She sits at her desk, admiring her classroom as she waits for a group of new students to arrive. As they begin to file in, she smiles at their shocked expressions to see such an eccentric room and an equally eccentric teacher. It’s not every day students see a teacher with white spiky hair, covered head to toe in colors. Not to mention the walls of her classroom filled with quotes, photos, awards, jokes and so much more.
From the start, students knew there was no one else quite like debate teacher Sally Squibb.
Much like her personality, Squibb’s teaching career has been one of a kind. The majority of students and teachers alike know Squibb as the speech and debate teacher. Before doing so, she started her career as an English teacher in Suranthani, Thailand working for the Peace Corps, later moving back to her hometown of Sherman, Texas and then finally arriving to teach at Lewisville in 1978. After 42 years at Lewisville, Squibb is retiring with a world of memories in her mind. Throughout all her experiences as a teacher, she cannot pick one specific moment which she would consider her favorite.
“It is an amorphous memory that grew larger as the years accumulated,” Squibb said. “Every single year of teaching involved at least one gifted, talented, brilliant speech and debate speaker who created a colossal problem for lots of people, and the problem started as only a molecule of disarray or one wrong word.”
Throughout her 49 years of teaching, Squibb has encountered a multitude of students, but one has stuck by her side the longest. At the time, sophomore Liana Massengale enrolled in the speech and debate program when Squibb was first starting it, not knowing that years later, she would be teaching speech and debate alongside Squibb. Years of teaching together has created a strong bond between both teachers. Although Massengale is not sure what the next years will bring, she is glad to have had the experience to teach with Squibb.
“I am sad for selfish reasons,” Massengale said. “For 23 years I have taught next door to my best friend. It will be weird to not be able to go next door and see her any time I can. I really do not know a world where I am a teacher without Sally Squibb. I have been able to turn [to] her for help, ask her questions, vent my frustrations and laugh with her on a daily basis. We always tried to eat our lunch together and now I will not have any of those things at school.”
In the classroom, Squibb always strived to go beyond her lesson plans. She used her own life experiences and weaved them into valuable life lessons, so the transition to at-home learning was not ideal nor simple. Through online teaching, Squibb does not feel like she has been able to convey her stories and lessons in the same way.
“This COVID-19 surprise laid at our feet is definitely a game changer,” Squibb said. “This final year of teaching without living humans in front of me [who are] trying to pay attention turned into a cacophony of ups and downs. These long weeks became a lonely online test of endurance. To me, this current plan is not teaching, but orchestrated, preplanned fill-in-the-blank worksheets designed to keep us alive.”
Squibb’s impact extends far past the four walls of her classroom. Each person who walked through her door, whether it was a teacher or student, was different in their own unique ways. Squibb always made it a priority to establish individual relationships with them.
“I know for certain Lewisville High School and the many students, faculty and staff whose lives have been touched in some way by Sally Squibb are richer because of their experiences with her,” Massengale said. “She is a gift to the world of education and she has certainly paved a wonderful and winding yellow brick road throughout her career. With Mrs. Squibb in the classroom, school has become home for many people and she was the Wizard of Oz as far as teachers go.”
Students, like senior Chris Alamos, are inspired daily by Squibb. Although saddened to see her go, he appreciates the valuable life lessons Squibb has taught him, both in and out of the classroom. He knows Squibb will continue to do great things with her life.
“At the end, I knew she wouldn’t stay forever to teach and inspire students like me,” Alamos said. “Mrs. Squibb was a great educator and taught more than what she had in her lesson plans. Maybe one day, she will inspire others in a different way, but today, teaching young minds at the local high school will be the end of one of her chapters of life.”
Although Squibb’s time as an educator is coming to an end, she does not believe she will stop teaching or learning. Life is full of lessons, regardless of the setting one is in. If 49 years of pursuing her passion has taught her anything, it’s to embrace the unexpected.
“My advice is for each person to give [themselves] the permission to delight in many ideas, many jobs, many types of people, practice going with the flow one day and pushing against the waves on other days,” Squibb said. “You [have] to survive, so push against the ideas that hold you back and welcome those that promise excitement and contentedness.”