DUBLIN, Ga. — Mary Pearl Whitlock, who's now 72, found her love for teaching when she lived in Macon over five decades ago.

"It started with teaching Sunday School in Macon at Bellevue Baptist Church, and then I went to practice on my little brother," Whitlock said.

She graduated from Tift College in 1969 and went on to Georgia College for a certification in Social Studies and Physical Education.

"I've always wanted to be a classroom teacher -- not necessarily a teacher of a subject, but have an influence or make a difference in the lives of children," she said.

She got her first teaching job at Dublin High School during one of its most difficult times.

"The integration was quite a challenge in '70, '71. They had closed Oconee High School, which was predominantly the black school," she said.

She was 22 years old, and it wasn't easy.

"Bedlam! We had food fights in the cafeteria. We had egg fights on the front campus. It was the kids -- they were not used to be together," Whitlock said.

Three generations of students later, she never once thought of teaching anywhere else.

"My legacy, they are my students who came back to teach, they are my grandparents, they are my parents, and now this is my third generation," she said.

After 50 years, she says it's the perfect time for retirement.

"A lot of people say, 'You're not leaving, you're not leaving. You've been saying this for 10 years.' I said, 'No, I am leaving, but I'll probably come back,'" she said.

Whitlock taught tennis at Dublin High School for 29 years. She says she won't be gone for good. She's considering substitute teaching after she retires.

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