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Home News-Telegram News Unwavering Patriotism and Spirit: History teacher D’Ann Frank a survivor ‘as strong-willed as she is a lady’

Unwavering Patriotism and Spirit: History teacher D’Ann Frank a survivor ‘as strong-willed as she is a lady’

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D’Ann Frank exemplifies what it means to be a true lady and American patriot, one who doesn’t let much keep her down, her friends say.

One had only to visit Frank’s classroom at Cumby to see the many flags and other patriotic decorations.

“She’s so patriotic. That describes her, an attractive patriotic lady. She’s a role model for others to follow,” said Cumby fourth grade teacher Becky Thorman, who not only considers Frank a fellow teacher and friend, but can also attest to Frank’s educational impact from a parent perspective. Frank has a son the same age as Thorman’s grown son, who she taught when he was in fifth grade. “She loves history and politics. She’s teaching an area she loves.”

Frank can often be found wearing patriotic scarves and the national colors. She also makes sure that students know why historic days and nationally recognized holidays are important. As a sponsor, she also worked with the student council to do various activities in recognition, too.

“She’d remind them why we do the pledge. She made me a better person and teacher,” said Thorman of Frank, who retired from Cumby Independent School District in June after 19 1/2 years teaching. “I learned so much from her. I adore her. She’s a special person. She can’t be replaced. I look up to her. There’s no one else like her.”

“She’s an outstanding history teacher, very active in communicating with our senator and representative through the students; she will be missed,” said Lance Campbell, CISD superintendent, referring to a letter writing project Frank had her students conduct.

Frank explained she divided her students into two groups, boys and girls. One group wrote letters to the state senator and the other the representative for Cumby. In 2011, State Sen. Bob Deuell answered all of the students who wrote him.

“It got personal for them, taught them, ‘See, you really can make a difference and be heard,’” she explained.

One of the things Franks emphasizes is the need for people to become involved in the election process. She also instills her love of history and patriotism. One thing she does is “Today in 2 Minutes,” in which she and the students discuss what’s going on in the world. “They want to learn what’s going on in the world.” They watch the “2 Minutes” program weekly, discuss various points of view related to the information, and learn to be discerning so they get facts, not opinions or false information.

Frank said she’s always been especially patriotic and expressed her deep abiding respect and appreciation for the men and women of the armed forces. But she came by it honestly — her father retired from the Air Force.

Frank’s actions April 23 were borne from that and reinforced when she learned that one of her students was related through marriage to Sgt. Tanner Higgins, the local Army Ranger killed April 14 in Afghanistan. The student, Frank explained, was kin to Sgt. Higgins’ wife, Shelby Allen Higgins.

When she found out the morning the procession carrying Higgins’ body to a Winnsboro funeral home would be traveling through Cumby during regular school hours, she got on her cell phone and contacted the parents of every one of her sixth grade students to get their permission for the students to help honor him. She got the kids ready and took them to Interstate 30 to show their support and appreciation.

But according to her co-workers and students, it’s not uncommon for Frank to put in the extra effort to help someone or go above and beyond what’s expected.

“She’s a kind, wonderful person — a very good role model for kids to have had. She’s an asset to Cumby. We are going to miss her during her retirement,” noted Thorman. “We dearly love her. She’s a true teacher and Christian. She is what you see — a true lady, one of my role models, a good asset and such a kind person.”

She also served as PTO treasurer, assistant UIL director and volunteered in the after-school program helping students with their lessons and finding interesting things for them to do.

It’s not uncommon for Frank to bring extra snacks to school and share them with students in the after-school program, such as one she knew wouldn’t have an opportunity to go home for supper before a ball game that evening.

If she knows a student has a health need, she makes a conscious effort to help the student keep track of information and watch for signs the student may require additional medication or other assistance.

“She is not only an exceptional, conscientious teacher, she is proud to be an American. She loves her school and country, and demonstrates unwavering patriotism. She strives daily to be her best and she wants what is best for all students at Cumby ISD,” said Shelly Slaughter, Cumby Elementary principal.

In fact, Frank’s students nominated her for a UPS contest recognizing exceptional educators during a Dallas Mavericks game this year.

“Because of one young lady's essay, Alyssa McDonald, she won the prize,” Slaughter said.

Franks was the recipient of $2,000, — $1,000 for her and $1,000 for the school — as well as four Mavericks tickets.

This was significant, according to Slaughter, because the nomination not only shows the impact Frank has had on Cumby students the past 19 1/2 years, but also is a prime example of the type of person she is.

“Mrs. Frank decided that she and her husband would use two of the tickets for Alyssa and a friend to go with them to the game. Mrs. Frank is also donating $500 of her $1,000 back to the teachers at Cumby Elementary so that they can buy some supplies for their classrooms. These actions just reiterate what type of person and teacher she is,” noted the elementary principal.

Frank’s expectations for students in her classroom are simple: Be respectful to everyone; be prepared; turn in assignments and homework on time; participate; and help yourself and others to learn.

She tries to show and instill in her students the basic values she was taught.

“My philosophy: Love the child. Respect each other. You can guide them. They can all learn at their level,” she said. “I don’t necessarily teach them ‘do this or do that, act this way.’ I want them to be independent, to have self confidence and discipline. My parents supported the education system. It was very important. I instill my love of law now. My dad was not college educated, but he was well read. He taught constant respect, to listen and take part.”

She said faith and religion are also a big part of her life, and strives to “make God the center of my life.” She admits that as a public school teacher, showing that and teaching it aren’t as easy as it was during her early years teaching at private day schools. She taught at A.L. Day Care for three years, then went to work at Draughan’s Playschool when the Commerce facility started a kindergarten program.

“It’s harder at [public] school. When I taught at private school, I could show the kids how things didn’t work in life, laziness. ... God can always help,” Frank said. “We used to not teach anything about religion. Now, we discuss Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, a lot of different concepts of faith and compare them. Really, this is college level concepts and thinking.”

While at Cumby, Frank has taught several grade levels, including nine years as a second grade teacher, the rest at kindergarten, third and eventually fifth and sixth grades.

“Pre-K and fourth were the only ones I didn’t teach,” said Franks, who retired at the end of the school year. “I liked second for a long time, but I enjoy fifth and sixth grade now. Students are eager to learn. There are a few sad stories, but you see more positive. Sometimes, the sad ones are due to the circumstances; the students can’t help it.”

When things get to be too much for Franks, her husband has been good to show support while helping her to find a balance.

“I have a very supportive husband. He’s my best friend. We talk things through,” Frank said, noting that when she really let students’ or school situations worry her, he “tells me to let it go. He’s understood. I try to be supportive to him and he of me.”

As the mother of three children, now grown, she’d work with kids all day at school, then bring home paperwork and plans for the next day’s lessons. But regardless of the situation, her husband of 42 years has “always been very supportive.”

He was there to offer balance and remind her that sometimes in education you just have to go with the flow, and sometimes be willing to change — for instance, to be willing to learn to incorporate new technology, such as Promethean boards or laptops, into the classroom.

And he and her school family wer there during the most trying time in any woman’s life.

“I had breast cancer in 2006, major surgery in 2007 — reconstructive. I wanted [to teach until age] 65, but I’m 62, will be 63. I wanted to stay 20 years,” admits Frank, adding that while she made it through, her energy levels have never quite returned to normal after the cancer and treatments.

“She’s a survivor,” said pal Thorman. “She had chemo, radiation. She stayed at school until she couldn’t stay any longer.”

Frank said she was blessed with co-workers and friends who volunteered to help out, which enabled her to receive the medical help she needed to fight the disease, while still working through most of her cancer treatment. She worked part time for a week, then returned full time.

Thorman noted that Frank’s strength, love for the students she teachers and dedication to her job, really shined during that time.

Frank received 13 months of chemo — for 12 straight weeks, then every three weeks for a few months — and she still taught school.

The first round wasn’t so bad, she said. She felt few side effects. But during the second round, she lost all of her hair, and at one point became so weak she couldn’t walk across the floor unaided. They had to change her medication.

Instead of getting upset over her loss of hair, Franks turned it into a fun time for her students. She let them vote on which hairpiece she’d wear — and did. She literally has the picture to proudly prove it.

“It was interesting. We took a group picture,” Franks said with a laugh, pointing to her head in a class picture taken following her second round of chemotherapy.

“She wore it with confidence and did not play on her illness,” Thorman recalled.

As for her battle with cancer, Franks took it all in stride and continued to teach as much and often as she could. She said that it did tax her endurance and still affects her energy levels, but “I just gritted my teeth like Dad.” She also drove herself to and from treatments, then back to school, Thorman said.

“She’s strong. She is as strong-willed as she is a lady; and she’s every bit a lady. She just keeps going, like it’s not a big deal to survive breast cancer. Going through it, she was worried about the kids. They were her number one priority,” Thorman said, noting that she’d prep for class, have her lesson plans all together and have the class ready, then hand it all off to a fellow teacher, drive herself to her cancer treatment, then drive herself back to school to finish out the day or get ready for the next, depending on the time of the session. “She’s a survivor.”

Frank said while she’s enjoyed her 19 1/2 years teaching in Cumby — she was hired in January 1993 — retiring now will allow her to spend more time with her husband, who’s semi-retired and works part-time, her three children and her five grandchildren. Spending time with the kids and grandkids is not always an easy feat, however, as they live some distance away

She tries to visit her son in Indiana twice a year, and visit her daughters as well; one lives in Louisville, Ky., quite a way for a grandmother to travel for the grandkids’ activities.

“She loves teaching, but she really loves being a grandmother. They are the light of her life,” Thorman noted. “We’ve had really good times. She’s an asset to Cumby. We’re going to miss her during her retirement. I’m really going to miss her.”

“Mrs. Frank is a true asset to our district and she will be greatly missed,” said Slaughter, adding “she will be missed and never replaced. She is truly irreplaceable.


 

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