A career worthy of honor

Published 9:50 pm Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Suffolk native with 25 years of service to the commonwealth of Virginia was among about 145 people who received service awards during a ceremony at Norfolk State University this week.

Archie W. Earl, an associate professor of mathematics at NSU, traces his education back to a one-room schoolhouse in Pughsville during the segregation era in the 1950s. Today, he considers that experience to have been among the defining ones in his life, having learned from grade-school teacher Viola Elliott that students in her school should help one another and teach one another. Students in the higher grades were expected to help those in lower grades learn their lessons.

“I think that was one of the advantages of a one-room school,” Earl said in an interview this week.

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He also acquired a love for mathematics at that school, and it has served him well in the years since. Graduating from NSU in 1971 after a stint in the Reserve Officers Training Corps and a brief detour to start a family, he later earned advanced degrees from Hampton University and the College of William and Mary.

Since then, he has taught college-level courses at Tidewater Community College, Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University, as well as secondary-level courses at Norfolk Catholic High School and in Newport News and Suffolk. He also served with the commonwealth’s Rehabilitative School Authority as an education consultant.

Ever wonder what a difference a teacher can make in the life of a young student? Archie Earl offers a great example, right out of the pages of educational history, from his roots in a one-room schoolhouse in Pughsville. And the lessons he learned there have gone on to change the lives of many of Earl’s own students during his own career.

His has been a career worthy of the honor he received on Tuesday from the commonwealth of Virginia.