Betty Woodring would have been the last person on earth to refer to herself as a feminist.
The founder of Highlander School in Lake Highlands, would likely have described herself as a faithful Christian, a devoted wife and a loving mother and grandmother – if she had been willing to spend much time talking about herself at all.
But Dr. Betty Woodring was much more.
Woodring died Saturday of a massive heart attack. She spent most of her 83 years convincing students – including young girls – that there was no goal they couldn’t achieve, no skill they couldn’t master and no far away land they couldn’t explore. Woodring encouraged her students – numbering in the thousands over 50 years of running her school – to imagine new heights and then reach them. And she told them exactly how to get there – hard work. Woodring also taught her students to be citizens of character. Do the right thing, she told them, even when – and especially if – no one else is looking.
Betty Jo Gregory Woodring was born in Marshall, Texas in 1932, and she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from North Texas State College in the 1950s. She went back to earn a Doctorate from UNT in 1990.
After she and husband, Wayne, started their family, Woodring went looking for the perfect school for their children, Greg and Jill. None met her high standards, so she started one. Highlander is founded on the Carden curriculum, which features strong academics and character development in a Christian environment. Woodring ran her school with a strong but loving hand, determined to make lifelong learning a joy for every child.
Quickly, after word of Dr. Woodring’s passing began to spread, tributes began showing up on social media.
“If I started describing your mom and all the great memories, I would run out of room,” wrote Debra Oakes Pettit, a Highlander and Lake Highlands High School classmate of Jill Woodring Reed and mom to former Highlander students, Lydia and Laura. Debra later taught at Highlander. “She is a huge blessing to so many. I wonder how many thousands of kids she taught how to read? She was a brilliant educator, amazing mom, neighbor, encourager and friend. She was my teacher, my neighbor, my boss and my kids’ teacher at different points, and I am thankful. You have been so gracious to share her with all of us through the years. I am so sorry that it’s time to say goodbye.”
“She came every year to A-Team to help celebrate her kids’ ongoing achievements,” wrote LHFC AP teacher Erin Chesal. “Her support always meant a lot to the kids and to the LH community.”
“Standing at the door every single day to hug every single pre-K and K child who walked through it,” remembered Lisa Martin. “Greeting all of the children of Highlander in the halls and all over campus with a warm smile and words of encouragement – she will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.”
Highlander will mark its 50th year at a celebration, already weeks in the planning for November 5th. Sadly, Dr. Woodring will miss the event she so looked forward to, with nostalgic photos and memorabilia currently being assembled and graduates planning to return – some with their children who are graduates.
Services for Betty Woodring will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at Wilshire Baptist Church. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, donations are made to Campus Crusade for Christ. You can read her full obituary here.