Miss Myrtle is a kind lady with a gentle spirit and a secret knack for humor. She grew up on a 200 acre farm in Oklahoma. Her family raised turkeys, chickens, hogs and cattle…they also grew vegetables. Myrtle admires her parents, and says they were a large influence in her life. Being a black family in a time where segregation was a way of life was difficult for their family, especially daily activities like taking the school bus or seeing a doctor. Myrtle’s parents never made segregation seem like a big deal. They would share vegetables from their garden with their neighbors who were from all different ethnic backgrounds. All the neighbor children would play together and Myrtle remembers her father telling her and her siblings to treat people with kindness and generosity despite their differences. One thing Myrtle remembers her parents saying was, “You see how the cats and dogs get along? They don’t fight…we don’t either.”
As a young girl, Myrtle was a tomboy who loved to play outside. She had dreams of being a librarian or a doctor, and she grew up being told that she was not allowed to say the word, “can’t”. She was encouraged to go as far as she could with her schooling, and her parents were able to provide that for her. As she loved math and science, she decided to pursue her dreams. Myrtle obtained three degrees, including a master’s, a doctorate, as well as library and teaching certifications.
Myrtle began teaching in Oklahoma where she taught high school students. At this time, segregation was still going on. Eventually, in 1954, the Supreme Court finally deemed that segregation was unconstitutional and banned it. For the first time, Myrtle was hired on as a counselor at a bi-racial high school. The change wasn’t easy, but with her upbringing of compassion and understanding Myrtle knew how to handle the conflicts that were thrown her way. She worked as a counselor in McKinney, and for over 30 years, she worked in Plano ISD as a diversity counselor. At that time Myrtle introduced different initiatives which included diversity programs — along with the district’s first diversity committee.
Myrtle has introduced countless programs and events to the Plano community, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day Annual Breakfast occurring annually for 35 years. She was also awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award that was established by Dr. King himself to honor those who have dedicated themselves to community service.
Myrtle is an amazing woman who has accomplished many things. We are proud to know her and to have been able to hear her share her story. She spends her time in retirement playing bridge, and continuing her passion for learning and knowledge by reading. She loves the color lavender and loves her sweets.
When you speak to folks about Myrtle, they are quick to share about her impact and just how terrific she is. Here are a couple of quotes from folks who know her well:
Myrtle has spent her entire life educating others… and not just students. I have known her for 40 years and learn from her each and every time we meet and visit! Her belief in the good of each human being shines through and the lessons learned reflect this attitude. I am blessed to call her “friend”. ~Florence Shapiro
“Phenomenal Woman”, “Dr. (blank)”, or simply “Mom”, as I call her is my angel. She has touched and impacted my life in ways I can not express. Our lives collided and it was all to my advantage. She assisted me in finding and using my voice to make my community and the people in it stronger. She has this ability to make everyone around her feel special. She made me better. I know that I can never repay her for what she empowered and encouraged me to be, but I plan to honor her in all I do and say forever! ~Trish Patterson