After teaching at Reeltown High School for 40 years, Jan Ledbetter got used to students telling her she taught their parents. But learning she taught a current student’s grandmother was a first for her this year.
“The first year I taught here I taught (the student’s) grandmother and she was a senior,” Ledbetter said. “I was only 21 and her grandmother was 18.”
A 1975 Reeltown graduate, Ledbetter began her career there in 1980 as the home economics, now known as family and consumer science, teacher.
Ledbetter has been the majorette, cheerleader, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, yearbook and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America sponsors during her career. She currently organizes homecoming alumni T-shirts and organizes football pregame ceremonies.
Ledbetter loves RHS and hasn’t missed a Rebel football game since 1993.
“You have to love what you do,” Ledbetter said. “You’re either going to love it or hate it and you’ve got to love what you do because even me — as much as I love Reeltown and as much as I love my job — there’s some days where I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this.’ Everybody has those kinds of days but then in the morning when you wake up, you realize you’re still doing it and it’s because you love it.”
Ledbetter said the job is worthwhile when she can make a difference in students’ lives such as seeing them years after teaching them and listening to them bring up old lessons in conversation.
Ledbetter taught beside her father, Joe Fred Ledbetter for 11 years. Her father was the agriculture teacher and died of a heart attack in 1991. She said the Ledbetter Building at Reeltown is named after him.
“I wanted to teach full ag like my dad because I was a daddy’s girl,” Ledbetter said. “I followed him around everywhere he went and I spent I don’t know how many hours in the ag shop with him. Back then that wasn’t (considered) a female career.”
Ledbetter settled on home economics instead after being mentored her teacher in the subject.
Ledbetter taught home economics for 30 years before briefly retiring. After a few months off, principal Dr. Tom Cochran called her and asked her to come back.
Ledbetter now teaches seventh- and eighth- grade reading with the online program Classworks.
“At the end of that 30 years I thought I wanted something different,” Ledbetter said. “I thought I wanted to retire because I had been in 30 years and I was still relatively young. I was about 50 at the time.”
Ledbetter said everyone at Reeltown is like family and she’s taught many of the teachers there. Ledbetter also taught her children, Whitnie Helms and Cade Crosby.
“I think Reeltown is the best school your child could go to, but I think it’s because we have an excellent staff and faculty,” Ledbetter said. “We have a fun administration and we care about the kids. I can’t imagine being anywhere else ever. Which after 40 years I doubt I would be anywhere else.”
She said she can’t imagine retiring and the school is her “heart and soul.”
“I love Reeltown like you wouldn’t believe,” Ledbetter said. “I can’t imagine what my life is going to be like if I don’t get up and come here in the morning. It’s going to be traumatic.”