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Great State: 41 Years in 1st Grade

LEXINGTON, OKLAHOMA — The testing season is over with.

Long time 1st grade teacher Darlene Meskimen is using these last few days of the 2012-13 school year to catch up on the books she wanted to read out loud.

They’re reviewing a few things like the ‘Continents Rhyme’ and making sure their student journals record the special visitor from KFOR.

Darlene says one of the things she likes best about teaching is, “You never know what’s going to go on.”

She’s been at Lexington Elementary School 37 years, a teacher for 41 years, which is funny because that wasn’t her original career choice.

“I had polio when I was 5,” Meskimen tells us. “So I really wanted to be an x-ray tech because I’d been x-rayed so much and had been around hospitals a lot.”

She wears a brace on her right leg.

Darlene uses crutches to walk long distances.

Her disability closed some career doors but opened others.

Her crutches proved a kind of magnet for curious children. Meskimen was always patient enough to explain and teach.

“They are very accepting of me,” she says. “I told my students that I had polio one year and I guess I hadn’t met one mother until the open house. She told me her boy had explained to her that I had ‘Pinocchio’.”

Her shelves are crowded with books even though she’s taken several boxes of them home already.

If something proved useful during her long teaching tenure she kept it. Meskimen’s students still play a game called Word Muncher on Apple IIe’s that are more than 30 years old.

“The computer guys come in and complain that these are so old,” she chuckles.

Darlene left a legacy too.

Three teachers in the Lexington district including 6th grade teacher Marci Bean were in her 1st grade class.

Marci’s daughter Landry has Mrs. Meskimen for a teacher now.

“She was definitely someone that I remembered through the years,” says Marci.

For a long time Darlene didn’t need her crutches in class.

This year she did.

Over the past few weeks she’s been clearing out her things, making room for a younger teacher.

“Everybody that I know says retirement is wonderful,” she says with a little hesitation.

More than 4 decades is a long time to do one thing, but when you do it well, it goes by fast.

Teachers and former students gathered for a party on May 16th to honor Darlene Meskimen’s long career.

The last day of school was set for Friday.