Laura Bush and Charlene Gnagy
Inspired by her second grade teacher, Laura Bush earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Southern Methodist University in 1968. In 1973, she earned a master of Library Science degree from the University of Texas and worked as a public school librarian. As First Lady of Texas, Mrs. Bush took an active role in sharing information with Texas to help prepare young children for success in school and life. Mrs. Bush carried her role to the White House, where she promoted programs with an emphasis on education that gave parents, teachers, and caregivers information about child development and learning. As the leader of President Bush’s Helping America’s Youth initiative, Mrs. Bush listened to the concerns of young people, parents, and community leaders throughout the country and drew attention to programs that help children. She highlighted the need of every child to have a caring adult role model in his or her life—whether the adult is a parent, grandparent, mentor, or teacher.
Charlene Gnagy attended public school and graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in the small town of Chico, Texas. She proceeded on to Decatur Baptist College followed by North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. In 1952 she accepted her first teaching job and moved to Midland, a dry, dusty booming oil town at the time, in West Texas. Mrs. Gnagy married a short time later.
Little did she know that in her second year as a teacher, a future First Lady of our nation would pass through her classroom doors, and the two would remain in touch off and on for the next 53 years. “We were both very young, then,” she chuckles.
Mrs. Gnagy remained in Midland throughout her teaching career of 34 years. She taught in several different public elementary schools as well as 12 years in a private school at the local First Baptist Church. Membership in professional teaching organizations such as Kappa Kappa Iota and Delta Kappa Gamma also kept her busy, along with her active personal life as a wife and mother of two.
Mrs. Gnagy recalls that her fondest memories of teaching include helping children learn to read and encouraging their progress. From her students, she also cherished receiving and returning hugs of affection, both then and now.
Mrs. Gnagy feels honored to receive Mrs. Bush’s recognition of her influence inspiring the First Lady to pursue the field of education herself.
Since retirement, she has traveled extensively and enjoys hearing from past students and learning of their successes. About teaching, Mrs. Gnagy remarks, “Teaching is a career you must LOVE, not just one you like—you never know whose life you may touch.”
Update: Charlene Gnagy passed away on July 3, 2007, at the age of 75. In a statement, First Lady Laura Bush said, "She inspired my love of teaching by her own great example: She spent 34 years helping children build academic and personal skills that would last for a lifetime." TeachersCount extends condolences to the children, grandchildren and other friends and family of Mrs. Gnagy.