School Board approves proposal to dedicate classroom to Norwood’s first Black teacher

The Stanly County Board of Education has approved a proposal to name a Norwood Elementary School classroom after Barbara Foster, the school’s first Black teacher.

A plaque will also be placed at the door of the classroom, where Foster taught during the 1967-1968 school year, bearing the inscription: “The Barbara Foster Classroom ‘Courage for the Betterment of All’ 1967-1968.”

Norwood Elementary principal Mandy Efird introduced the proposal before the board unanimously approved it.

“I can’t imagine the bravery of her during 1967 and her being the first African American teacher there,” Board Chairwoman Glenda Gibson said. She also commended the school’s principal for having the courage to hire her.

The school system is planning to have a celebratory event at the school on June 6, featuring current Norwood students and students from Foster’s 1967-68 class. The district has contacted Foster’s nephew to make sure she will also be in attendance.

A formal presentation will take place later that day during the school board meeting.

Former student David Deese spoke before the school board during the April meeting about her impact on his life.

Due to her impact as an educator, Deese asked the board to create the Barbara Foster Courage Award “to recognize any educator or student who exhibits courage for the betterment of all.”

He told the board that despite protests by some in the community, Foster remained resolute in her determination to educate her students. Several of the kids’ mothers, as a sign of solidarity, stood around the classroom during the first day of school to prevent any problems from occurring.

“Despite the stressful situation, Ms. Foster conducted our classroom professionally that day and for the rest of the year, as if nothing was wrong,” Deese said. “She always put the education of her students first.”

Barbara Foster’s first grade class at Norwood Elementary during the 1967-68 school year. Photo courtesy of David Deese.

In addition to being Norwood’s first Black educator, Foster later become one of the first kindergarten teachers in the state in 1973, when Norwood was one of the schools selected from a statewide lottery system to begin offering kindergarten classes, according to one of her colleagues, Pam Lambert, known then as Pam Morton.

“It’s a dream come true,” Deese told the board Tuesday night after the proposal was approved.