OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – The 1960s was a pivotal decade in the United States for the civil rights movement. During that time, one Ogden teacher began her 61-year-long career. Over the decades, the experiences Alice Glenn had growing up in the segregated South would drive her to be the best teacher she could be and prove to have an impact on the lives of hundreds of students.
“I would always have to tell them that if the laws had not been changed, and if we had been in the South that I would not have been their teacher during that time,” Alice Glenn told ABC4. The stories about segregation she told her students didn’t come from textbooks but rather her memory. “And this just sort of devastated them,” she added.
Glenn grew up in Louisiana and her entire education through high school consisted of segregated classes. Glenn’s classmates and teachers were all African American. That would change when her father accepted a position at Hill Air Force Base shortly after she finished high school. After the family relocated to Utah, Glenn enrolled at Weber State University which was a state college at the time.
“I wanted to be in a different environment because of what I had gone through, you know, in the segregation,” Glenn recalled. “I just wanted to move forward.” By the end of the 1950s, Alice Glenn was a college graduate.
In 1960, some southern states were still fighting to keep schools segregated. It was in 1960 that a federal court ordered the State of Louisiana, Glenn’s home state, to desegregate. In November of that year, a six-year-old girl found herself at the center of national attention when she became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school. Her name was Ruby Bridges.
It was in 1960 that Alice Glen did something she never thought possible growing up. She accepted her first teaching job (in Ogden) in a place where schools were not segregated.
While she would teach at a few different schools during her career, she always stayed in Ogden. “It’s just a passion that I have towards teaching,” Glenn told ABC4 when asked why she taught for 61 years, adding that she lost track of time. She continued: “I have such a passion for what I do that I was just so into it, loving the kids, loving to be around them because they say kids keep you young.”
After moving to Utah, racism didn’t cease to exist. Glenn explained that in movie theaters, employees would wave at her indicating that she, and her friends or family, needed to sit in the balcony seats. At many restaurants, the hostess would tell her the restaurant didn’t serve Black people. However, in her classroom, Glenn would make sure no student ever felt less than.
“All of the things that happened to me, I did not want that to happen (to them),” she stated. “I wanted to guard my children against that, so I went all out in teaching them acceptance and the character traits that I wanted them to follow in their lifetimes.”
Acceptance, she told ABC4, begins with respect. Glenn believes that respect for others is possibly the most important trait a person can possess. To be respectful, she said one must be willing to listen to others and always be willing to learn from them.
When Alice Glenn began teaching, her starting salary was $4,000. The schools were not open plan like they are today. The internet wouldn’t become a common tool for learning for decades. Although many things have changed over the last 61 years, she told ABC4 she hopes there is one thing all her students have taken away from her: “If nothing else, that all of my students have picked up how much I love and respect them.”
Glenn officially retired from teaching in December 2021 but continues to volunteer as a tutor a few days a week.