Remembering Mattie Faye Spears (1943-2014) | Ruth Ray Jackson, Southern University and A & M College

Mattie Faye SpearsGrambling State University alumna Dr. Mattie Faye Spears was one of my greatest teachers.

She was the instructor for my Intro to Education class at Southern University. She was the principal of Southern Lab when I did my student teaching. In my second year of teaching, she became principal of the school I worked. She allowed me to complete the administrative internship for my master’s program. During this internship, she offered access and insight on school operations. She later took a chance and offered me my first administrative position early in my career.

We lived in the same neighborhood so we’d carpool once in a while. The commute was as valuable as my graduate level courses. She called me over to her home sometimes and I would watch as she strategized for North Iberville. I can still see the yellow legal pads with her plans written on them. She worked tirelessly (even though some of us who worked for her got tired) to turn the written plans into reality.

She shared pearls of wisdom I’ve kept in mind from my English classroom to the assistant principal and principal’s offices to my college teaching position and now as dean. I hear her voice saying:

“Ray, is it in the best interest of children?”
“Ray, you better get some tough skin – buy it, grow it, or rent it.”
“Be firm, fair, and consistent.”
“It’s all about the kids.”
“When people say students/a school can’t be successful, show them different.”
“Ray, they (whoever didn’t hear what they wanted at the particular time – students, parents, colleagues, board mementos) don’t like you anyway. Really, it’s not you the person; it’s the position you’re in and the decision you have to make.”

We do not talk often but last month Dr. Spears was on my mind. I called her the evening before Election Day, she shared she’d been having health problems. She sounded weak, but Dr. Spears was still feisty and in the know. She kept up with me on Facebook so she knew all about my move to Oklahoma and my position at Langston University.

I’m so thankful I was finally obedient to God’s nudges to contact her. I got the chance again to tell Dr. Spears thanks for all this and so much more taught me.

I am so glad, I was obedient to God’s nudges to contact her. I had the opportunity to express my gratitude and let her that she left her legacy in many lives, including mine.


Ruth Ray JacksonRuth Ray Jackson is a graduate of Southern University and A&M College and currently serves as dean at Langston University‘s School of Education and Behavorial Sciences. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 


  1. I am so sad to have found this! Ms. Spears was my 3rd grade teacher at Wedgewood Elementary , and I was trying to find her! She was a guiding light, strong, challenging, beautifully stylish, and fun! I still have the mastering fractions certificate she awarded me.I became an educator, now in Texas. I tell my students often about the teacher I consider my favorite. Clearly she had an impact on many more people than I. Love.