Chat Room: Penny Ferguson

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By Lance Coleman

Penny Ferguson
Age - "Forever young at heart"
Married to Sam; daughters are Julie and Laurie Ferguson
Occupation: English teacher at Maryville High School

What was your first paying job?
"When I was in high school and needed extra cash, an hourly job always awaited me during the summer and on holidays at Blackwood Insurance Agency. I would type, file and run errands, whatever was needed."

If you were stranded on an island, what one thing would you take?
"I would take my husband with me. He is like the Professor on ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ He could make anything we might need out of sand and palm trees. He is a problem solver and creator extraordinaire."

If you could do one impulsive thing, unrestricted by cost, what would it be?
"I would take my extended family on a luxury trip around the world. We all love to travel and could collectively enjoy our new surroundings and exciting discoveries."

What task or activity have you still not gotten around to doing?
"After playing high school and college tennis, my husband and I continued to play competitive tennis and were ranked at the state level for several years. We often thought we would like to compete at the national level. We never got around to pursuing this goal."

What’s your favorite television or movie quote?
"One of my favorite quotes comes from a 1942 movie entitled ‘Now, Voyager.’ ‘Don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’ "

What are you guilty of?
"I have been told that I work too hard, and I guess that I am guilty of that."

What is one thing you have always wanted to do but haven’t?
"I have always wanted to go watch the tennis matches at Wimbledon."

Do you think there is life on other planets?
"I am not sure, but my daughter’s fourth-grade students are still reeling from the loss of Pluto as an official planet."

What is your favorite material possession?
"The Family History albums created by my daughters at Maryville High School are one of my favorite possessions. With the recent loss of my parents, we have done a great deal of reflecting and revisiting the past through pictures."

What are you reading currently?
"Most of my reading time recently has been consumed with research papers written by my high school juniors. However, two other works that I am in the process of reading are ‘Teacher Man,’ by Frank McCourt and ‘Eight Habits of the Heart for Educators,’ by Clifton Taulbert."

Who has been the most influential person in the 20th century?
"I would have to say that Bill Gates has been one of the most influential people in the 20th century."

Why did you pursue the career you chose?
"For me, teaching is not merely a vocation, but a way of life. I truly believe that a teacher ‘affects eternity-she never knows where her influence stops.’ I remember deciding to become a teacher as early as the sixth grade and was selected to portray this role in the spring musical at school that year. By middle school, students were turning to me for help with their schoolwork, saying that my explanations were clearer than those of the teacher. As I progressed through my education, I had many excellent teacher role models. The teacher who had the most profound influence on me was my junior English teacher, Herma Cate."

What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
"I often hear others describe me as energetic and enthusiastic"

When you were 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"At the age of five, I often thought of being a comedian. I asked for joke books and trick kits for Christmas and birthdays, and I could often be found playing pranks on my siblings and friends and telling jokes to anyone who would listen."

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
"I wish that I could be less of a ‘worry wart.’ I cause myself much unnecessary anxiety."

What is your passion?
"I am passionate about teaching, travel, and tennis, but I am most passionate about my family."

What character in a book or movie would you most like to be?
"Little Women and Jo’s Boys were always favorite books of mine growing up, and I always aspired to be like Jo."

With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
"One individual with whom I would love to have a lengthy conversation over lunch is Benjamin Franklin."

What’s your favorite quote?
"Two interrelated quotes for which I am known come from the great thinkers of the American Renaissance-Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Emerson once said, ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ Thoreau said, ‘Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world! It beats money and power and influence.’"

If you could go back in time for a week, what time period would you visit?
"I think I would go back to Italy in the 15th century and visit the Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer whose genius was centuries ahead of his time. I would watch Leonardo da Vinci paint the Last Supper or the Mona Lisa."

What is the best advice your father ever gave you?
"My grandfather was nicknamed "Hurry-On Blackwood," and his ideas about efficiency were passed on to his son, my father, Leland C. Blackwood. Dad always used to advise me, ‘Do it right, and do it right now!’ That philosophy has become my mantra."

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