In The Steps of Esteban: Tucson's African American Heritage

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Irene George

Summary of a 1988 oral history by A. Sykes; 1996

Irene George was born in 1924 in Arkansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas which was at that time one of the best schools in the Midwest, and accepted a teaching position at Dunbar School in Tucson.

At Dunbar, Mrs. George taught fifth grade. She followed the philosophy, "If you see a star in the darkness pluck it out." Whenever she would find a student with special talent she gave that student extra attention and encouragement.

Mrs. George retired as the Vice Principal of Vail Junior High School after 35 years of excellent service to the Tucson schools. Her dedicated service has touched the lives of thousands of Tucson children.

An Interview with Irene George
by Annie Sykes; 1988

Mrs. George was interviewed by Annie Sykes, Peer Assistant to the African American History Internship Project. Ms. Sykes also wrote this narrative.

Mrs. George was born in 1924 in Arkansas; she spent her formative years in Kansas. She was very image wise for she had the exposure of a Black school system as a child. Mrs. George graduated from the University of Kansas which was at that time one of the best schools in the Midwest. Upon graduation in 1948 she was contacted by Morgan Maxwell, the then principal of Dunbar school in Tucson, and on his request she accepted a teaching position at Dunbar.

When she arrived in Tucson she was greeted by a gracious lady, Mildred Banks, the secretary for Dunbar School. There were 17 teachers at the school, eight of whom were from Kansas. Mrs. George said: "There were sometimes stumbling blocks placed in the way of Morgan Maxwell because of his desire to bring teachers from Kansas. I learned later that much of his background was from Kansas, and he felt strongly about the educational system there. In his opinion the Kansas system for teaching was one of the best."

Mrs. George taught fifth grade and brought to the school the ideology that: "If you see a star in the darkness pluck it out." Whenever she would find a student with special talent she gave that student extra attention. This concept followed her throughout her lengthy career as an educator in the Tucson school system.

When Mrs. George retired as the Vice Principal of Vail Junior High School, she still had the desire to have a cohesive working educational environment. She holds dear the memories of some of her students such as Ernie McCrae, Sean Elliott, Pat Davenport, and Shirley Robinson.

In reviewing her tenure in the Tucson school system, Mrs. George said: "I have no regrets except that I wish I could have given more, and if at any time there is an opportunity I will give."

And give she did. Mrs. George and her 35 years of educational service to Tucson should serve as an example to many who are laboring in the field now as well as those who will follow in her footsteps. Tucson is better off for having had a dedicated teacher like Mrs. Irene George.