Irvin Overton | Howard High School
Irvin Overton, circa 1966
Irvin Overton was just 21 years old when he began teaching at Howard High School in 1965. Unlike many successful teachers, Overton didn’t feel it was necessarily his calling to teach. He chose the career because it was one of the only options available to him at the time. He explains, “We didn’t have a lot of choices back in the late ’50s and early ’60s. You could be a teacher or a preacher, but the jobs were very limited. I knew I could get a job as a teacher, and that is why I chose the profession. I knew that it was not what I wanted to do for the long haul, but it allowed me to enter the workforce and pave the way for my future.”
A Howard graduate himself, Overton related well to his students. “I was from the neighborhood, still young, and a college graduate that had done well in Howard as a student and had come back as a teacher. I think this enabled me to be a more effective mentor for my students,” he says.
In addition to teaching U.S. history, an American democracy class, and economics, Overton participated in many extracurricular activities beyond the classroom, including coaching football and assisting with a drama program. “Helping in these activities allowed me to connect with students in a unique way,” Overton explains. “Students in these clubs would bring their problems to us and allowed us to help mentor them.”
Some of the students I taught became doctors and lawyers, but I’m just proud of them for staying in Chattanooga and becoming good parents and good citizens.”
As predicted, Overton’s teaching career opened many doors for him in the Chattanooga community, leading to several leadership positions. Overton continues to see his former students in the community, reminding him of his days at Howard. “Some of the students I taught became doctors and lawyers, but I’m just proud of them for staying in Chattanooga and becoming good parents and good citizens,” he says.