wooten and the late B.E. "Bob" Wooten.
   Armstrong said interest in the overall system and her passion for learning kept her excited about serving as a school board member.
   "I am a hard worker and I do study," she said. "I go to every board meeting prepared."