By MECA WILLIAMS-JOHNSON, PhD
“I have been blessed in this area (Bulloch County). Everyone has an area of expertise and teaching is mine.”
-- Dr. Enola G. Mosley
In these unconventional times, we are increasingly grateful for our local heroes. These are the heroes that we can depend upon to move our city forward in a positive direction. In reference to Dr. Enola G. Mosley, she is a consistent contributor within the Bulloch County community and is, therefore, worthy of recognition for our Black history tribute. Humble and dedicated, Mosley has lived and served in the Statesboro area all of her life. She was born in 1956 and graduated from Statesboro High School as an Honor graduate in 1974. Yes, much has changed since her early years, yet she has adapted to move beyond any racial, political or social challenges. Achieving her educational goals has led to a positive impact upon the lives of her numerous students, over 5,000 at least.
Mosley’s humble beginnings were partly responsible for her outlook on life and her education. Her parents, Lee S. and Lucille Lee Smith, were local farmers that raised cows and hogs, but also had secular jobs to support their family. She grew up with six other siblings: four sisters, Marjorie Smith Grant, Andrea Gail Smith Clark, Marilyn Smith Wells and Sylvia Smith Johnson; and two brothers, Larry Donnell Smith and the late Ivory Joe Smith. As a family, she remembers that they never lacked any necessities; therefore, they did not regard themselves as “poor” in the regular sense of the word. There was always food on the table and a new dress to wear every fourth Sunday.
“We worked hard, but it was love and laughter that united us,” she said.
She also shared that she was inspired by family members. Her first mentor was her brother, Ivory Joe, whom she described as “so smart that we called him ‘Professor.’”
“He kept all of his school things in a briefcase, well-organized, and each night at the dining room table he would open it and do his school work. He did his homework, I did mine,” she recalled.
Modeling Ivory Joe’s commitment to education motivated her to achieve her educational goal as a teacher while she aspired to become a gifted writer or poet. Later, as she entered the classroom as a teacher, it was her sister, Marjorie, her fellow colleague, who taught her the rudiments of the classroom. “Everything I know about teaching, I learned from her,” Mosley said.
She says, “As a child, I always wanted to be a writer—poems, books, songs, etc. I was writing poetry at an early age and delivered them at church, or I would hurry up and pen a poem for someone who needed one in a hurry. God has gifted me in this area. I became an English teacher because this was the closest thing to being a writer. Today, I enter small writing contests. Over the years, I have won a few contests offered by the Statesboro Herald and a few over the internet. I am constantly entering my poems. One day, I am hoping that I will be ‘noticed,” she said.
Her creative writing is often "noticed" in the Statesboro Herald as a contributing writer for the Black history column. Mosley was also noticed for her beauty and brains by Billy Mosley Sr. They were married in 1976 and had five children: Corey, Billy Jr., DeAndrea, Brandon and Ebonie (deceased).
Mosley married at the age of 19 while still in college. She says that she traded her “writing pen for diaper pins.”
“God has given me wonderful children. What an excellent trade-off!” she said.
Because many women balance family along with a career, they become strategic in making their finances meet their family needs. Mosley is no different. Later, with four kids and an ill husband, she made it work. According to her, she “took advantage of every extra paying job that Bulloch County offered their teachers.”
While teaching full-time at Statesboro High School, she has also taught summer school, Upward Bound, GAP (teaching students who were behind on their credits), Boys and Girls Club, 21st Century, homebound, tutoring, extended day, adjunct professor at GSU and OTC, and last but not least, Walmart. She says that each employment offered her more than just a paycheck. She “learned something from each one.”
In addition, Mosley successfully completed graduate degrees at Georgia Southern University while juggling the responsibilities of teaching and caring for her family. She graduated in 1978 with a BS in English Education, in 1979 with her master's, in 1990 with her specialist degree, and in 1999 with a doctorate in Curriculum Education. Astonishingly, Mosley found ways to maintain her high performance and dedication to her students while achieving degrees consistent with her achievement goals.
As she entered her own classroom, Mosley modeled what she experienced as a student. However, with the changes of integration, it was not easy for many Black teachers and principals. Mosley started teaching in 1980, only 10 years after schools in Bulloch County were forced to desegregate in 1970.
It was an intense and challenging time for the county and the Black community. Then, in 1986, Gov. Joe Frank Harris, enforcing QBE guidelines, mandated that teachers pass a qualifying test to continue to teach. Some Black teachers did not complete or pass this test, and, subsequently, they were not allowed to continue teaching. Sadly, these ousted positions were not refilled by other Black teachers. While Mosley and her sister who was also teaching at the time did pass the test, she says that the scores just made us “look incompetent” and reduced the number of skilled Black educators.
“The true essence of a teacher should never be measured by a test score. I believe our students suffered as a result. To achieve, students need to see faces that look like theirs achieving. I did,” she said.
Fortunately, Mosley has been teaching at Statesboro High School for 40 years and in education for a total of 42 years.
Overlooked for positions earlier in her career such as English Department chair, barring seniority and qualification, she was finally told that she would be “allowed” to be chair after several protests. She held her four-year position until new department chairs were rotated every two years. In retrospect, she says, “[the] more things change; the more things stay the same.” However, she believes that there are rewards that come within the educational field, and “we must pass on the vision to the younger generation.”
Students throughout the county remember her life lessons and reassurance. Rev. Donald Chavers Jr., added his experience as one of her students.
“Dr. Mosley has made a world of difference in my life. She made learning a joy for me because she has the ability to draw out the hidden talent that is in every child. Her loving commitment to serve has had a direct influence on my long-term success and because she has helped me along my way her living is not in vain,” he said.
Mosley puts the prospective on our future and how we can become future leaders in racial harmony like many other visionaries before her. We are honored to have Mosley in the Bulloch County community and offer this tribute as a contributor to our collective Black history.
Meca Williams-Johnson, Ph.D., is a professor of Educational Research in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading at Georgia Southern University. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.