Miss Susie DeMent, a retired teacher from Montevallo High School, is being remembered as a dedicated and loving educator who gained the respect of her students and fellow colleagues during a career that spanned 76 years. Miss DeMent, 96, died August 7 at her home in Montevallo.
Miss DeMent was part of the freshman class at Montevallo High School when it was opened in 1929. She began her teaching career in Fayette County in 1937. She would later return to her alma mater to impact the lives of countless students at the school.
She began teaching Business at Montevallo High School in 1946 and retired in 1987 with 50 years of total teaching experience. However, she continued to work part-time and volunteer at Montevallo High School well past her retirement, helping to do scrapbooks and bulletin boards even as recently as last year. She was also well-known at the school for being the technical advisor for the nationally acclaimed Spotlight student newspaper and for serving as a sports statistician and number one cheerleader for every sport.
According to Oak Mountain Middle School Principal Larry Haynes, who taught with Miss DeMent at Montevallo High School, she was not only well-respected in Shelby County, but was known as a legend throughout the state of Alabama. Her honors are numerous, including having the Montevallo High School gymnasium named after her in 1978. She was also the winner of Shelby County’s very first ‘Teacher of the Year’ award in 1984. In 1997, she became the first non-coaching female to be inducted into the Alabama High School Coaches and Athletic Directors Hall of Fame for her significant contributions to both athletics and to Montevallo High School.
The Alabama Scholastic Press Association named their ‘Advisor of the Year’ award in her honor. She also received the “Gold Key Award” from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University in 1999 for her contributions to the student press. The video from her reception speech garnered a standing ovation. She was also featured in a story by USA Today.
“She had her own spot in the press box,” Haynes said of her involvement with high school athletics. “She kept stats for just about every sport. She was well known by the officials and coaches from other teams because she always had refreshments waiting for them. She would also reward players with Snicker’s candy bars who had performed well during the games.”
Former MHS Principal George Theodore described Miss DeMent as the most dedicated educator he has ever known.
“Her level of dedication to the students and to athletics was unmatched,” said Theodore. “She would always be at every ballgame, up in that press box keeping those books, even when the wind chill was 20 degrees.”
“She worked harder than most teachers even after she had supposedly retired,” said Haynes. “She helped search for scholarships for students, she helped write speeches for the principals, she organized the student Awards Day, she was the co-advisor for the newspaper, and did bulletin boards until last year. You name it, and Miss DeMent had a hand in helping with it.”
Haynes said Miss DeMent was instrumental in helping Montevallo have a smooth transition during the years of de-segregation because of her unconditional love for every single student. That love and respect also helped her to have a spotless track record of behavior from her students.
“She never had to send a single student to the office, not because she was a pushover, but because she demanded excellence from her students and they performed for her,” said Haynes. “They had a high level of respect for her.”
Theodore agreed with Haynes and added that her high standards had a very positive impact on the students. “She demanded that all students be successful,” said Theodore. “She especially had high standards for her students with the newspaper. That is one reason why it was recognized as such an outstanding newspaper.”
Miss DeMent, who lost her first love in a car accident after he returned from World War II, never married. Instead, she was married to her job and to the students and fellow staff members she faithfully served.
“She left such a huge impact on me,” Haynes continued. “She was the ‘other woman’ in my life for 15 years and I loved her dearly.”
“She was the heartbeat of Montevallo High School,” said Theodore. “Her spirit, her energy, her quality of work…everything she did, she did it 100 percent. I have been an educator for a long time and I have never seen anyone as committed as Miss Susie DeMent.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but the funeral will be held at the Susie Dement gymnasium at Montevallo High School. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the MHS Athletic Department.