Sunday School Teacher Begins 52nd Year

Carl Heringer was promoted to the sixth grade in 1956, and he's been there ever since.

The 76-year-old began teaching fifth grade Sunday school in 1954 at First Methodist Church South, now known as First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, 142 South Main. Two years later, he was moved to teaching sixth grade students where he has been for 49 years.

"Sixth grade is a real interesting group, it's a real interesting age," said Heringer. "I love this age group. They are just very honest. They can be mean too, but they just have to learn to control that."

Approximately 25 years ago, the church also added Confirmation class instruction to Heringer's duties. For 14 weeks following Pentecost, the sixth graders go through the classes during the Sunday school hour.

Over the decades, Heringer said he has never thought about changing age groups or stopping his Sunday morning class.

"Some people like to fish or hunt. I like to teach Sunday school," he said.

Heringer began teaching Sunday school after his wife volunteered him for the job when she received a telephone call asking her to teach the class.

"I wanted to teach a Sunday school class and my wife knew that I would probably enjoy it," said Heringer.

As a child, Heringer first began attending Sunday school at First Presbyterian with a neighbor whose mother taught a class. After moving to a different area of town in 1939, Heringer began attending Sunday school at FMCS with another neighbor, John Troutt, Jr., and his parents, former owners of The Jonesboro Sun.

Since Troutt was a year older than he, Heringer began attending Sunday school one grade above his level until the sixth grade.

"I went through the sixth grade class twice since I really wasn't moving to the seventh grade in school," Heringer said. "I never really thought about it, but I guess I liked the sixth grade back then too."

While many things have changed since he began teaching, Heringer is just as excited to begin teaching his 52nd class this month as he was to start his first.

Heringer said the children he teaches today are not that different from those he first began teaching.

"Over the past twenty years or so, the children are just more knowledgeable. They know a lot more about the world in general," he said. "Nobody really had televisions back then to see the news and that type of thing."

The teacher also pointed out that the clothing children wear to church has changed over time. Today's children wear more casual clothes where as the boys used to always wear a coat and tie and the girls wore fancier dresses.

"Use to, the children would always bring a dime to give in Sunday school. Now, they all bring a dollar," said Heringer.

The way Sunday school is taught has also changed over the years. Heringer said the material is now more focused on having the children learn through doing rather than by just reading or listening to the teacher.

One thing that has not changed however is the children's attitude and responsiveness to the teacher.

"Most of them are really respectful," said Heringer. "Most of them have really good manners. Some of them don't, but you always have one or two that's like that."

In recent years, Heringer has a handful of children each year who are second generation students in his class.

"It's interesting to know that I had their parent," Heringer said. "I don't always recognize (the parent) at first because they look so different from when they were this age."

Heringer taught his own two sons and daughter as well as two of his 10 grandchildren.

While the children sometimes ask his age, Heringer said he never has a problem relating to the children because of their generational differences.

"To children, everybody's old and they really don't see much difference in me and their parents," he said.

The Sunday school teacher says one of the reasons he continues to teach year after year is because he enjoys seeing the children learn.

"Many times they don't even know they're learning something," he said. "I make sure that they realize they are learning and I tell them, 'See what you are learning.'"

After more than five decades of teaching and more than 1,500 students, Heringer says his joy for teaching comes from God.

"I figure it must be intended for me to do it."