By: Sid Riley
One of the real joys of being a career teacher is reflecting back on how many lives you have positively influenced during your career. You always know that your life was spent doing something meaningful and worthwhile. You added to the human value of most of the children you taught, disciplined, coached, and loved.
Vivian Koonce taught for 50 years, with 48 of those being in the Jackson County school system. If she taught an average of 25 students per class, and taught five classes per semester for those 50 years, she would have helped over 6,200 children in her lifetime! Add to that statistic the fact that her husband Jefferson C. Koonce also taught science for 30 years, which means that together this amazing couple taught approximately 10,000 of our children. What a meaningful contribution!
Mrs. Koonce taught through the era of integration of Jackson County Schools. She was born and raised in Chipley, and attended Roulac High School, graduating at the age of 15 in 1945. She then entered Florida A & M and graduated from college at the tender age of 19. She then earned her Masters in Education from that same college.
Her first two years of teaching were in Washington County, before she began teaching at Jackson Training School in Marianna. When that school closed and integration of the Jackson County schools occurred in 1963, Vivian Koonce was one of approximately eight teachers from Jackston Training School that moved into the newly integrated school system. Vivian became a math teacher at Marianna High School. Other notable teachers that moved from Jackson Training School along with Mrs. Koonce were Coach Elmore Bryant, Erma Swilley, Ruth Baker, and Isiac Pittman.
The Jackson Training School which closed in the 1960’s held a school reunion earlier this year, in July. During their reunion banquet numerous alumni spoke in glowing terms of the impact "Mrs. Koonce" had on their lives. Notable among these was Eddie Bell, who at times struggled during his early years in development, but who went on to attend law school and now has a very successful law practice. Rosa Fed was another of her past students who gave memorable praises to her math mentor.
Vivian’s husband, Jefferson Koonce, went to heaven on May 27 of this year. Vivian is still grieving deeply, as would be expected after 58 years of sharing their lives and loves together. They had two daughters, Barbara Koonce Hunter, and Karen Koonce Edwards, both of whom attended FSU. Barbara works for the State in Tallahassee, and Karen works in Social Services for the Jackson County Health Department. Their son, Reginald Koonce, attended Chipola and is currently recovering from some health problems. Vivian has six grand children, and seven great grand children who now get much of her attention and love. Vivian is also still doing some teaching, by being available to tutor many who come to her for help.
Vivian and Jefferson Koonce, two Jackson County citizens who will leave an enduring mark on our community. We can be proud they lived and worked here.