The Pinecrest Elementary principal who hired Regina Simpson in October 1978 predicted the teacher would be there until she retired.
Boy, was she right.
Forty-one years later, Ms. Simpson has retired from Pinecrest Elementary.
“I was a babe when I started and now I have my Medicare card,” she chuckles. “I’ve grown up at Pinecrest.”
She taught second grade for the first two decades and first grade for the last two.
In 1998, the school named her Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Simpson, who grew up attending all-black schools in Miami, became the school’s first black honoree.
“I brought black history here,” said Ms. Simpson, who led the effort to infuse the curriculum with year-round awareness of the contributions of black Americans.
If she taught a unit on American inventors, she made sure the children learned about black inventors.
She was the first to have her students perform a skit on Kwanzaa, the festival that celebrates African and African-American culture and history.
She sponsored a Black History club for 10 years called Harambee—“let’s pull together” in Swahili—where kids sang spirituals, recited poems, and danced.
She also taught her students about social responsibility and kindness. For Thanksgiving, they each made blessings in a bag with toiletries, a snack, and a note for a homeless person.
Ms. Simpson, a bibliophile whose mother and aunt were teachers, was destined to become one.
Born in South Carolina, her family moved to Miami when she was six weeks old.
She graduated from Miami Killian Senior High, where she played clarinet in the band.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Bethune-Cookman College and master’s in reading from Barry University.
Her daughter, Blair, and son, Zerion III, nephew and niece attended Pinecrest Elementary.
Her hundreds and hundreds of former students include Dallas Mavericks player Tim Hardaway Jr., whose dad played for the Miami Heat at the time, in 1999-2000.
She taught Trae Williamson, who is now president of his family’s business Williamson Cadillac-Buick-GMC, in 1979-1980.
“My first experience (and maybe last?) ‘bobbing for apples’ around Halloween, and making one of those cool shoe-box dioramas,” he recalled. “I remember being inspired by the class to think creatively. She taught with great heart and commitment.”
Pinecrest Elementary mom and alumna Eva Adan Rengstl was Ms. Simpson’s second-grade student in 1995-1996. She went to see her teacher before she retired.
“You haven’t changed,” she told Ms. Simpson, who gave her a great big hug. “I remember your laugh. I remember you just were so positive and loving.”
Ms. Simpson’s first retirement project? Demolishing her childhood home and building a new one in its place.
She’ll travel and spend time with her family and grand-dogs.
A soulful singer, she serves as associate pastor at Church of Hope in South Miami Heights.
She hopes to be a guest reader at Pinecrest Elementary for the children: “We want them to excel. We want them to be leaders in our community.”
Reporter’s note: Ms. Simpson taught two generations. She was my second-grade teacher in 1988-1989 and my daughter Catherine’s first-grade teacher in 2017-2018! We both remember our teacher fondly.