- Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
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"A Wonderful, Warm, Caring, and Intelligent Educator"
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JUNE 14, 2021 – After more than 42 years as an educator – the past 12 of them as a teacher at Paisley IB School – Page Dancy is retiring.
“Page's departure from Paisley leaves an enormous void,” said Marshall Marvelli, who teaches English and literature.
“It is unfair to expect any other teacher to step in and fill that void. All I have to do is recall from memory the positive, indeed worshipful comments from former students. Not only was she a great classroom teacher, but Page Dancy also exhibited a profound belief in International Baccalaureate and what that program offered students.”
“We cannot forget that she also brought Girl Scouts to Paisley and ran the troop here for 10 years. The program was a success beyond doubt. Her home became a sort of ‘clubhouse’ for students.”
“As a high school faculty member, if I wanted to meet rising ninth graders – Year Four in International Baccalaureate speak – who would be sitting in my English I class the next fall, all I had to do was visit Page's home during the summer.”
“The other important aspect of Page's presence on the Paisley campus was the mentoring role she performed year after year to the BT’s (beginning teachers) whether or not they were formally assigned to her as a mentee.”
“Even as a master teacher, I would routinely go to Page for advice, suggestions, or just someone with a well-tuned ear to class problems. She always gave 110 percent.”
“I know her family will be delighted to get her full and undivided attention. But, I, for one, will sadly miss this wonderful, warm, caring, and intelligent educator.”
Growing up, Page Dancy had no idea she was destined to become a teacher. She thought she was going to become a lawyer.
Dancy is the sort of person who doesn’t operate at a modest pace – some people refer to her as “headstrong” – when she headed to Salem College – she took classes in elementary education along with all the classes she took that would ready her for law school.
She was on her way to graduate a semester early when she did her student teaching at Old Richmond Elementary in the fall of 1977. The second she stepped into the classroom at Old Richmond – which, at the time, was a single-wide trailer because the building was being replaced - and met her students, she loved being a teacher.
One afternoon after school, she was driving down Silas Creek Parkway on her way to her dorm at Salem College when she had a moment of bewilderment. Although she didn’t literally see a light coming down from heaven, she felt so disoriented that she pulled over.
“I felt like I was hit on the head,” she said.
“I realized I needed children. I needed to be with a bunch of kids.”
In that moment, she understood that she needed to discard her plans to go to law school and, instead, become a teacher.
She had already applied to law schools at such universities as Duke University and The George Washington University. After she got back to her dorm, her father called from their home in Asheboro to tell her that two fat envelopes from those law schools had arrived in the mail.
Because they were addressed to her, he didn’t feel comfortable opening them up. So he was going to drive up the next day and be with her while she opened them.
When he arrived and they sat down, Dancy said, “Daddy, we need to talk.”
“You could open and talk at the same time,” her father said.
No, she said. She needed to tell him something beforehand. (With the envelopes being so fat, she knew they couldn’t be rejections.)
When she told him that she was going to become a teacher rather than a lawyer, he stood up and walked out.
Later, she opened the envelopes on her own. They were indeed acceptances. She was honored but that did nothing to change her mind.
As college graduation came up, she applied to school systems in Asheboro area, as well as the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system and school districts in Yadkin and Davidson counties.
As it happened, the teacher of a combined first and second-grade class at Konnoak Elementary had left and the school needed a teacher in for the second semester. The principal hired her, and she started Jan. 2.
Here again, it was instantly a satisfying experience.
“It was blissful,” she said. “It was incredible.”
In retrospect, she said, she believes the feelings on Silas Creek that prompted her to pull over were a divine message.
“I truly believe that was God setting me on a different path,” Dancy said. “It was what I was supposed to do.”
And, as with many things her life, the timing was an important element.
If she had opened those envelopes and accepted one of the offers from a law school before she had that experience, it would have been far harder to take a different path if the impulse to teach had come later.
As she continued to teach, every day she felt as if that was what she was supposed to do even when something made her mad or brought tears to her eyes.
When Dancy had been a student teacher at Old Richmond, Kay McEntire was the principal. While Dancy was teaching at Konnoak, McEntire told Dancy that she needed a third-grade teacher at Old Richmond for the following year. Dancy applied, and, that fall, she found herself working in a brand-new building with many teachers she already knew and appreciated.
“It was an incredible time to teach,” she said.
She and other teachers there soon began participating together in a master’s degree program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and they would ride over together.
She enjoyed going into the classroom each day while working on her master’s.
“I loved able to apply everything I was learning,” she said.
After a couple of years of teaching, she decided she would like to become a Curriculum Coordinator, which would enable her to work with teachers and students throughout a school.
In the years that followed, she served as a Curriculum Coordinator at Fairview Intermediate (which occupied the building that is now home to Ashley Academy), at Ibraham Elementary, at Kernersville Elementary, and at Jefferson Elementary.
To back up for a moment, Dancy has another story in which timing plays an important role.
When she was 25, she was invited to a Halloween party. In those days, you could rent costumes from The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem. She and the man who was going to be her date to the party headed over there to pick out something.
Shortly after they arrived, a young man named Beau Dancy came out of a dressing room wearing a costume that included a big hat with a big feather. His theatrics made her laugh. Both his date and her date looked on stony-eyed.
Dancy didn’t know that Beau Dancy had been invited to the same party until she arrived at the party a few days later. They hit it off, started dating and married.
Looking back, she said, “We always felt like it was another one of those times we were at the right place at the right time.”
Beau Dancy is a contractor who builds both residences and commercial properties. They came to have three children. The timing of their births was such that Dancy never had to take maternity leave.
Dancy grew up in Asheboro as one of four children their father raised after her parents divorced when she was 6. Her father believed that all of his children should have a full complement of life skills and, along the way, she learned such skills as changing the oil in a car and changing a tire, a skill that came in handy years later when she pulled over the help a young woman change a flat tire.
Dancy became a Brownie when she was 6. She later became a Girl Scout. In college, she began leading Girl Scout troops and continued to do so in the years that followed.
Dancy had started teaching when she was 21, and, after 30 years as an educator, in 2007 at the age of 51, she said, “I am done.”
At the time, two of their three children were students at Paisley, and she was already quite active there and a strong supporter of the International Baccalaureate program.
“I was on the PTA board,” she said.
After retiring, she soon really felt the loss of working as an educator.
“I missed the kids desperately,” she said.
When Principal Gary Cone, who has since retired, asked whether she would be interested in working part-time at Paisley as a long-term substitute, she quickly said, “Yes!”
Later, when he wondered whether she would be interested in teaching art and home economics part-time, she quickly said, “Yes!”
By then her daughter, Meg, who now is a professional artist living in Chicago, was studying visual arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Dancy would turne to her for advice on teaching art as needed.
Dancy had a friend who raised sheep, and, with her friend’s help, the home economics program came to include not only skills such as sewing on buttons and preparing foods but also shearing sheep.
When Cone told her he needed a full-time teacher to teach English Language Arts to sixth-grader, she quickly said, “Yes!” even though that would mean she would have to stop taking her pension.
“I called Central Office that afternoon,” Dancy said.
“I did lose money but I gained my sanity.”
When her husband and two children still living at home heard the news, she said, they danced around the kitchen.
“You have driven us crazy, Mom,” Meg said.
So, after being officially retired for 2 years, she was no longer retired and was back as a full-time teacher.
For the past five years, Dancy taught American history at Paisley.
In her years at Paisley, she has participated in many adventures both as a parent and as a teacher.
As a parent, she joined students and teachers on cruise in the Aegean Sea in which the ship they were on sank after hitting a volcanic reef. Everyone from Paisley was fine.
As a teacher, she and staff members and parents took a group of students to Costa Rica.
John Ehle’s book Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation inspired Dancy and Ruth Wilcox, the Media Coordinator at Paisley, and, thanks to a grant from The Winston-Salem Foundation in 2017, they were able to hop car and retrace the “Trail of Tears” followed by members of the Cherokee tribe who were displaced by the federal government in the mid-1800s.
“It was an incredible trip,” she said.
Other trips she took over the years included ones to Germany, Spain and France.
Today, Dancy is 65. Because she was born on Feb. 29, people can also have fun saying her birthday comes only once ever four years. So, when the most-recent Feb. 29 came around, they held a “Sweet Sixteen” party at Paisley.
As much as she has enjoyed all of her experiences at Paisley, she decided to retire this year.
“I feel like it’s the right time,” Dancy said.
Molly Stansell is the Financial Secretary at Paisley.
“Page is as passionate about her students as any teacher I've known,” Stansell said.
“She's got endless energy for her students, her colleagues, this Paisley community. She is old school all-in for whatever is asked of her, invaluable and irreplaceable.”
“She will be so missed, but I'm certain we'll see her before too long!”
Dancy had toyed with the idea of retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year. She changed her mind, though, after Cone announced plans for retirement and Dancy was invited to become part of the school committee that would help select the next principal – who turned out to be Dr. Randy Mann.
She was impressed by Mann and wanted to be there to help and work with him during his first year. She has become even more impressed since she has gotten to know him.
On Thursday June 10, all the staff members at Paisley headed to the auditorium for the first in-person gathering of the entire staff and the first meeting led by Mann. Highlights of the meeting included celebrating Joanne White, a teacher who had retired last semester, and celebrating Dancy.
She has had an amazing career, Mann said, noting that he was just 6 years old when Dancy started teaching.
She has served many students, parents and teachers, Mann said.
“She has made a lasting impact on a lot of people.”
“I am sorry for myself that I only got to work with her for a year.”
When Dancy spoke, she talked about much working with everyone at Paisley has fed her soul. When she woke up each school day, she would think, “I get to go to Paisley today.”
When Dancy was done speaking, everyone in the auditorium stood and gave her a standing ovation.
Family members joke that they worry if she ever runs out of things to do in retirement, she will start taking apart the refrigerator. There is, of course, zero chance of her running out of things to do.
Many of her friends are now retired and she is looking forward to no longer having to say, “I can’t do that – I’m teaching” when they issue an invitation to do something fun.
She already knows she will be volunteering at the Williams Adult Day Center that Senior Services operates on Cloverdale Avenue.
Dancy enjoys kayaking, reading science fiction and working with stained glass. She wants to visit such places as Alaska.
Also, with their older son in San Diego, their daughter in Chicago and their younger son in Asheville, she is looking forward to being able to catch up with them more.
Later this month, she and her husband have a three-city tour planned to visit all of him in one trip.
And, as Stansell pointed out, she can always come back to Paisley to serve in one capacity or another.
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