In honor of the school year coming to a close, we would like to dedicate a large portion of this column to some outstanding teachers who do such an exceptional job in our community. They enrich our lives in so many ways. Most of the time, however, their work goes unnoticed.

Nina Boothe graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 1965 with a plan to become a teacher. She had wanted to be a teacher for as long as she could remember.

In fact, when she started first grade, she would come home and sit her younger brother down and teach him everything she had learned that day. She was that determined and loved it that much.

But her passion was art and the history behind it. She had a formal and traditional education at North Texas State University. But she wanted more, and expanded her classroom experience by traveling the world to study art.

During the early 1970s, she made and sold silvery jewelry to help pay her way to Italy to study the Italian Renaissance. Nina also has traveled to study in London, Egypt, Chicago, New York, Santa Fe and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

The most memorable, as well as educational, of her trips was traveling to the former Soviet Union. She has made four trips there and has seen a transformation in progress.

“On my first visit in 1986, things were secured and very formal, but over the next several summers, the formality seemed to lessen,” Nina says.

“The people were very friendly, especially in the southern republics, during 1988 and 1989. They welcomed us into their homes for afternoon tea. At that point, we didn’t even have to have a guide to accompany us. It was very enlightening.”

After returning to the U.S., Nina tried to read and learn about Russian culture, but couldn’t find much information. In frustration, she finally obtained some of the information from Moscow.

Triumphant in her quest, she now lectures on Russian art, literature and architecture throughout Texas. Her audiences include art conferences, travel groups and social studies groups. Her successes are extraordinary because of her unrelenting determination.

Another travel highlight must be the crusade to Graceland in Memphis. This trek was made to collect memorabilia for the Elvis Shrine Nina is putting together in her garage. She insists that she is really not fascinated with the King. She just feels obligated to assemble the collectibles into some sort of dignified display.

Nina’s cat, incidentally, is named Elvis because he is a “hunk-a-hunk of burning love.”

Nina has been honored many times during her 23-year teaching career at Lake Highlands Junior High. The accolade that means the most to Nina is the “Outstanding Art Educator Award” presented to her by a Richardson group.

There are 10 former Lake Highlands students now teaching at LHJH. They include: Suzanne Schwinn Goldsberry (64), Nina Booth (65), Andy Attaway (68), Carol Phillips Mariar (68), Martha Walker (71), Deborah Thomas (71), Bob Williams (75), Ramsey MacDonald (81), Mary Fox (87), and student teacher Ann Bullock (88). We will profile several of these teachers in the coming months to find out their lure to their alma mater.

Twenty-one years ago, a teacher from the East Texas town of Gladewater started at Lake Highlands High School. Donna Clark stopped off in Kilgore to dance her way into the Rangerette line before completing her degree at East Texas State University.

Donna taught English at LHHS for 16 years while heading up the spirit team for three seasons in her early years, as well as directing the Highlandettes from 1979-1983.

Donna was the first girls coach in golf, basketball and gymnastics, and she served as director for intramural sports and the twirlers. She has produced the Varsity Review several years and written the Highlandette Show since the ‘70s.

During the summer when some teachers try to relax, regroup and recoup, Donna served as director for Super Star Drill Team Camps and NCA Cheerleading Camps for 12 years.

She earned her master’s degree in counseling in 1975 but loved being in the classroom so much that she did not move into counseling until 1988.

“It was a hard decision to move out of the classroom and into an office, but I felt that it would be a positive change for me at that time,” she says.

For the last five years, Donna has been a counselor at LHHS. Many students have explained what a big difference Donna has made in their lives, not only in academics but in their personal life.

Her compassion and understanding have given them the direction they were seeking and the courage they needed to achieve it.

Donna currently is a member of the District Support Team. This highly trained group of counselors goes to a school during a crisis to help set up counseling for students affected by the crisis.