By David Helms/The Pontotoc Progress
PONTOTOC – For more than three decades, school teacher Beverly Maffett Gunter helped write the first chapters in the lives of more than 1,000 children at Pontotoc Elementary School.
For the vast majority of those 32 years, Gunter was a kindergarten teacher.
Conservatively estimated, that’s more than 46,000 hours in the company of 5-year-olds.
The blonde-haired, calm-toned Gunter, a 1969 graduate of Pontotoc High School, always will be the earliest school memory for most of those youngsters.
How do you best teach a class full of kindergartners?
You read them a story, of course.
“The most enjoyable teaching and learning experiences I’ve had over the years have been with children’s literature,” said Gunter, who still lives in the Immanuel community near her parents’ home.
“It’s an exciting way to teach and an easy way to incorporate all subjects across the curriculum,” she said.
So when Gunter retired from teaching last year, all those years spent reading to her students helped launch a new chapter in her own life.
Gunter wrote and self-published a children’s book, “Mother Quail’s Thoughtless Wish.”
“It’s a concept-type book, which not only teaches curriculum skills required for the classroom, but also teaches a life lesson,” Gunter said.
The story line of the 40-page book centers around Mother and Father Quail and a wish made to a magical butterfly regarding the seven eggs which Mother Quail soon lays.
Gunter said she actually wrote the “Mother Quail” story 13 years ago.
“With the help of my assistant teacher, Betty Cayson, we traced pictures to go along with the story and I used it as a reading book,” Gunter said.
About six years ago, Gunter decided to try and get her story book published.
To illustrate her book, Gunter called upon the talents of childhood friend Roy Lee Mobley, an accomplished painter, musician and photographer.
Gunter and Mobley were classmates at Pontotoc High School.
“His sister, Laura, and I were best friends and they often visited their grandparents who lived down the road from my mother and daddy’s farm,” Gunter said.
“The three of us attended the same little country church and explored the same creeks and meadows during our childhood.
“Who could have been more perfect than Roy for painting the animals, people and places on Maw and Paw’s farm?”
Gunter said Mobley’s water color illustrations were a perfect match for her story.
“Roy’s beautiful pictures just made the story come to life,” Gunter praised.
Gunter said she tried unsuccessfully for several years to get someone to publish her book.
“I learned that if you don’t have an agent, or haven’t had something already published, most times they won’t even look at it,” she said.
So Gunter decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I took a self-publishing class about two years ago,” she said, “and it’s been in my head for a long time this would be a good thing to do when I retired.”
After spending the past six months revising and editing her longtime dream, Gunter had 1,000 copies of her book printed.
Gunter smiled, recalling when the books were delivered.
“It was just like Christmas morning when I was a little girl,” she said.
Gunter kicked off Pontotoc Elementary School’s read-a-thon in January and is visiting several classes at South Pontotoc this month.
If her book venture proves successful, Gunter said she already has another book waiting in the wings.
“It’s about a tadpole,” she said.
After 32 years in the classroom with little children, she’s got lots of tadpole tales to tell.