The Last Word with Peggy Melang

School days make us think of all the great teachers of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mother-in-law, Peggy Melang, when talking about the joys of teaching. Peggy and Bill Melang moved to Winston-Salem over 55 years ago, raising 7 children in the area. During her 35+ years in the school system, Peggy taught elementary education, grades 3rd-5th, and finished her career as a guidance counselor. I can always catch up with Peggy Melang, so today we sat on her back porch talking about school days during a particularly hot day of summer.

    How did you become a school teacher? Was it what you wanted to do as a child? “Growing up, many people did not continue their education past the 8th grade. I wasn’t planning on getting married, I wanted more of an education, so I finished high school, enrolling in the State Teachers College which later became Towson State University in Maryland. Maryland passed a law that teachers required a baccalaureate degree rather than the two year teaching certificate. Since this was funded by the state legislature and taxpayer dollars, I went into the teaching profession after graduating. I hadn’t thought about being a teacher as a child, but looking back on it, I couldn’t see myself in any other profession.”
  2. What life skill did you learn from teaching? “Wow, you learn so much from teaching, the biggest thing for me was patience, that a little bit of patience pays off. There is nothing like the excitement of a child learning, and sometimes it takes a little bit of patience before they get it. I think that is like everything with life – have patience and keep at it and you will succeed.”
  3. What is your favorite thing about Winston-Salem? “There are so many things I love 162-Peggy-Melang758-sfwabout Winston-Salem. Bill and I moved here in 1965, living in Washington Park. I love that Winston-Salem has all the great activities of a big city, but never loses that small-town feel. Bill and I always say that Winston-Salem is a great town to raise children – we raised 7 children here, and 4 are still in the general area. I love the climate, the convenience to shopping, entertainment, and everyone is so friendly. When we retired, Bill and I moved to Sequim, WA, for a while, owning a bed and breakfast, but eventually came back. It is nice being close to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
  4. What is your favorite family meal? “Bill and I both worked, so the cooking was also done by both of us. I think my favorite was Saturday night meals. We would cook a large roast with all the sides – we were feeding 9 people sometimes, including friends! We set a formal table, all the children had their own chair, each chair with a nameplate. Back then, there were no electronics, and I always enjoyed each child telling me about their day. After dinner was cleared, we always sat at the table playing games. Bill always told us he didn’t like playing games, but he’d yell out the trivia answers anyway! That roast was designed to feed the family that Saturday and provide leftovers for the week.”
  5. What your favorite place to travel? “Bill’s job with Piedmont Airlines included flight benefits, so we traveled around the world. Each year, we’d take half of the children and pick a spot on the map! So many favorites – Egypt, Ethiopia, Scotland – I remember a bagpiper play on the shores of Loch Ness! My favorite trip was Venice, sitting in that gondola with the gondolier singing behind us as we traveled the city by water. It was beautiful! Now Bill and I cruise once a year, seeing exotic cities by boat rather than airplane.”
  6. What advice would you give women thinking about the teaching profession? My advice is pretty basic: you have to love children to be a teacher. And be assertive! I remember a girlfriend asking me if I wanted to go to Appalachian University to pursue a master’s degree with her. I never thought my principal would let me go, but I asked anyway. He accommodated us then, and each time we went to Wake Forest for enrichment programs. I always told my students, you’ll never know unless you ask.”
  7. What is a funny story you tell again and again? “Oh, this one makes me laugh! One of my children got mad at Bill and me for some reason, I can’t remember why, but he left us a note that he was running away. On the note he listed everything he took with him, 1 pair of pants, 1 shirt, 1 pair of underwear, 1 shoe. We still laugh about the one shoe! How would he run away with only one shoe? Of course he was back later that afternoon.”
  8. What is your guilty pleasure? “I have a sweet tooth. I love my sweets. If you want to get me something that will warm my heart, don’t forget the chocolates!”