Polly Andreasen’s educational career spanned 46 years. Mrs. Andreasen was born April 25, 1917 and graduated from what then was Florida State College for Women, now FSU. Later, when her two sons were in high school, she returned to college to obtain a master’s degree in library science. She started teaching in the fall of that year at the age of 17 and found herself younger than many of her students in senior high. Andreasen had high expectations for her students and it showed in her teaching. Graduating from college at the age of 17 will make some wonder how that was possible. Mrs. Andreasen completed three years of elementary school in one year. Her own drive to excel spilled over into her teaching, thus driving her students to do their best for her.
Polly Andreasen was always a lady, dressed professionally, and carried herself that way. She was very conscientious of her age and her students’ ages. She went more than the extra mile to insure her students knew their place in her class.
She began her teaching career at Greenwood High School short stint at Pensacola High School when her husband, Arland Andreasen was stationed at the Naval Air Base in the late 30s. Andreasen took a five-year hiatus when her son Andy was born with her second son Allen was born. She had her longest time at Marianna High School, where she began in 1957 and taught world and American history. After achieving her masters in Library Science, she finished her career at Riverside Elementary as the librarian (now called a media specialist).
Andreasen put herself through college, waiting tables year-round to make sure her tuition was met and she could receive an education. Andreasen’s son, Andy, says of his mom’s career, “My mom viewed teaching as a calling not a job, as did teachers like Miss Carter, Mrs. Stone, and Mrs. Bevis.” He relates a story when he was in high school about his mom, “I remember coming home one day and mom was ironing our clothes and she was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she stopped, looked at me, and said, ‘I’ve failed those kids.’ I asked her what kids and she told me and I looked at her and told her those kids were out drinking and partying last night mom, they weren’t studying. That didn’t help her at all. She came back and said, ‘I didn’t motivate them to want to study.’ And that’s how she saw it when her kids didn’t do well.” Andy relates his mother’s love for all of her students, poor, rich, smart, or struggling, “Mom always provided for her students, especially the really poor ones. When I was in seventh grade, she only made $1260 a year with 12 years teaching experience. I often wore hand-me-downs from Julie Seay’s older brother Jim. But if she saw someone that obviously couldn’t afford decent clothes or that the other kids made fun of them, she would go buy them some and bring them to school in a brown paper grocery sack. During the day, she would tell that individual to come by after school and then would privately give them the bag. She would never tell me or anyone else who they were for. She would just have me discretely bring the bag to her room before school started that day. This happened at least once or twice a year and she never said who the students were that she was helping. She remembered always how poor she grew up during the Great Depression and had a heartfelt concern for those less fortunate. Anytime there was an illness or a death in the community, Mom always took food for the family. They were blessed for sure because she was a good cook.”
Mrs. Andreasen was a firm believer in the old adage, “If you don’t know history, you’re doomed to repeat it.” Her students were all required to stay up to date on current events. Each day for three minutes someone had the task of giving a report on a current event. Andy had the task of being in not only his mom’s American history class but her world history class, “We’d have to do all these current events all assigned days and tell what was happening around the world. We were studying the Ming Dynasty and mom would tell us what was happening in Europe at the time we were in class studying about something that happened then and relate it to what was happening right then.”
Andreasen was very active with the students and extra-curricular activities. She was a senior class sponsor and coached girls’ basketball at Marianna High School. She was also an avid reader, reading as many as four to ten large books a week.
One student who wished to remain anonymous said of Mrs. Andreasen, “She was smart, nothing got past her. She kept some boys in that played football and they were missing practice. They were looking for any excuse to get to the field so one went to the bathroom and just a little bit later the other one went. They get out to the field and we are all laughing because Mrs. Andreasen was there waiting on them. She took them to the sidelines and finished their history lesson. I don’t remember any more players pulling any stunts after that.”
Kathy Miller says of Mrs. Andreasen, “I liked Mrs. Andreasen very much. She was a no-nonsense allowed type teacher, but not an overly strict teacher. She focused on imparting information and did a good job of it. When you left her class, you had actually learned something, which, unfortunately, was not always the case.”
Andy recalls having his mother in back-to-back classes. Because of his football schedule, he had to have last period PE and Miss Carter had last period history. It was not his mother’s choice for him to be in her class but she accepted it. Andy tells of his success, “I wanted to do good in her class and I busted my butt to do well in there and did. I had an A in the class and one night at the house mom said to me, ‘I can’t give you an A, everyone will say I am just giving it to you.’ I told her I didn’t care what they said because I had busted my butt for that A and I wanted it. I got the A in the end.”
A personal note Andy shared with the Times about his mom was the happenstance meeting of his parents, “Mom taught at Greenwood High School and my dad’s parents lived across the street from there in the two-story house. To save walking all around the school to get to her car, she would duck under the fence and one day my dad helped her get under the fence when she was kind of stuck. He asked her out some time later and as we grew up, we knew she was the rock that kept us afloat in our family. Daddy sold cars and kept the farm up, mom bought the groceries, canned a ton of vegetables, and bought out clothes.”
Frank and JoAnn Rooks have fond memories of Polly Andreasen, not as a teacher but as a warm, caring individual. JoAnn shared a recipe for dove that she was given by her and to this day, “Is the best dove I’ve ever eaten.” Frank said Andreasen’s dad and his dad sold cars together at Harrison Chevrolet.
Polly Andreasen passed away in 2006 but left her mark through 46 years of teaching and educating students in Jackson County, along with a host of fond memories of the kindness she extended to every student who passed through her class.