Shirley Fry

Can't Stop Making a Difference


Sometimes you meet a person whose personality shines forth so strongly, it's like you've known them forever. After five minutes of talking to Shirley Fry, it becomes obvious that she is a generous, caring soul who has made a habit of being positive and uplifting others.

Little wonder then that she chose to be a teacher; even after 30 years of teaching in South Carolina and a well-deserved "retirement," she continued to work in education for quite a long time. A scrapbook of her life and professional accomplishments is full of heartfelt letters from students who felt compelled to express their appreciation of all that she had done for them, both on personal and academic levels.

"I think one of the most significant things that Shirley has accomplished is giving hope to many people who didn't have hope," said Roz Dixon, a good friend and colleague who worked with Shirley in the Beaufort County School District. "People who didn't feel they could overcome their lack of education.she got involved in their lives and stirred them to accomplish something."

The way Shirley describes her decision to become a teacher, it's as though a bolt of inspiration just hit her out of the blue when she was still a fresh faced college graduate. She was living in Miami at the time, and she simply drove to the Department of Education for Dade County and completed an application to teach elementary school. At the same time, her college sweetheart and husband received military orders to move to Greenville, and that's how Shirley came to South Carolina, where she has resided for more than 50 years. She taught at the Christ Church Episcopal Day School in Greenville for 18 years, then came to Beaufort in 1979. She taught science at Beaufort Junior High before heading to St. Helena Elementary School, where she was named Beaufort County's Teacher of the Year in 1984.

After retiring in 1990, Shirley embarked on the next phase of her career by becoming an educator/administrator in adult education on St. Helena. She has taught Spanish on Callawassie; worked in continuing education in Okatie; tutored Hispanics at Battery Creek; served on the boards for Clemson Extension, Together Beaufort and First Steps, an early education organization; dedicated time as a Literary Volunteer; and helped countless people get their GEDs. The extent of her contributions is worthy of admiration, and all who know Shirley agree that she has affected a great many lives in her community. Yet this humble and inspirational woman insists that the greatest achievements have not come from herself, but from those she's taught.

"As teachers, we learn from our students," said Shirley. "I feel like I've learned a great deal from my students. So many of them have become very successful-they vote now, they've earned their GED or their diploma, and they are good constructive citizens."

Perhaps her life's work is best summed up by the words she wrote to describe her philosophy of education:

"Teaching requires dedication to principles that to many today are archaic: hard work, discipline, quality, patience, and a positive attitude toward all that one undertakes. When one makes a commitment to become a teacher, he or she becomes an innovator, a dreamer, a realist, a conformist, a non-conformist, and an idealist all wrapped up in one. I learned through experience that horizons must be broad, and expectations boundless."


*Up Close*

Grew up: Maryland
Alma mater: University of Maryland-to this day she proudly calls herself a Terrapin
Hobbies: reading, traveling, raising cocker spaniels
Favorite author: John Grisham
Favorite destination: Scandinavia
Mother of: daughter Lynn and twin sons
Daniel and David
Likes: animals, children, old people, sports,
the Boston Red Sox
Hidden talents: writing, playing the piano