Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
More on the career of Dr. N.V. Dyer
The farm mule that Norman Vester Dyer chose to have his father sell and give him the $150.00 to continue his education proved a good investment. This man, noted wherever he went as an industrious, wise and solid "school man," touched teachers and students in various parts of Georgia.
He started out teaching in Choestoe, his home community, as an assistant in the country school where he began his own first grade work. Professor Theodore Swanson, who had been the teacher for the seven-month term, wanted to leave early, and suggested to Vester Dyer's father, Bluford Elisha Dyer, known as "Bud" Dyer, a trustee of the school, that the young lad who was just finishing seventh grade, was capable of taking over the school and completing the term. Challenged and somewhat frightened by the task, Vester buckled down and was able to complete his seventh grade school year as a teacher. This was the beginning of his 46-year career as an educator.
Places, besides Choestoe, that knew the influence of this educator, all in Georgia, were Hiawassee, Jones County (Green School), Dooly County (Lily), Milner, Luthersville, Fairburn, Blairsville (Collegiate Institute), Cornelia, Eastanollee (Stephens County), Dawsonville (Dawson County), Summerville and Villa Rica. In the period of his service, the major administrator of a school within a city system was called superintendent (now called a principal). Even though he was head of the school, he also enjoyed teaching so much that he had a class he taught seniors at each school called vocational guidance, citizenship or group counseling. His class was popular with seniors and helpful to them as they explored areas of job opportunity, set goals for their future, and struggled with ideas about living lives of service to mankind.
In his memoirs entitled A Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse, Dr. Dyer said he often encountered three major disturbing elements in school administrator's work: selfishness, politics and ignorance (Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse, p. 65). He gave numerous examples of these three often-times negative hindrances to educational progress.
Selfishness reared its head in those who would downgrade the school and its work because of petty jealousies or desire that jobs of teaching and school management be awarded through nepotism—or making family members or special friends recipients of any jobs available in the schools. In such situations, qualifications of the teachers and administrator, or even their success in operating a school took a back seat to favoritism.
Those who suffered most from such unprofessional practices were the students themselves.
Politics often played a role in who would be elected administrator or who would keep the job. After eleven years as a successful superintendent (principal) of Cornelia city schools, Mr. Dyer was ousted because of the "political machine" operable within the city. The same was true after four years of hard work in the Eastanollee School in Stephens County.
Sometimes called "The Court House Gang," the politicians wanted to get rid of Mr. Dyer as superintendent. Stephens County citizens, who had seen the school improve greatly under his leadership, circulated a petition with over 2,000 signatures asking that he be kept on as superintendent. They even had a Professor N. V. Dyer Day, complete with a hired band, invited speakers and dinner on the grounds on March 30, 1935 in an effort to break the School Board's deadlock on his reelection. Asked to speak before the Board of Education on his own behalf, Mr. Dyer surprised all the large crowd present at the court house by arising, quoting the speech of Brutus from William Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar," and likening the political maneuverings to those described in the play in that ancient Roman regime.
He saw ignorance as a daunting deterrent to progress in education. He did not mean by this illiteracy, or backwardness sometimes found in a community due to a lack of educational opportunities. He saw prejudice and resistance to change for the better as enemies of education. In many of the systems where he served as administrator, he offered classes for adults that would help them to a better quality of life. He set up Home Economics classes in some communities and invited mothers to learn to care better for the nutritional and nurturing needs of their children. If men could not manage to get jobs, he offered night classes in literacy or in trades that would help them in vocational pursuits. And ever, he urged students in school to set their sights on higher education, helping them to find ways to get enrolled in college or vocational school beyond high school. Truancy was a problem in his early years of teaching. He helped to write the truancy law that was eventually enacted by the State of Georgia.
Change in administering discipline to students was one of Mr. Dyer's strong points. He initiated the idea of keeping records, turned into the office, of student's offenses. These were recorded on individual cards for each student. If a student had "demerits" equal to five hours from teachers, he/she would be assigned work around the school to clear the demerit points. In that way, many improvements to the buildings and grounds were made by students who had caused disturbance of any kind. Prior to the work to erase the offense, Mr. Dyer would have a counseling session with the student and talk about responsibility, citizenship and payment for offenses. He talked to them about taking pride in their work, and making the school grounds and buildings better than when they had entered the school. This method of discipline, he affirmed, worked much better than the old-fashioned "paddling."
In whatever town the Dyer family lived, they became a vital part of the community as well as the school. Always active in church, he, his wife Jane, and their three daughters, Sarah Ruth, Betty and Helen, were involved. He was a deacon and lay preacher. Jane was a teacher and women's worker. The girls were part of the youth program, and when they became adults, were also leaders in their churches. In Dawsonville, Mr. Dyer led in the effort to erect a new building for First Baptist Church. In most of the towns where he served as superintendent, new school buildings were erected. Active in Lions Club, he served as a local officer as well as a leader in the district and state organization.
Reba W. Roberds who was a teacher under his supervision during his eleven years as head of the Villa Rica Schools said of him at his retirement banquet in May, 1955: "I knew him as a man devoted to high ideals of service, a man of vision and perseverance, a Christian gentleman, and a true friend."
Dr. Norman Vester Dyer, born on a Choestoe farm March 10. 1885, died December 28, 1968 in Villa Rica, Georgia. Of his 83 years spent on earth, 46 of them were as an educator.
c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 30, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]